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

Each week, we bring you our top picks for the best places to booze on the cheap in SF.

1. Happy Hour at Bluestem Brasserie: Bluestem, the new spot on Yerba Buena Lane, is offering a new happy-hour option for Union Square and FiDi-area office folks. Every weekday, they're offering $3 bottled and draft beers, $5 well drinks, $5 glasses of One Hope wine, and a special $7 cocktail, the Bluestem Smash. Drinking here also supports good causes: $1 of every Bluestem Smash sold goes to UCSF cancer research, and 50% of One Hope's profits are donated to autism and breast-cancer research. (Monday-Friday, 4-6:30 pm, at Bluestem Brasserie, 1 Yerba Buena Lane, SOMA.)

2. Eventbrite's Cabernet Day at Barrique: Head to Barrique this Thursday to celebrate Cabernet Day, and the gang at Eventbrite will hook you up with a flight of four Cabernet tastings (two from the barrel, two from the bottle) for $15. They'll be raffling off bottles to visitors who tweet with the hashtag #CabernetDay, so get that Twitter client primed and ready. Admission is free for non-drinkers, but all visitors need to sign up on Eventbrite's site. (Thursday, September 1st, 5-8 pm, at Barrique, 461 Pacific Ave., North Beach.)

3. California Wine Month at the Mandarin Oriental: September isn't just the opening season of San Francisco summer-- it's also California Wine Month, and the Mandarin Oriental is celebrating by offering free Wednesday wine tastings all month long. Eight Arms Cellars will visit on the 7th, Tres Sabores will be in on the 14th, Hanzell Winery stops by on the 21st, and the 28th will feature a surprise guest. Stay for dinner afterward at Silks restaurant, and they'll give you 20% off your bill. Can't make Wednesdays? They're also waiving the $25 corkage fee for anyone who brings a bottle of California wine to Silks or MO Bar, all month long. (Wine tasting: Wednesdays in September, 5:30-7 pm; free corkage throughout September, at the Mandarin Oriental, 222 Sansome St., Financial District.)

4. Happy Hour at Villa Romana: Villa Romana, the historic Inner Sunset pizzeria that's been slinging pies since the 50's, is bringing back old-school pricing for their new happy hour. Every day from 4-6 pm, beer, cocktails, and wine by the glass are $3, and they'll pass around some gratis pizza bianca to snack on. (Daily, 4-6 pm, at Villa Romana, 731 Irving St., Inner Sunset.)

5. St. George Gin Cocktail Club: Elixir's weekly Cocktail Club, which features distillers and brand ambassadors offering a free guided tasting of their wares, is always a good bet, but this Thursday's edition will be special: St. George Spirits, the folks behind such delights as Hangar One vodka and Agua Libre rum, will be premiering their new line of gins. One is rye-based, one is made with botanicals from Mt. Tam, and the third is more traditional. We got to try some samples from their gin laboratory earlier this year, and trust us: they know their stuff. After the tasting, stick around for $6 cocktails made with all three varieties. (Thursday, September 1st, 7-9 pm, at Elixir, 3200 16th St., Mission.)