Author

Sam Greszes

Sam Greszes is unlockable by beating the game on Very Hard difficulty without losing a life. You must then defeat him to unlock him for Arcade and Versus modes.

Go See A Show. Now. TodayTix Is Live In Chicago. (1)
Entertainment, Events,

Go See A Show. Now. TodayTix Is Live In Chicago.

Chicago is a theatre city. Everyone who lives here knows that. From world-renowned regional theatres like Steppenwolf, The Goodman Theatre, and Victory Gardens to smaller storefront theatres, living in Chicago affords art lovers a wealth of options to choose from if you want to spend the night going to see a show.

So why haven’t you gone lately?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a pretty busy schedule, and you try to keep a tight budget. Sometimes, it’s not feasible to make plans, like, 3 weeks in advance to see a show. Things come up! You might have a hot tinder date or something!

The ideal, obviously, would be to get tickets day-of, but often this isn’t possible due to budget restraints or simply due to the fact that the show is sold out.

Oh, well hey, look at that, a new app just launched in Chicago that is specifically geared towards same-day, discounted theatre tickets. Funny how things work out sometimes.

http://www.urbancheapass.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Go-See-A-Show.-Now.-TodayTix-Is-Live-In-Chicago.-2.png

Chicago is now joining a growing list of cities including London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. in which TodayTix is live. In short, it’s an app. You tap a few buttons, add a payment method, and get tickets for a show whenever you want to go and see it. The great thing about the app is that the guys over at TodayTix have built relationships with so many theatre companies in Chicago, from large companies like Second City and Victory Gardens to storefront companies like the Neo-Futurists, to much smaller theatres. They have put a lot of effort into making sure that there are shows on the app to fit everyone’s tastes and budget.

The idea behind the app is to get more young people into the theatre, and it appears to be working. It’s convenient, the tickets are discounted, and perhaps above all, makes the entire Chicago theatre-going experience a bit more manageable.

Plus, they won’t pull any Ticketmaster-style fee nonsense on you. TodayTix charges a flat $5 fee no matter the price of the ticket, so you won’t be blindsided by service charges or anything (unless you want to plunk down a little extra to get your tickets hand-delivered to you).

TodayTix is also savvy enough to know that Chicago theatre lovers like a stiff drink with their show, so they have agreements with certain theatres including the Annoyance and iO where if you buy a ticket using the app, you are eligible for free drinks or exclusive drink specials. So even if the show isn’t that great, at least you can drown your sorrows.

Bottom line, Chicago’s theatre scene is key to experiencing the city. So if you want to impress your next tinder date by taking them to dinner and a show, but you need same-day tickets and are on a budget, well…

There’s an app for that. Oh, and it’s on Android too.

Will you be checking out the TodayTix App? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

VINYL ME, PLEASE: A SUBSCRIPTION BOX REVIEW
Reviews, Subscription Boxes,

Vinyl Me, Please: A Subscription Box Review

Vinyl Me, Please bills itself as “The Best Damn Record Club Out There”.

Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review

Given the care that goes into every single package they send out, I’d be inclined to agree.

If you’re not aware, Vinyl Me, Please is one of many vinyl subscription services out there that offers delivery of a curated record for around 20 or 30 bucks a month. This begs the question:

Why?

Who in their right mind would want this? Who would pay between 23 and 27 dollars a month to get an album that somebody else chose for you, when you can walk down to Transistor Records and get one that you know you want for $20 or less? Who could possibly want that?

Well, me, for one.

For the purposes of this review, Vinyl Me, Please was kind enough to send over the records chosen for their August and September deliveries. From the box the records were shipped in to the hand-signed slipcovers that they’re covered with, it’s obvious that care goes into every step of the process here.

Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review
Inside each box, subscribers will find a hand-picked album, a custom 12”x12” art print inspired by the record, a short piece of prose, liner notes, and even a cocktail pairing created by the lushes over at Vinyl Me, Please with the goal of enhancing your listening experience.

If that still doesn’t seem worth the price tag, consider that each and every Vinyl Me, Please record is a pressing exclusive to VMP subscribers, meaning that these albums are pretty much one of a kind.

Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review

It’s understandable that some will still balk at the fact that somebody else is choosing your music for you. I won’t lie, I was kind of afraid I’d get, I don’t know, an LP of Limp Bizkit B-sides. Luckily, my fear was misplaced.

