SN&R’s Guide to Vice and Unprofessionalism
It all starts with 10 ways to get drunk before noon.
The neon glow above the Zebra Club’s front entrance reads “Open 6 a.m.,” and it seduces. Hey Nick, I’m sure you have deep pain. Ease that, that life hurt, get in here, get some whiskey on those lips. Oh, why not. It’s not like I’m doing heroin before noon. That’s addiction. A harmless shot-and-a-beer before sunrise? Some might call that a power breakfast.
The sign of the Zebra (1900 P Street) has beckoned passersby for more than 25 years. I am not immune. Inside, I’m reminded that Zebra is truly a place for all stripes, but especially for folks whose eyeballs have rolled so far back in their heads, due to the overwhelming yuppiness of Sacramento year 2016, that only a cheap bloody mary will do. It’s crazy to think that, in five years, Zebra will be a lone remnant of janky Midtown amid trendy new dog parks and blocks of newly erected power lofts (and, surely, even more cold-pressed-juice cafes and yoga dens).
Thankfully its proprietors own the building, and Z will always be a sanctuary where blue-collar Sacramentans hold court with young unprofessionals scorned by the Metro Edge rat race. And it all starts at 6 a.m.
On this Sunday—confessedly a little later than sunrise—Midtown music-scene staple Ground Chuck is belly up at the bar, his wiry beard nearly dipping into his cranberry juice cocktail. Zebra’s owner himself is behind the bar. “What game you want to watch?” He’s talking NFL. “Anything but the Patriots,” is the answer if you don’t want to get your ass kicked.
All right, let’s talk poison: A shot and a beer at Zebra will set you back very little. That bloody? You’re going to want to order extra spicy (trust me). The second hand rips around the clock. But you’ve got a plan:
Ten ways to get drunk before noon, and time isn’t on your side.
There are, of course, other time-tested dive-bar options on the central-city grid. Round Corner (2333 S Street, doors unlock at 10 a.m.) remains a cheap drink haven. Or the new-look Hilltop Tavern (4757 Folsom Boulevard, open at 9 a.m.) and its amenable beer list.
But this journey to get juiced before high noon needs caffeine. Stat. Enter the Almost Famous Irish Coffee at de Vere’s Irish Pub (1521 L Street).
The hostess seats our group immediately—on a Sunday just after 10 a.m.!—in a sun-drenched corner booth with leather-backed seats by the window. The warmth accelerates the drunk; it’s science, yo. Coffees show up in a jiffy, what with their reverse-cascading head of whiskey flowing up the side of the glass into the freshly whipped cream. At once sweet and dry, this is my new secret flagship Sacramento cocktail. And, at eight bucks, it’s just $2.75 more than a venti pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks—and not crappy.
The crew starts rambling about other almost-famous morning drinking spots: The nine-dollar bottomless champagne on a boat overlooking the Sacramento River, thank you Delta King (1000 Front Street); a michelada while tucked away at Midtown’s Tres Hermanas bar (2416 K Street, I suggest the spicy Negra Modelo); the new-school famous bloody mary at Pour House (1910 Q Street, with Jason Poole of Preservation Co.’s award-winning mix) for $8.50; and Magpie (1601 16th Street), where seasonal radlers, or mixtures of German-inspired beer and sweet spritzers like lemonade, sneak up on you (for instance, the Winter Radler is a wit beer and grapefruit for just $6, and is basically the only reason to drink a wheated brew).
By this point, it’s that warm-in-the legs drunk. But it’s impossible to truly achieve hammered of the before-noon gods without a Ramos Fizz. Enter Shady Lady Saloon (1409 R Street), where the bartenders fight over who gets to prepare my order of this classic New Orleans cocktail. I like how the drink-makers take their damn time at Shady—no rush, no problem—and my bartender’s spin on the drink is gently botanical, what with its unique gin selection, complemented by a smooth egg-white fizz and subtle Creamsicle character. If I won Powerball’s millions, I’d have one of these every morning—after buying majority share of the Sacramento Kings, of course.
Last stop, B-Side (1430 S Street), the new sister bar of the Shady team. Inside feels more like a bro cave for the record hoarder in your life. Stereo knobs decorate the wall, and John Carpenter’s They Live buzzes on the TV. Drinks at B-Side run a notch less than the typical craft-cocktail bar fare in the city. And that’s great when you’re already drunk and it’s 10 minutes to noon. (Be warned, B-Side opens later, at 11 a.m.). We go for some Track 7 IPA and threaten to end our unprofessional drunk crawl at popular industry spot Elixir (1815 10th Street). But we can’t go there. That would be 11. And we’re way too tossed to go to that level.
Or, maybe not.