This weekend I took a break from partying in the Queen City to spend some quality time with the family for Mother’s Day. Believe it or not, even a nightlife writer has to have some down time. My hometown is only an hour and a half away, and yet I still managed to need to stop and take a nap halfway through.
Trinity, North Carolina, is pretty small, so the lack of nightlife in my area combined with a shortage of unmarried and childless friends usually leads to a lot of long nights with the parental units.
It’s funny — now that I’m a young professional and have been out of my parents’ home a while, it can be quite overwhelming navigating our relationship. Case in point: My parents have a key to my apartment, which means they can show up at any time, whether I am present or not. Imagine coming home to a squeaky clean apartment that you know you left a pigsty. Exactly. No time for parent-proofing. Talk about an FML moment.
I spend most of my time convincing my friends, co-workers and myself that I have it together, but my parents can always see right through it. Throw alcohol and partying in the mix and I might be the next lost cause featured on Intervention. I’m not the only one, right?
This weekend, we decided to celebrate Mother’s Day listening to jazz at a local winery. Finding Zimmerman Vineyards was like finding a diamond in the rough. When I said my hometown has no nightlife, I mean, there isn’t even a Food Lion or Walmart in the city limits. But worse: the entire county is dry.
A lot of us have been here before, startled out of sleep by an early morning alarm. “What time is it? What day is it?” Then you realize you have to get up and go to work — hungover.
The reason? You decided to grab drinks after work. I don’t know about you, but every time I engage in “social drinking” after leaving my day gig, one drink turns into two drinks turns into, “Maybe I should just take a day tomorrow?”
After-work drinking is commonly referred to as “Happy Hour” because it’s a time to relax after a stressful day — get happy! (But apparently it’s illegal in North Carolina for establishments to advertise drink specials only during a specified time, such as 4 p.m.-6 p.m. That’s why most places have daily specials. I know, transplants, it’s news to me, too.) As shown by those fuzzy weekday mornings, grabbing a couple of cheap beers after work can be pretty dangerous.
As the weather starts to heat up, I can already tell my willpower to avoid after-work social gatherings is fading.
Not to mention, it’s been a month since Alive After Five kicked off. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Alive After Five (AA5 for short) is a huge after-work hangout Uptown every Thursday at the EpiCentre. AA5 features live entertainment on the rooftop and enough beer tents that long lines are rare. The crowd is diverse with young professionals, old professionals and even the unemployed. Long story short, it’s a great place to meet people. But be advised: There’s nothing “special” about these drinks. Tall boys run you $8. And the biggest challenge is the temptation to keep drinking is quadrupled due to the amount of other venues in the vicinity.
It’s Sunday afternoon and after another wild night, I can barely move. I know, I know — same old story right? Wrong. This time, I have a great excuse. It’s the day after my 25th birthday.
Even though every text, picture and Like on Facebook and Instagram is a reminder of the amount of drinking I did the night before, I can’t help but review the love being sent my way. And I must say, while at this moment it feels like little has changed about my drinking habits, all in all, I feel like a more mature human.
For one, I don’t just drink whatever someone hands me. I have standards now. Hence, why I sought specialty shots for my celebration. My plan was to take 25 unique shots around the Queen City. A shot crawl, if you will.
It sounded like a great idea at first, but looking back, 25 shots, even across 25 days, was ambitious. So I’m going to share seven — that’s the sum of the 2 and the 5 in 25.
The biggest challenge to creating this list was that a lot of people don’t take specialty shots. I’d ask someone, “Hey, have you ever had a unique shot at a bar in Charlotte?” And nine times out of 10, the response was, “Ehh, I normally just take a straight shot of whiskey.” Be adventurous people, geez.
The other challenge? Having to recall each shot and realizing you’ve mixed way too many types of liquors.
When you’ve been day drinking, the only way to make sure you make it out at night is to keep drinking. Duh! A couple weekends ago, that’s exactly what I decided to do. After drinking more than my fair share since 1:30 p.m., I found myself in an Uber with a few friends heading through South End to Craft Growler Shop and Tasting Room — Craft for short.
Tucked away on South Church Street is a small stark white building with a covered patio and string lights — y’all know I love string lighting. Contrasting the paint is the black CRAFT circular logo on the wall. And inside, you are welcomed by the character of the building with exposed brick and piping. Bottle shelves are placed throughout the room with six-packs of craft beer and miscellaneous edibles. There are wooden tables and chairs for small groups of friends to share a snack or have conversation. But the centerpiece is the chalkboard and 36-tap system behind the bar.
You know spring has sprung when talk is swirling about upcoming music festivals. With Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Cali kicking off last weekend, my social media accounts are filled with nothing but pictures of people (mostly celebrities) decked out in fringe, flower crowns and Elton John inspired sunglasses. While general admission tickets to Coachella are a whopping $375 (without considering airfare, transportation or hotel stay), you can experience festival fun right here in the Queen City for as little as $30. Now that’s a steal!
This past weekend I went to Creative Loafing’s first ever Moo and Brew Fest with my editor. That’s right, a festival celebrating craft beer and burgers. Does it get much better than unlimited beer tastings and burger sliders for drunken munchies? I didn’t think so. General admission tickets were $45.
Most festivals are characterized by live entertainment, lots of people and, of course, plenty of drinking. Don’t be fooled though; this isn’t your ordinary cup of tea — or pint of beer in this case. Day drinking is a huge challenge, especially when you’re outside in the sun. In order to achieve MVP status — read, actually make it the entire festival — there are certain things you need to keep in mind.
Last Wednesday, I ran into a neighbor I’d recently met at my apartment complex. We chatted about the American Dream, you know, working a 9 to 5, and then he mentioned going to grab a drink with a friend at The Gin Mill and invited me along.
This was the first time I had gone out with someone I barely knew. Within the first two minutes in the Uber, I knew this guy was a riot. His name was Brian Miller, a self-proclaimed local playboy and sunglass enthusiast — have you ever heard of the monthly sunglass subscription called Stunner of the Month? Me neither.
The Gin Mill is located in South End next to Amos’. I could tell right away from the interior — which included exposed brick and older furniture — that this place had been a part of this area for a while. I ordered a Miller Lite — a feeble attempt to maintain some sense of sobriety on this worknight.
One of the bartenders, Steve, said he’s been coming to The Gin Mill since it got its start 15 years ago. He told me, as an eligible bachelor, the Mill was a fun place to hang out and have a few beers.
I noticed Brian by the shuffleboard table, so I grabbed a Red Bull/Vodka and headed over to learn how to play. Afterward, we checked out the rooftop patio and discovered one of the best views of the city. There, we teetered between a game of Galaga or darts, and then: “Wanna go somewhere else? Let’s really make this an epic night.” My excuses of having to go to work early the next day were ignored, and we headed down Park Road to Jeff’s Bucket Shop.
I never liked house parties in college. The music was so loud you couldn’t hear anyone, too many people were usually stuffed into a room or small apartment, and it was always pitch black because hookups were the ultimate goal. Not to mention, there was always a fight that ruined the night.
But every now and then, it’s nice to escape the pressure of popular Queen City nightlife. You know, the high heels, tons of makeup, crowded bars and, of course, an entry fee. So I decided to give the classic house party the old college try.
House parties are usually characterized by three phases: the awkward entry, drunken conversation and the clumsy exit. Allow me to elaborate.