If the albums they sent us are any indication of what they send month-to-month, Vinyl Me, Please is interested in supplementing and filling out your existing vinyl collection with essentials that music lovers may not have, as well as albums yet to find a huge audience. You can follow this link to see their back catalog.

The past two Vinyl Me, Please boxes included two relatively well-known records, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to score any indie cred by showing them off. That said, both of the albums are unquestionably well-reviewed, interesting, and staples of their respective genres: a 20th anniversary pressing of the brilliant Wilco album A.M., as well as Four Tet’s 2012 album Pink. The Wilco LP was a beautiful clear-ish creamsicle color, while Pink was a 2 LP set complete with MP3 downloads.

The two records couldn’t be more different, and that speaks to Vinyl Me, Please’s sense of taste. Every album will be a surprise, yes, but this service really isn’t for people who care about that. It’s for people who want to be surprised, who want to
discover (or rediscover) an artist or album, for people who would be happy with experimental electronica one month and early ‘90s hip-hop the next.

The prose is beautiful. So is the art. So is the music. It’s completely understandable to not subscribe to this service if you’re on a tight budget, and don’t really want to risk getting an album you’re not into.

Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review

But honestly, if you want to start building a record collection or supplement an existing one, 23-to-27 bucks a month isn’t a whole lot to ask. And for me, as well as many of VMP’s subscribers, the surprise is part of the fun. It feels like those halcyon days of childhood, where you’d show up to school one day and an excited, music-loving friend would hand you a CD-R with “KAYNE WEST: COLEGE DROPOUT” scribbled on the front in blue sharpie, and you’d spend the next day talking about the music. Except now, you’re supporting the artists, and you’re getting the records from someone who can spell correctly.

And hey, worst case scenario, if you don’t like the album, you can always drown your sorrows with a stiff drink.

Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review

Have you tried Vinyl Me, Please? Click here to learn more and sign up!

chicago cheap ass (5)
Food, Recipes,

Buy A Slow Cooker And Add A Tiny Bit Of Happiness To Your Meaningless Existence

Lunchtime. Yay. Week-old roast beef and mustard on sourdough with stale pita chips. Only 12,774 lunches left on the interminable, slow, plodding path to death we all walk together. Might as well head back to your desk and pretend to work for the rest of the day, stomach grumbling, wearing that same emotionless face you wear every day of your life.

Now, I’m not saying that a slow cooker will relieve the existential dread inherent to a consciousness that is able to grasp how truly insignificant it is in the true scope of things, but, at the very least, you’ll be able to enjoy your lunch more.

Most of you probably know how a slow cooker or crock pot works—you plug it in, throw a bunch of stuff in there, and then go do whatever until it’s done. If you don’t have a crock pot and are in the market, however, it’d probably be best to look for one that’s relatively big, and at least has multiple heat settings and a programmable timer. I’m lucky enough to have access to this Hamilton Beach model that my roommate owns, so I didn’t even have to buy my own, but it’s only 50 bucks, and comes with a probe if you ever want to make some fancy roast beef or London broil. It’s also big enough to accommodate a big ol’ pork shoulder for whenever I want to make barbecue, but get something that’s right for you. You really shouldn’t be paying more than $75 for something with all the bells and whistles that you most likely don’t even need.

This is usually the point at which I give you recipes, which yeah, I’ll do that, but the great thing about slow cookers is you can really just kind of jam whatever you have in there and you’ll normally get something that tastes great. Broccoli rabe, canned tomatoes, crappy wine, bay leaves, and 5 pounds of chicken thighs? Pop that in there for a few hours, serve over pasta, season with salt and pepper, and you have a meal fit for a dinner party attended by more people than your tiny apartment can reasonably fit. Seriously, with the possible exception of mustard greens and collard greens, both of which turn into a gooey mush in a slow cooker, just fill it with things you like, and by the time it’s done, you’ll like the result.

That said, here are some guiding principles. For leaner cuts of meat, like chicken breasts, thighs, or really any other already-sliced meats, keep the timer down around 4ish hours and cook on low. You don’t want to overcook anything in a slow cooker, because believe it or not, they will dry out even if they’ve been swimming in whatever conglomeration of sauces you’ve thrown in there. Conversely, for thicker cuts of meat like pork shoulder or really, anything you’re planning on shredding, you’re going to want to let that cook for a while on low heat, probably around 8 to 12 hours. I usually like searing these cuts first as well, just to add a bit of flavor and textural interest to the final dish.

