Despite Prescott’s reputation as a retirement community, it is actually an awesome place to turn 21. This is because it hosts a street of bars known as Whiskey Row, and unlike many areas of the country, where gambling is illegal, it also hosts a couple casinos.
Whisky Row is such a self aware street that the street signs on this portion of Montezuma Avenue actually read “Whiskey Row.” The culture and history of Whiskey Row are a celebrated part of Prescott. Some of the bars on Whiskey Row date back to the 19th century, when the street first started its legacy. There was a huge fire on Whiskey Row in the early 1900s that burned down almost the entire city block. I heard a story that a bunch of the patrons actually took the Victorian Style sold wood bar in one of the bars apart into pieces and carried it out into the center of the square to save it from the fire. When the saloon was rebuilt the bar was carried back in. During prohibition many of the bars on Whiskey Row were converted to speakeasies. Today Whiskey Row provides Prescott with some semblance of a night life that one can experience after they turn 21.
Each of the bars on Whiskey Row and in the surrounding areas in downtown Prescott, are so special and unique in their own right. There is one that has an outside balcony that overlooks the square, one that has an awesome tropical influenced back yard, one that plays country music with one of those rainbow disco lights on the ceiling, an Irish pub that you have to climb the stairs to get to, one that plays techno dance music and is always full of people, and one that is a rather relaxing hip bar with live music where it wouldn’t be unusual to spot a professor or two.
I had a few simple goals for my 21st Birthday: to go to every bar on Whiskey Row and drink get a drink in a decent number of them, to not throw up, to not get a hangover, to remember the entire thing, to have a good story or two to tell afterwards, to gamble, and to have a great time with good friends. I was able to accomplish all of these.
Every bar on Whiskey Row offers one drink, whatever you want, for 25 cents on your 21st birthday. As you make your way down Whiskey Row, that can accumulate into a lot of very cheap alcohol.
I had seen and heard about other people getting completely trashed on their 21st Birthday. Because of peer pressure they drink so much that they spend the second half of their evening over a toilet, throwing up. Then the next day, the day of their birthday, they have a huge hangover and can’t remember half their night. To me, that sounds horrible. That type of experience doesn’t sound like fun at all, but neither does sitting at home on your 21st Birthday.
So I opted for a milder form of a bar crawl with a few of my good friends. My friends and I waited the night before my Birthday until the clock edged towards Midnight, and then we set out for Whiskey Row. We parked at one end of the row and walked all the way to the other end so that we would end the night at the car. Just before the clock struck midnight, I entered my first bar ever.
Right as we walked into the first bar, the bouncer asked for our IDs and I excitedly held mine out proclaiming that it was my birthday. He smiled and let us pass after examining our IDs and wishing me a Happy Birthday. As I stepped up to the bar, I felt like was stepping foot onto forbidden ground. I slid onto a brown leather bar stool, and proclaimed again to the bar tender that it was my 21st Birthday. He asked me what I’d like for my first 25 cent drink.
My first drink on my 21st Birthday was a long island ice tea, partially because there is something epic about it, and partially because I quite honestly have very little knowledge of alcohol, I wasn’t really sure what to order. Did you know that there is no tea in a long island ice tea? I didn’t. I guess you learn something new every day.
Before my birthday I’d heard that hangovers were pretty much a form of dehydration from alcohol, and that if you drank at least an 8 oz glass of water between every drink while you were drinking, that you wouldn’t have a hangover the next day. I was testing this theory by drinking a lot of water between each drink.
I had seen my parents and friends order fruity drinks like margaritas and strawberry daiquiris in restaurants, but I wasn’t sure if that was the kind of drink you should order at a bar, so after ordering two long island ice teas I started asking the bartenders for their recommendations and ended up with a couple awesome drinks I’d never heard of.
My friends insisted that I end the night with an AMF, the PG version of which stands for “Adios My Friend,” and is made of several different types of alcohol. It was my fifth drink for the night in the two hour span between midnight and when the bars closed, and I knew I had my fill and I couldn’t finish the drink, which was fine because I was having a ton of fun, and I really didn’t want to overdo it.
The night wasn’t over when the bars closed, though. From Whiskey Row we journeyed over to Bucky’s Casino, where one of my friends gave me a $20 bill to blow in the slot machines. I had a huge problem with this because I’m an extremely frugal person, and couldn’t blow an entire $20 in the machines. My friends insisted that being my 21st birthday, I had to. I won $6 only to lose it all later.
In the first three hours of my 21st birthday I had done a bar crawl and gambled. What else can you do on your 21st Birthday?
Later on that day, after a little sleep, I was confident that I had spent my 21st in the best way possible, and I didn’t have a hangover! Although, a hangover might have made a better story, huh?
Every year on my birthday without fail someone will ask me if I feel any different, and the answer is always the same– I feel the same as I did yesterday. How could someone feel that much different from one day to the next?
When I turned 21 I did actually feel different for the first time. I felt like I could finally enjoy freedoms that I’d been barred from for 21 years. I can now do just about anything but rent a car! I can walk down the alcohol aisle at the grocery store and not feel like I’m in a place where I’m not supposed to be, and someone is going to come and yell at me and tell me to leave.
I think part of the reason that this difference was so prominent was that I’d spend 6.5 months on a co-op rotation in California, where I was the youngest person in my social crowd and finished out the summer the only one who still couldn’t drink. We used to go out to a restaurant every Wednesday after work to happy hour for cheap drinks and appetizers. I would sit there with my Shirley Temple, which is the closest thing to a mixed drink that I could think of, and watch everyone else order a real drink. I really couldn’t wait until I turned 21, because I felt like I was being suppressed in a sense. As they say in California, “It was so not cool, dude.”
I didn’t feel the same way when I turned 18. I was pretty psyched that I could sign my own permission forms, and I could vote in the next election, but other than that there wasn’t anything else that I wanted to do. I had friends who went out and bought lottery tickets, cigarettes, and items from naughty stores on their 18th, but that just seemed like a waste to me, a very straight-forward goody-goody. So my 18th really wasn’t a big deal. My 21st was a different story.
Since I could finally buy alcohol, and because my parents sent me a $100 gift card for my birthday, on the afternoon of my birthday I went to the grocery store and purchased $100 of alcohol. Why? Because it was epic! That and my parents told me I had to spend the money on something on that I wouldn’t normally buy. I drank a bottle of champagne with my friends on the evening of my birthday and I drank a bottle of sangria slowly over the course of about a week of dinners, but I haven’t actually drank any of the other alcohol yet, now more than a month after my birthday.
I don’t know that I would have changed anything about my 21st birthday. I did everything that a 21 year old should do on their birthday, and it was awesomely liberating!