How do I avoid buying a round at a bar without being obvious?

Each week,’s in-house etiquette expert, Dear Penny, tackles your recession-related stumpers.

When I was little my mother went down to Tijuana a lot to buy cheap alcohol, tequila specifically, to give away as Xmas gifts. Occasionally, she would also buy medication from the over-the-counter pharmacies down there, then sneak it all back over the border in her purse. I think we can all learn something from my mother. To avoid facing the “rounds of drinks” problem to begin with, plan ahead—don’t buy drinks to begin with. Instead, sneak in a fifth of cheap vodka in your oversize purse, ask the bartender for a glass of ice water and go to the bathroom when you need to secretly refresh your drink. Pour in a powdered Emergen-C packet to give it a screwdrivery look, and to hopefully begin an end-run on any possible hangover. (Don’t overdo it on the C—one should be plenty). You can get wasted like this for cheap—at the liquor store around the block from my South Slope apartment, a fifth of Sobieski is only $12. Some other inexpensive brands are: Luksusowa, Wyborowa, Svedka or Ruskova.

Dear Penny has spent years navigating the social waters of income disparity and doing odd jobs to support her comic-and-novel-writing habit. A former copywriter for Comedy Central, she teaches writing at Queensborough Community College. Send her questions at

2 Comment

  • great tip! I’ll pass it along to my great aunt who steals dinner rolls and sweet’n low from diners

  • Hilarious! I love that the shitty economy has given us all the right to be cheap no matter what. Whatever any of you do, don’t buy Kamchatka Vodka…one too many hangovers my freshman year were never worth the money saved.