In terms of usage, again, the slow cooker is a utilitarian tool fit to multitask. I use mine primarily to prepare healthy lunches for the week ahead of time using lean meats and plenty of vegetables. As a sidenote, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms are wonderful flavor sponges and turn out great in any slow cooked dish. Most recently, I threw a pork shoulder in there with Brussels sprouts, long-cut green onions, ginger, soy sauce, and duck sauce, and I was rewarded 12 hours later with not just all my lunches for the week, but also the ability to make irresponsible choices on weeknights without having to worry about fixing my lunch for the next day.

If you want to get fancy and get some roast beef going, heat some oil in a pan until it screams, then throw a big cut of beef on there to sear it on all sides. I prefer top blade or top round roasts, but use your favorite. This’ll work for brisket too. Once the meat is seared, grab some of those small red potatoes, chop some leeks into slices, and quarter a few onions. Toss all that with salt and pepper, and spread them across the bottom of your slow cooker. Put your roast on top of that and pop the lid on. Skewer the roast with the probe, and set the slow cooker to stop cooking when the roast reaches 120 degrees in the middle, making it perfectly rare. Invite your friends over because the unbearable lightness of being is best shared, and carve them all a few slices before topping with some horseradish. The onions, leeks and potatoes will absorb the roast’s juices, making them soft and unctuous, so make sure to stiff your friends on those and hoard them for yourself.

Again, the whole point of the slow cooker is to be able to take a bunch of random stuff out of your fridge, put it in the cooker, wait, and suddenly have a whole bunch of food that, yeah, is actually surprisingly okay. And while it may not solve the problem of finding meaning in a life we all know could end at any moment, well hey, what do you expect? It’s just a slow cooker, and I’m just a blogger. At least it’ll make meal time a little better.

This post contains affiliate links.

chicago cheap ass (5)
Life, Shopping, Style,

Another Damn Blog Post About Looking Fly On A Budget

Before we get started here, yes, I know you know about Ragstock. I know that’s where you get all your purple flannel shirts and American-flag-print tank tops. It has taken over as the number one place for twenty-somethings to go when they need new threads. And not for nothing—Ragstock features a great selection, friendly employees, and relatively low prices.

But you’re still spending too much if you do all your shopping there.

Yes, friends, it is possible to complete your quest for fresh menswear without the help of Ragstock. Come with me and allow me to expand your horizons, and save you money while you do it.

Your first step when buying clothing should be making a list. I know, it’s boring and lame and I sound like your mom. Do it anyway. Anybody who goes to Target for a case of beer and leaves with a gigantic beanbag chair, Captain America graphic t-shirt, and Pikachu piggy bank knows that having a plan can help avoid spending more than you have budgeted out. List off items you need, and then items you want, or could use more of. That way, if you see something you dig that’s off script, you can at least make a note of it and keep that kind of thing to a minimum.

The second step is optional, but before I go shopping, I usually make note of the color of some of my favorite clothing items, and take a look at a color wheel. This website goes over some basic color theory, and is worth a quick read, but suffice it to say that when figuring out which clothes go with each other, a color wheel can help a lot. Similar colors are next to each other, while complementary colors are opposite each other on the wheel. Contrasting colors are separated by three colors on the wheel. Again, having an in-depth knowledge of color theory isn’t necessary for you to look fresh, but it definitely helps.

So, where do you shop? Good question. Depends what you’re looking for.

Elliott Consignment is a great menswear place, offering name brand consignment items that skew preppier or more business-casual. You’ll find boat shoes, polo shirts, and shorts with little palm trees on them. Prices range, but since it’s consignment, you won’t be paying much more than $20 for a nice dress shirt. Plus, this is a great place to unload any clothes you want to sell.

If you’re looking for something more casual, Plato’s Closet and Crossroads both sell new and used items more geared towards everyday style, and in my experience, both offer lower prices than Ragstock for items that aren’t, like, old band t-shirts. The only issue is that the menswear department in both of these stores is fairly small. You may have to hop around a bit if you’re looking for something in particular. Both of these stores will also take in-season clothes off your hands and send you away with cash.

