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Lowering the Bar: 5 Places to Drink for Cheap (or Free) This Week

Each week, former sf.myopenbar.com editor Allie Pape brings you her picks for the best places to booze on the cheap in SF. This week: Whiskyfest's scraps, drinking with the Stones, and a sweet deal for students. Have an event coming up? Want to share a tip? E-mail her.

1. Laphroaig Cocktail Contest: It's Whiskyfest time here in the city, and while most of the events are designed for those who can afford pricey bottles of single-malt, two gems stand out. The first is this event, a cocktail contest hosted by Laphroaig, with ten bartenders competing. The best part? All cocktails made with said Laphroaig are complimentary. (Monday, October 12, 7:30-9:30 pm, at Rye, 688 Geary St., Tenderloin.)

2. From the Spey to the Bay: The other free Whiskyfest event we've found requires an RSVP, but the goods should be worth the effort. Glenfiddich and Balvenie are offering a free tasting of "new and limited single malt expressions" at Nihon. While we've never heard of booze referred to as an "expression" before, such flowery language probably indicates something really tasty. RSVP here and cross your fingers. Whiskyfest, the proletariat thanks you for your crumbs. (Thursday, October 15, 7:30-9 pm, at Nihon Whisky Lounge, 1779 Folsom St., Mission.)

3. Friends with Privileges: It's not every day you get to meet a member of the Rolling Stones. Admittedly, he's not Jagger or Richards, but Bernard Fowler, a background singer and percussionist for the group, is no slouch-- he's also worked with artists ranging from Alice Cooper to Philip Glass. He's in town to promote his new album, Friends with Privileges, and the San Francisco Art Exchange will host him at a meet-and-greet next Thursday. Oh yeah, and they'll be offering free wine and hors d'oeuvres, too. Who said you can't always get what you want? RSVP here. (Thursday, October 15, 5-7 pm, at San Francisco Art Exchange, 458 Geary St., Tenderloin.)

4. Mazu Happy Hour: This upscale Asian-fusion joint is beginning to offer a few downscale deals. They've got a standard happy hour with $5 cocktails and $3 beers, but Wednesdays now also boast $4 cocktails and half-price appetizers until 11. But wait, there's more! If you're a college student, here's a gold mine of alcohol: Thursdays boast $1 PBR and a free shot with your student ID. If you're not in college, here's a gold mine of advice: avoid Mazu on Thursdays. (Happy hour Tuesday-Friday, 4-7 pm; Wednesday specials 5-11 pm; Thursday student deals all night, at Mazu, 3809 Geary Blvd., Inner Richmond.)

5. Wild Card Wednesdays: ThirstyBear Brewing Company may be known for house-brewed beer, but they're trying to expand their portfolio with a new Wednesday event focused on cocktails. Every "Wild Card Wednesday," three cocktails will be offered for $3, with the selections going out on the bar's Twitter feed. They also offer half-price select bottles of wine on Mondays, and $3 imperial pints of cask ale on Tuesdays.  (Mondays and Tuesdays all night, Wednesdays 4-7, at ThirstyBear Brewing Company, 661 Howard St., SOMA.)