How to Easily Upgrade Your Bar and Food Tab

women at a bar

image: Getty

Does the thought of snacking while out for a drink conjure images of greasy frat boys and inelegant, cheese-smothered appetizers? While some may argue that the best bar food is just that — a greasy, cheese-filled affair — you have other plans. Gone are your days of collegiate binge drinking (and all the cheap, lite beer that goes with it). It’s time to embrace adulthood in a fun way through upgraded food and drink. Once you’re ready to graduate from the entry-level boozy category of boring drinks or whatever beer’s the cheapest, it’s time to discover new options. While it may be true that no one really likes Manhattans — the supremely boozy combination of whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters — there are other classic cocktails that taste amazing and look cool to boot.

For cold weather, boozy coffee drinks are nicely festive. Also, drinking whiskey neat is basically the classiest way to usher in cooler months and the perfect way to channel the ultimate boss lady vibes. Really, any classic, liquor-heavy drinks are great for warming you up in winter, like the Old Fashioned with bourbon or the Sazerac made with rye whiskey and optional absinthe.

Seeking something to imbibe on a hot summer day? Forget the Miller Lite (please). Instead, try something like a Pimm’s Cup — a delightfully refreshing mix of Pimm’s No. 1 (a tasty British liqueur), lemon juice and ginger ale. It’s fizzy, fruity and perfect for just about any occasion. Margaritas are classic for a reason, but they do have a specific kind of image — to combat that while still getting the taste, try ordering it on the rocks. Lastly, if you aren’t best pals with the Negroni — gin, vermouth, Campari — try it next time. An aperitif, it’s bitter but satisfying and a taste of Italy no matter your current location. 

While imbibing with a serious flair, an accompaniment of fried onions or breaded mozzarella sticks just will not do. If you’re going to upgrade your drinks, you should also upgrade your snacks. It’s a boon to this lifestyle that the next-level bar, which puts just as much focus on the food as it does the booze, is gaining in popularity across the States. “Gastropub” may be a buzzword, but it’s also a descriptor for a wonderful place to go to drink and eat. While your nearest gastropub will likely fill your stomach with creative treats like gussied-up deviled eggs, fish tacos and even Brussels sprouts, there’s another option for refined bar eating that’s also close to home: Applebee’s. Believe it or not, the legendary chain is leading the way with its new The Pub Diet menu — a selection of dishes that look great, taste great and pack a serious nutritional punch. We’re talking meals that make sense with a grown-up drink — stuff like Cedar Grilled Chicken atop a tasty blend of quinoa, cranberries, rice and pecans. Another choice? Pepper-Crusted Sirloin with spinach and a mix of whole grains. Yup, now you can replace your old Thirsty Thursday routine with one that includes snacking on steak and swilling an Old Fashioned.

It’s all enough to make onion rings and loaded chili cheese fries (though delicious and good in moderation, of course) look positively juvenile. Cheers to you and your new grown-up food and bar tab!

Sponsored by Applebee’s