The problem with all of these options is that if you’re looking for something in particular, it’s always going to be a crapshoot. And while shopping for clothing online is always a bit more stressful, given that you’re never really sure whether or not things will fit just right, there is a time and a place for it.

Enter JackThreads. They sell all new clothing, so some of it will skew pricey, but once you sign up, you’ll start receiving emails from them to tell you that oh, by the way, all suits are 50% off today.

If you’re looking for, say, a mint green shorts suit, it’s worth signing up for JackThreads’ email alerts, because more than likely, it’ll go on sale and you’ll be able to pick it up for like 60 bucks. I have personally bought 3 suits and 3 dress shirts from JackThreads and the total was a little bit over 200 dollars. Oh, and most of their items are fully returnable for either cash or store credit in case things don’t fit just right. If you can be patient, it’s worth monitoring your emails to see if the site is having a sale on something you need, because chances are, they will. Just know that if you’re looking for something super fancy, like a 100% wool suit, you’ll need to be prepared to spend a bit. They don’t really have much of it, and what they do have doesn’t often go on sale.

Or, hell, you can just go to Ragstock. I know you will anyway.

chicago cheap ass (10)
Drink, Food, Recipes,

I Threw Some Fruit Into A Mason Jar With Vodka And Now All My Friends Think I’m A Fancy Mixologist

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Put that shit down.

You heard me. Yeah, you with that bottle of birthday cake flavored vodka. Put it down right now. You make me sick. Though, not as sick as you’re gonna make yourself when you down it all in one night and wake up the next day with a high-fructose-corn-syrup-induced hangover to end all hangovers.

Do not allow BIG ALCOHOL to dictate your flavored-spirit whims. You can make your own flavored liquors at home, and it’s super easy, not to mention the fact that it makes you seem like some fancy microdistiller hipster.

Cocktail Infusions

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dinnerseries

Which, well, isn’t necessarily a good thing. Just don’t go buying a fedora or anything.

Anyway, all you really have to do to make flavored spirits is to buy a big ol’ thing of cheap-but-not-undrinkable liquor, a mason jar, and whatever you want the spirit to taste like. Then you chop the flavoring agent, whether it’s a fruit, vegetable, or a handful of raw shrimp (do not do this) and throw it into the mason jar. Cover with the spirit of your choice, and just, like, leave it in the fridge for a few days. Taste and shake the jar every day, and when you think it’s done, strain it through a cheesecloth and label it. It’s really that easy.

Let’s do some math. Depending on what kind of spirit you get, a big bottle of cheap liquor will cost somewhere between 15 and 25 bucks. That’ll be enough for you to make 4 decent-sized infusions. Throw in the cost of fruits, vegetables, and whatever else you want to use to flavor your hooch, and the total cost will average somewhere around 30 bucks for a whole bunch of delicious flavored spirits. Compare that to the $19.99 per 750mL that Smirnoff charges for their whipped cream flavored vodka.

In terms of specific infusion recipes and strategies, feel free to get creative, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give you a few tips to start you off on this wonderful boozy journey.

Usually, it’s best to infuse vodka. It’s relatively tasteless, so it absorbs flavor well. It’ll go with pretty much anything. Rum is similar, but with a sweeter flavor. Generally, the lighter the spirit is, the better it will take to other flavors. Once you get into spiced rums, bourbons, whiskeys, and aged tequilas, you should be careful when infusing, because you run the risk of overpowering the spirit’s natural taste.

Some combinations that I’ve found work well include:

Mango Habanero Vodka (use 1 small habanero, and leave it whole for this recipe.)
Cucumber Lime Gin (when using citrus, you can choose to either just use the peel for a more bitter, zesty flavor, or cut the citrus into rings for a more juicy flavor.)
Vanilla Whiskey (split the vanilla bean lengthwise and pour the whiskey on top. Strain after a day. Vanilla is a very strong flavoring agent.)
Kiwi Coconut Rum (getting the flesh from a fresh coconut sucks. I know. Trust me. It’s worth it. Get a fresh one, crack it, and toast it in the oven before infusing.)

Now, before you get started, a few words of warning.

