Besotted on a Budget

A hunt for low-cost liquor in Broward County

Here's one for the penny pinchers. That's right, grab your $2 pair of Walgreens glasses off the secondhand coffee table 'cause you're gonna want to read this: a cheap drink lineup that'll keep you buzzing all week.

One thing we all know when we go out is that we're gonna get ripped off. In fact, most places don't even list the price of booze because, if you knew that those rum and Cokes cost $7 a pop, you might not order your fifth drink. But it's off-season in this tourist town, and that gives the budgeteering binge imbiber the upper hand.

Let's start out at the week's beginning. Need it even be said that Monday is the least-loved day of the week? Your boss crept into your nightmares all weekend, and then walked into your cubicle just as you were surfing the Web for free porno. Damn, Monday sucks!

If vicariously living the glory of overpaid, spandex-clad apes is your thing, try Rosey Baby (4587 N. University Dr., Lauderhill), where they air NFL Monday Night games, and offer $1 shots and beer bucket specials.

Or if you're looking for affordable, gay times, happy hour at the Cathode Ray (1243 NE 11th Ave., Fort Lauderdale) continues till 9 p.m. -- it's 2-4-1 on everything, and $2.50 for the select drink of the evening. I popped in to try their Absolut chocolate martinis on Monday. The short, well-built barkeep eyed my tall, lanky drinking buddy as he mixed my drink. Then, he stuck a piece of a Hostess Ho Ho on the rim, and suggested that it was an appropriate garnish for a girl like me, and, come to think of it, for a guy like him too. Now, that's my kind of trash-talking bartender. Then he said to the other patrons, "If anyone else wants a chocolate martini, you'll have to show your penis at the bar." There were a few half-hearted offers, but no takers. I got my drink just in time, 'cause I was ill-equipped for the task.

A tangent.

All that drinking gave me the munchies, so my companion and I walked back to Squiggy's (207 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale) at Himmarshee for a slice. When the total for two slices, a bottle of water, and a soda came to $9.60, I was like, "Whoa, what's one slice cost?" And the clown behind the counter goes, "$2.65." And I yelled, "Holy shit!" in surprise, and he was gettin' all loud with me like, "What? You don't want it?"

Well, after a few strong drinks, with the smell of tomato sauce and baked cheese clouding my senses, all I could say was, "Of course I want it." I was trapped. And he was like, "You don't have to curse at me," and I was all, "It's called a sense of humor; try getting one sometime, pal." Then, he disappeared into the back room, and I walked outside all miffed and ate my slice that wasn't bad actually, at least when I smothered it in garlic powder.

If you get the same humorless treatment at Squiggy's, walk around the corner to Riverfront, where there are a couple of pizza joints with cheaper slices that stay open till at least 4 a.m. American Pie charges a measly $2.11 a slice. Argie Grill is a little pricier at $2.25 a slice, but they sell cheap suds, and the owner harasses you in good humor.

End of tangent.

Back to the cheap drinks. Where was I? Tuesday. Oh yeah, it reeks of Monday, and the Internet porn thing didn't go over too well yesterday. Your superiors have again looked over your shoulder and shaken their heads.

But, come 5 p.m., there is a cost-effective way to soak your cerebellum in the amnesic waters of the River Lethe. Max's Grill, with locations in BeachPlace (17 S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.), Riverfront, and Weston (2210 Weston Rd.) has a 3-4-1 happy hour all day, every day, and we're not talking moonshine: try Meyers, Captain Morgan's, Ketel One, and Jack Daniel's. Sure, each drink comes in at a South Beachy $8 a pop, but divide that by 3 and you're doing all right. My drinking buddy, a former bartender and shamefully experienced drinker, said they were impressively strong pours.

Wednesday, ladies, is the hump of the week, and humping is on the brain, it seems, because this is the night when drinking establishments start bribing us with serious freebies to sexify their bar tops with big hair and low-cut tanks. Last Call (5280 N. State Rd. 7) gives away the rotgut to women: It's free drafts, wines, and wells from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tarpon Bend (if you don't know where this one is, I can't help you) really gives it up for the ladies on Wednesdays: Drink premium wells free from 7 p.m. to close. That's all flavors of Stolis, Bacardi, Bombay, Sauza, and Wild Turkey. And if you can tolerate the geriatric plastic-surgery meat market at Christopher's (2857 E. Oakland Park Blvd.), you can drink everything free on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

So, now it's Thursday and you've nearly arrived. Tune out reality for eight hours and it's as good as Friday. Starting at 6:30 p.m., there's free wine for ladies at King's Head Pub (2692 N. University Park Blvd.), one of the few bars in Plantation -- and, thanks to the chummy ex-pats, it's a good one. They've also got $1 domestic drafts all day, every day. The Downtowner (408 S. Andrews Ave.) has $2 select shots from 5 to 8 p.m. that are served on the outdoor patio in the shadow of the Broward County Jail. If you don't bring a designated driver along, no worries; you can just stay next door.

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