When I’m on a budget (please see: always) there are two indulgences I never cut out. No matter how broke I am, I refuse to give up on buying coffee and I refuse to give up buying booze. Those drinks taste better when you buy them. I swear, they do.
But if I had to choose between the two … booze wins. There are expensive ways to drink in Charleston, wallet-friendly ways to drink in Charleston, and, of course, there are dirt cheap ways to drink in Charleston. Sorry folks, but I can’t give you advice on drinkin’ dirt cheap, because as thrifty as I try to be with booze-buying, at the end of the day, I like the good stuff. When the sun’s still up I want more than a tall boy and a shot of house whiskey (nothing against that combo).
So here we are, at the not-too-much, not-too-little drink discussion. The question is: Where do we drink? And once we get there, what do we swill?
The I-Can’t-Believe-This-Is-The-Price Happy Hour
We’re lookin’ at you Edmund’s. The Oastest with the mostest serves up one of our favorite happy hours in town, with a $4 food and drink menu. You can try a craft beer, wine, or (our preference) a boozy cocktail on draft and can catch a solid buzz. Incroyable! Oh yeah, and the food — it varies all the time, so check Edmund’s social media before heading there or just wing it. The plates are small-ish portions, but if you’re living that true happy hour life, you’re only looking for a few bites anyway.
The Aphrodisiac’s Happy Hour
Did someone say $1 champagne and $1 oysters on the half shell? Mt. P’s Pier 41 offers this crazy good deal; yes, it does mean that you can snag a glass of champagne and an oyster for $2. The champagne ain’t bad — and from our experience the bartenders are heavy-handed and quick to offer refills. And the oysters are fresh, this is a seafood joint, after all, and come from varying locations on the East Coast. Better than sex? We’ll let you be the judge.
Happy Hour daily, 4-6 p.m.
The Rosé Fiend’s Happy Hour
Calling all lovers of pink wine — Stella’s serves more than stella’ (we had to) Greek food. Their happy hour, a.k.a. meze ora, features $10 carafes of red, white, and rosé. The best part isn’t even that the carafe is a healthy enough dose for two drinkers — it’s that the wine is actually damn good. If you’re more of a beer connoisseur, you can snag Stella original or cider on draft for $4 or bottles of Mythos Green or Aris Lager, also topping out at $4. Speaking of $4… that price point also applies to yummy small plates like Loukaniko, Greek sausage with grilled orange peel, fennel, herbs, and tzatziki; Garides and Skordalia, grilled shrimp with a puree of garlic, bread and lemon; and Caprese Elliniko, roasted red pepper, feta, basil, and EVOO. We could go on — both Stella’s regular menu and meze ora offerings are extensive — but you get the idea: this place rocks.
Happy Hour (meze ora) daily, 4-6 p.m.
The Big Group Happy Hour
You know it, you love it: Barsa. The Spanish tapas spot has been kickin’ it in Charleston for a while now, and for good reason. If you’ve never been, let me make it easy for you. Step one: If at all possible, go to Barsa on a nice day, and sit on the patio. Look up, take in the greenery, the twinkly lights. Ahhhh. Order a $5 house cocktail or a glass of wine for $2 off (that leaves you with several $4 and $5 options) and an order of half-off paella. That means you and a pal (or three) can split a veggie paella for $15. Boom.
Happy Hour daily, 4-7 p.m.
The Tourist-y But Fuck it We Love it Happy Hour
I visited Pearlz the first week I moved to Charleston four years ago and the place has held a special place in my heart ever since. Because $4 glasses of wine will always have my heart (RIP Social, you are sorely missed). In addition to the cheap-but-totally-drinkable wine, Pearlz offers $4 pints of their beer and $5 Bloody Marys, making every post-work event at Pearlz feel a little more like brunch. Get tourist-y and slurp an oyster shooter for $4 and fill your wine-belly with $5 pork rinds or grilled mahi tacos (my personal go-to). West Ashley’s location serves up the same HH as downtown, making your Avondale to East Bay hopping all the more convenient.
Happy Hour Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m.
The Margarita Happy Hour
There are some days when all I want is a margarita. On the rocks with salt, give me one that isn’t too sweet and has plenty of tequila and hell, just give me one in a mason jar. YoBo Cantina Fresca — God bless them — serves up just that for $6 during happy hour. If your idea of a baller happy hour is getting out under $10, well buddy, this is the spot for you. Granted, you may want to add some chips and salsa ($2.50, bottomless) in there to stave off the tequila spins, but then again, you could also fill your tum with a years-old protein bar you found in your car beforehand — like a real adult.
Happy Hour Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m.
The Bougie Happy Hour
Yeah, we know, Circa 1886 is a pretty fancy spot. But did you know they have $5 happy hour drinks every Monday-Friday? Sidle up to the bar for the aptly titled “5 for 5 at 5” when you can pick from five different wines (one sparkling, two white, and two red) and five specialty cocktails from 5-7 p.m. Who knows, maybe after a glass of vino or two you may decide you have the funds to stick around for dinner. That lamb rack with artichoke baba ganoush, smoked paprika rub, yogurt bernaise, cucumber cous cous salad, and patty pan tomato kabob probably looks pretty good through rosé-colored glasses.
Happy Hour Mon.-Fri., 5-7 p.m.
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City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.