Infusing with chocolate can be dicey. The resulting cloudy liquor will be difficult to strain, and sometimes can take on a sour taste. Be very careful here. Infusing with caramel, however, is delicious, despite the fact that it also takes hours to strain. When coming up with your own flavor profiles, think of things that complement the nature of the spirit itself. Herbal vodkas work quite well, but herbal gins are a trickier proposition given the floral and herbal nature of the spirit itself.

At the end of the day, though, if you mess up, it only cost you like, 7 bucks, and hell, it’ll still get you drunk. Plus, now you know firsthand not to try to infuse gin with a handful of raw shrimp. Maybe you should listen to me next time. Don’t worry. I’ll call the ambulance for you.

chicago cheap ass (3)
Drink, Food, Recipes,

Cooking Tips For City Living: Sell All Your Possessions And Buy A Wok

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I see you.

I see you watching the Food Network on weeknights, laughing every time someone forgets an ingredient on Chopped. I hear you mutter to yourself “I could do better” in between bites of reheated Chinese take-out. I feel it when you roll your eyes at Rachel Ray, Alton Brown, and at Bobby Flay, wondering why they’re famous and you’re not. Then you finish your microwaved meal and continue picking Dorito crumbs out of your belly button, just like you do every day.

No more.

Today, we embark on an adventure. Throw away your microwave. Clean out your freezer. Set your “instant” foods ablaze and never look upon them again. Today, my friends, we cook.

And hell, it’s not as hard as you think.

If you live in the city (of course you do, why would you be reading this otherwise), you most likely have a few, but not many, cooking vessels and implements for stovetop use. Maybe a skillet and a few pots.

You don’t need them.

No, friends, the only tool you will need to boil, sauté, steam, and deep fry is a wok. I recommend ones made by The Wok Shop in San Francisco—I own one, and I couldn’t be happier.

When choosing a wok, there are a few important things to keep in mind. The most important thing is to get something light, preferably made from carbon steel. You want something that will get hot fast, and be manageable enough to toss over the heat. Oh, and also, if you have an electric or induction stove, you’ll need a flat bottomed wok. Otherwise you’ll be forced to balance the wok on its end while you cook and that just sounds like the most terrible thing. If you’re cooking with gas, you can get either a flat bottom wok, or a normal round-bottomed one and mount it on a wok ring.

You’ll also want a wok with some texture to it. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the whole point of a wok is that parts of it get super-hot, while parts stay relatively cool. The texture on the sides of the wok allows you to push cooked food up to the cooler sides of the wok to avoid burning while other food cooks near the bottom.

You shouldn’t pay more than 40 bucks for a nice big wok, and you really can use it for pretty much any kitchen task you can think of. You can scramble eggs in it, cook pasta in it, deep fry in it, steam vegetables in it, or, of course, make yourself a stir fry.

Oh, but you don’t have any shelf space! Where are you going to put this gigantic wok? Aw, jeez. Sorry, guys. My bad. Go return it.

Or you could just hammer a nail into your drywall above your stove and hang the wok from there. Woks actually look really good hung up in a kitchen, and despite their size, will be both out of the way and readily available there.

So you have your wok! Time to start cooking!

Hah, just kidding. Nah, you’re not ready yet. And neither is your wok. You gotta season it first. The Wok Shop has a pretty great video guide for a few different ways you can season your wok, but if you’re pressed for time or just don’t want to watch a video, here’s how I seasoned mine.

First, you’re gonna want to wash the wok thoroughly with hot soapy water, and then dry it by setting it on high heat on your stove until all the moisture evaporates.

While this is happening, chop a whole bunch of scallions, and mince a big ol’ handful each of ginger and garlic. Open a door or window. Things are about to get really smoky.

Keep the wok on the stove, and turn the heat all the way up if you haven’t already. You want the wok to be screaming hot. You’ll know you’re ready for the next step by flicking some water at the wok. If the wok hisses loudly at you like an angry cat, you can move on.

Take the wok off the heat and pop a couple tablespoons of a neutral fat (canola or vegetable works here, but traditionalists like to use lard) in the wok and toss it around so that it coats the bottom and sides. Throw the scallions, ginger, and garlic in there.

Burn the fuck out of them.

I’m serious. Burning these elements until they are carbon-black will release an enzyme that will keep the food you cook in the wok from tasting ever-so-slightly of, uh, metal. While you stir-fry, make sure you get the oil and aromatics up to the sides of the wok.

