US Pubs & Lounges -

Drinking customs in America are as varied as the backgrounds of its many peoples, except the legal drinking age which is 21 years old for the entire country. With some few interesting exceptions, one will find that the countryside bars or taverns, as distinct from restaurants, are few. However in urban settings you will find numerous bars and nightclubs where food is either nonexistent or rudimentary. In very large cities, of course, drinking places run the gamut from tough, local, "shot and a beer" bars to upscale "martini bars" where you may sample anything from the traditional martini cocktail to exotics which might include "coffee" martinis and "chocolate" martinis. Of course this fad may become extinct at any time. One thing that may at first startle visitors from more conservative countries is the number of women that go to bars, both accompanied by men, unaccompanied, and in groups. While most American beer drinkers prefer light lagers, a wide variety of beers are available all over the States. It is not too unusual to find a bar serving one hundred or more different kinds of beer, both bottled beer and "tap" or "draft" beer. And "Real" beer is making a comeback. Microbreweries -- not so micro anymore, by the way -- make every kind of beer in much smaller quantities with traditional methods. Most microbrews are distributed regionally; bartenders will know the local brands. Some brew pubs make their own beer in-house, and generally only serve the house brand. Some states also have a weird thing called 3.2 beer which is 3.2% alcohol, though many light beers aren't much more than that anyway but they get cans proclaiming 3.2%. In Colorado some restaurants have licenses where they can serve real beer and others only serve 3.2% beer. Utah has strict and complex laws concerning alcoholic beverages due to its highly religious nature. Some of these laws may seem odd to foreigners and even Americans from other states.

Wine in America is also a contrast in low-quality commercial fare versus extremely high-quality product. California wines are some of the best in the world, and are available on most wine lists in the country. California wines are labeled by the grape (merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay) rather than the regional appellation, although wine producers are trying to give names like Napa Valley some more clout on the market. French wines are available, especially in the East. Some Chilean and Australian wines can also be found, but what's imported to the US is usually of lower quality. Other countries -- including Spain and Italy -- are also increasingly making their way on to America's wine map. Also, North Carolina wines are of excellent quality, and are well worth the visit if you are in-state. Sparkling wines such as Champagne and Prosecco are available by the bottle in many restaurants, especially Italian restaurants, but are rarely served by the glass as they often are in western Europe. You will find that the wines served in most bars and taverns in America is of the "bulk" variety, not very good, and often not served in proper glasses. On the other hand, "wine bars", where wine is the featured attraction are becoming more common in urban areas and in these establishments a wide variety of quite good American and foreign wines are available.

Hard alcohol is usually drunk with a "mixer", such as tonic water, cola, or another type of "soda", and each combination usually has a catchy name: for example, vodka and orange juice is called a "screwdriver", while a combination of vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, and cranberry juice goes by the pretentious and portentous name of "sex on the beach". Asking for liquor plus mixer will sometimes get you funny looks, but you'll get what you want. Drinking hard alcohol straight is mostly done in shots -- 1 or two oz. glasses that are often drunk in one swallow, usually after a toast. There is a long term trend in the US toward light colored liquors, especially vodka, and away from the more traditional darker liquors such as whiskey and bourbon that drinkers' fathers favored.

In some places, such as Texas, many bars only have a beer and wine license. In such places, you are allowed to bring your own hard liquor in; the bartender will then sell you juice and sodas at very high prices, known as setups. It can turn a $1 Coca-Cola into $2.50, but if you mostly are drinking liquor instead of Coke it can be a money saver on a night out on the town. Several counties in the U.S. known as "dry counties", mostly in southern states, do not allow certain types of alcohol or any type of alcohol. This means you should plan ahead or intend to join a private club to drink. Sunday sales are a problem in some states for hard liquor but beer and wine are invariably available after noon on Sunday almost everywhere. Nightclubs in America run the usual gamut of various music scenes -- from discos with top-40 dance tunes to obscure clubs serving tiny slices of obscure musical genres. One dance format probably unfamiliar to foreign visitors is country music, a musical form derived from traditional folk tunes but played with electric instruments. Country music dance clubs, or honky tonks, are laid fairly thick in the South and West, especially in rural areas and away from the coasts, but one or two can be found in almost any city.

Adapted from WikiTravel under the Wiki License

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