1. Your drinking game of choice was Kings.
Casual drinking usually meant cramming into the 5’x7’ shoebox of a bedroom in whoever had the biggest apartment, or whoever’s parents weren’t around. Space for beer pong or flip cup was basically non-existent, so smaller, easier games — like Kings, Spin the Bottle, or Never Have I Ever, usually sufficed.
2. Drinking anywhere outside of New York is a huge pain in the ass.
We groan and gripe in places like South Carolina, where the liquor stores are completely closed on Sundays, or London, when the pubs do a last call at 10:50pm. These little eccentricities make zero sense to us, especially because anywhere outside of New York alcohol is considerably cheaper. We’re spoiled with bars that close at 4am (or don’t close at all), which stock unique liquors and craft beers, so our expectations are just super high once we leave the metro area.
3. You collected body stamps.
Everyone always knew where you had been the night before based on the red ink stamp or black permanent marker X on the top of your hand. A blue smiley face signified you were at a dive bar somewhere on Avenue A. A neon yellow wristband showed you were dancing at a gay bar around Chelsea. Eventually you found places like Pacha where stamps were doled out to anyone who looked hot, young, and stupid enough to spend money to be surrounded by other hot, young, stupid people who didn’t mind the amateur DJ of the week.
4. Your bodega salesman had your back.
Amir jokingly wagged his finger at you when you put a case of Natty Light on the counter, but as one of his best customers, he always let it slide. Selling alcohol to underage minors is nothing new in New York City. Is it completely illegal? Hells yeah. Dangerous? Probably. Something to be proud of? I’m not sure. But it’s hard to raise a fuss when almost 75% of the borough bodegas participate in this practice. We considered it a contribution to the astronomically-priced rent encroaching upon anything north of 80th Street.
5. You RSVP’d to every Bar Mitzvah, Quinceañera, and Sweet 16.
These parties were full-blown catered affairs at places like Villa Russo, or Giando on the Water, resulting in pitchers of soda for the kiddies and an open bar for the adults. If you couldn’t get an obliging drunk auntie to pass around some Jack and Cokes, you had an emergency flask on hand to make your own. It made the dry chicken fricassee taste better, and loosened you up for doing the Electric Slide.
6. You had a fake ID at age 14.
Kids from around the area come to NYC specifically to purchase false identification. You knew which sketchy “10-cent Copies” centers made the best scannable cards, and as long as you were with a few other teenagers, being led to a secret door at the back of the store was a rite of passage. Four IDs or more, and you got a discount.
7. You made it a mission to score free drinks.
$12 cab fares, $15 cover charges, and $8 cocktails adds up. You worked your whiles as much as you could to get free drinks from friends or strangers. Sure it was slutty, but it saved you precious cash that went towards buying MAC cosmetics, new heels from a no-name shop on 7th avenue, and clubwear from Strawberry.
8. House parties were like, next-level.
Unless you happened to make friends with a trust-fund Dalton kid, movie-style drinking parties were almost exclusively held away from home. But every so often someone would rent a beach house for a week and invite all of the neighborhood families to come along. Then shit would get real. Those few times when you made it out to a party in Flushing, Marine Park, or a cousin’s place on Long Island, where someone had an actual backyard bigger than five-people’s worth, seemed like a dream.
9. You tried drugs before everyone else.
When the thrill of underage drinking ran out at approximately age 16, you experimented with drugs. Most of it was innocent — a few joints on the fire escape at 2am, or uppers prescribed to you by the family shrink — but scoring angel dust, ecstasy, crack, and other ridiculous chemical substances was never difficult. Someone’s mom always had cocaine “to make it through the day,” and if anyone ever asked, you could tell them exactly where they could buy heroin, and for how much. Some of your friends became drug addicts, but most of the time it was an, “I’ll try anything once” situation that was overrated anyway.
10. The night always ended with drunk food.
A $1 slice of pizza, disco fries, or pancakes at the diner, falafel from a guy who shaved meat for a living, a ginormous pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli, a hot dog that snapped when you bit it from Gray’s Papaya, or — if you were really drunk — something off of the Dollar Menu at McDonalds, was a must when the booze got to be too much for you to handle. Sitting in Washington Square Park at 2am, you didn’t care about how terrible the styrofoam container holding your chicken and rice with white sauce was for the environment; you were just fucking hungry.
11. Pre-gaming was the game.
Because alcohol is so expensive in the city, the easiest thing was to hunker down at someone’s apartment and make uneven mixes of your favorite cocktails, or fill water bottles with straight-up vodka and wander the streets looking for celebrity parties to crash. Even if you did end up at a bar after midnight or something, you usually split drinks with your friends before complaining about being “tired” aka too poor to buy another drink.
12. There was always someone around to buy booze for you.
Finding someone older to purchase your liquor was never really an issue. There was always Enrico, the pothead down the hall, or Dejah, your best friend’s older sister who just graduated from City College. Rich kids had their nannies, maids, or the doorman. You always had a “go-to” booze buyer in your corner of the city.