Continue tossing until the color of the wok starts to change. You’re looking for just a slight tinge of yellow or orange in most cases. The wok will also start to look a bit glossy. Again, make sure that this change happens on the bottom as well as on the sides of the wok. Discard the burning hot oil by throwing it at the invaders trying to scale your castle walls, or alternatively, by waiting a few minutes for it to cool and dumping the aromatics and burnt oil into the sink.

Wash your wok with hot water, and use a paper towel or brush to knock away any burnt-on residue. You’re done!

Your wok is still new, though, and boiling water in it, or cooking with heavy acids like lemons or vinegar will damage the coating, so wait on that until the wok gets a nice, broken in brownish black hue around the bottom and sides.

Luckily, the recipe I’m about to share with you is perfect for a new wok. It’s healthy, quick, and perfect for getting rid of random stuff in your fridge. It doesn’t taste half bad either.

Simple Shirataki Stir-Fry (serves 1)

1 package Shirataki Noodles
1 Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 Onion, diced
1/2lb Pork Loin, cut into cubes
Garlic
Ginger
Red Pepper Flakes
Soy Sauce
Sambal
Peanut Oil

Before we begin, a note on shirataki noodles. These are inexpensive, super low calorie noodles made from a Japanese yam that are packed with fiber and take very well to surrounding flavors. You can buy them at Jewel—they usually run around a buck or two per pack. They come (usually) packed in a liquid, and will need to be drained and thoroughly washed in order to remove the earthy, briny, and fishy odor of the liquid.

Here’s how this is going to work. Right now, before you even start reading the rest of this recipe, you’re going to season your meat with salt and pepper and cube it, dice your vegetables, and mince your garlic and ginger, okay? Because this is going to get real fast real quick. Once you turn the heat on under your wok, there’s no going back. Ready? Okay. Let’s get started.

When cooking with a wok, dishes are enhanced by flavoring the oils used to stir-fry ingredients. Traditionally, this is achieved by throwing a clove of minced garlic into the oil with some red pepper flakes and a healthy amount of minced ginger. Turn the heat all the way up under your wok, and coat it with peanut oil. Before the wok gets too hot, wipe the oil up and around the pan with a paper towel, removing the excess oil and spreading it up to the sides. Throw the garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes in there and toss with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Make sure your door is still open.

Test to make sure the oil is hot using the same water method as when you seasoned the wok, then throw the pork in there. Make sure to toss and stir often so that it cooks evenly. As soon as the outside is cooked move the pork to the sides of the wok and throw the noodles and veggies into the middle. Toss the veggies and noodles together—you want the veggies cooked to the point where their flavors are brought out in the oil while still retaining their crunch and brightness. When the pork firms up and starts to brown in the wok as you toss it with the rest of the ingredients, you’re done. Pour the stir fry out onto a plate, and dress with sambal (a hot chili paste available in the international section of the grocery store) and soy sauce to taste.

Dig in!

Hah, no, kidding again. Your wok needs some love first. Run some warm water in your sink and wipe off all the stuck on food with a brush or wet paper towel after the wok has cooled off enough to touch. Put the wok back on the flame to dry. This will prevent rust, and should be done right after cooking.

Now you can eat.

I know, you’re full, and you don’t want to think about wok maintenance, but here are some quick rules for you to ignore. Don’t use soap on the wok. Warm water and a paper towel or brush should be enough to loosen any stuck food. The more you use the wok, the more seasoned it will be. In essence, be good to the wok, and the wok will be good to you. It really is impossible to ruin your wok. Even if the seasoning deteriorates, all you have to do is scrub with steel wool, wash with soap, and re-season. It’s as loyal as your family dog, except you can also make delicious food in it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there are some marauders scaling my apartment complex so I have to go heat up some peanut oil.

chicago cheap ass (4)
Drink, Food,

Skip The Clubs And Stock Your Own Damn Bar

Saturday night! Aw, yeah. The weather’s good, and you’re feeling fine. Have you lost weight? Man, those skinny jeans look really good on you. That’s a good choice. So where to tonight? Smart Bar? The Mid? The dive around the corner? The world is your oyster, let’s dig in.

Sunday morning. Headaches. Waking up in last night’s clothes, tangled in blankets and sheets. What was that girl’s name? You can’t remember. But it’s fine! It was a good night. Then you get an email from your bank, asking if it was really you who rung up a $250 bar tab drinking nothing but long island iced teas. Maybe it wasn’t such a great night after all.

Listen, going out is a favorite pastime here in this great city, and it’s always good to see friends and make a fool of yourself on some bar along Clark street. Because you always end up along Clark street.

However, it’s just not cost-effective, or really even possible to go out every week and get sloshed on $12 cocktails. You’ll end up saving a lot of money (and making a whole bunch of new friends) simply by spending time stocking your own bar.

First and foremost, there are a few tools that you should have if you plan on having people over and making cocktails for them. Perhaps most important is a bartending app that you like, so that even if you don’t know how to make a certain drink, you can at least fake it when friends ask you for one. I’m partial to Mixologist, but there are plenty of others available for all smartphone platforms. Here’s Lifehacker’s rundown of 5 of their favorites.

Other tools aren’t really necessary, but it’s nice to have a jigger, a shaker, and a strainer as well. You can make most common drinks without these, but they’re all inexpensive, and if nothing else, will make you feel really freaking classy.

In terms of what you actually need to stock your bar, most guides will tell you to buy pretty much every bottle of liquor at Binny’s and turn your quest for frugality into a $400 nightmare. The truth of the matter is that when you are stocking your own bar, you can focus on the ingredients you need to make the drinks you like.

As a basic guide, here’s a list of ingredients that every home bar absolutely should stock, given how ubiquitous they are in cocktail recipes:

  • Vodka
  • Tequila
  • Gin
  • Light or Dark Rum
  • Whiskey (whatever type you like, it’s your bar, not mine)
  • Bitters
  • Sweet and Dry Vermouth
  • A Jar of Olives
  • Simple Syrup (you can make this at home. Just mix equal parts sugar and water.)
  • Rose’s Lime Juice
  • Assorted garnishes (cherries, oranges, lemons, etc…)
  • Assorted mixers (juices, Coke, tonic water, club soda)

Anything on top of that is gravy, and should be informed by your tastes.

Now, I realize this is a little daunting. That’s a pretty long list, all just for a basic bar. But hear me out. Liquor, all told, really isn’t that expensive. You can get away with smaller 750ml bottles of all of these spirits, and your friends won’t care if you don’t splurge for expensive vodka, gin, or rum. You really shouldn’t be paying any more than $20 per bottle for any of those spirits since they’re mixed with other, more flavorful ingredients most of the time, making their taste less important.

As far as whiskey and tequila are concerned, you will want to plunk down a bit more cash. These spirits are often drunk neat or on the rocks, and even when they’re not, they impart a large amount of flavor to the cocktails they are included in. Taste matters here. That said, you can find decent bottles of tequila and whiskey for under $30, even if you’re looking for the snooty aged stuff.

As a sidenote, most well-stocked home bars carry multiple types of whiskey (rye, bourbon, etc…) for use in different cocktails. This is fine! It’s also expensive. The great thing about building a bar in this way is that you can add to the bar as you need to, so if you get an urge to make yourself a sazerac, you can just head to Binny’s and pick up some rye and absinthe. In doing so, you’ll also be upgrading your bar.

All in all, even if you stock your bar fully with nice spirits, juices, and fancy artisanal bitters hand-hewn in Portland, you’ll probably end up spending somewhere between $150 and $200 for a bar that will last you ages. Compare that with the $150 to $200 you spent at that bar in River North last weekend. You’ll get a lot more for your money this way.

Keep in mind, when you have a bar like this, each bottle of liquor will last longer, since it’s being mixed with all the delicious other ingredients you now own. And when the bottles do run out, it’s only around $20 to restock. I usually only have to restock a bottle every 6 weeks or so, despite the fact that Chicago sports fandom forces me to mix myself more old fashioneds than is probably healthy.

If you take care of the bar and keep it stocked, you’ll find that you and your friends will go out to the bars less, and instead have stronger, cheaper drinks hanging out at the apartment watching Netflix. Plus, you’ll be able to unwind with a Manhattan after work instead of a crappy Bud Light.

So shake off the chains. Do not be beholden to bartenders when you want a mixed drink that requires more ingredients than “rum” and “coke”. Stocking your own bar and learning how to make your own cocktails is fun, social, and will end up saving you a lot of money in the long run.