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NYC.Beershot’s Jack LaViolette Wants You to Feel the Burn, Then Nurse the Buzz

One graduate student is on a quest to locate the best and booziest deal in the city, and he's found fellow travelers on Instagram.

(@nyc.beershot / Instagram)

Few things in New York City are as reliable as the beer-and-a-shot deal at your local. The Butterfinger burn of room temperature well whiskey, followed by the rush of ice-cold North American lager on your tastebuds and filling your tummy… that's just what it's all about, if you ask me. 

Jack LaViolette, 28-year-old proprietor of @nyc.beershot account on Instagram agrees. "You get off work and you get to the bar, you need to get over that hump," he told me in an interview. "That shot immediately turns the dial down on your worries a little bit. You get that burn in your chest from the cheap whiskey, you take a sip of the cold beer, and you're right. You have a nice, cold, refreshing drink to sip on while you're nursing that buzz."

LaViolette told me he started the @nyc.beershot account as a personal archive. "I started to get this very small but loyal fanbase of like-minded Instagram followers who bought into the narrative more than I anticipated," he said. I'll admit it—I'm one of them. There's just something so "hell yeah, brother" about LaViolette's posts, which simply feature pictures of bottles, cans, or glasses of frosty lager next to shots of cheap whiskey along with a few sentences of review and a rating out five. This combination makes them stand out in the murky lake of Instagram humblebragging. It's not a bottle of natural wine to show off your discriminating taste, a round of shots to show off your glamorous friends, or a decadent photograph of a meal that shows off how in-the-know you are and how much money you have. It's the cheapest thing on the menu, and yet it's all the more mouthwatering for it—the frost on the beer beckons, the caramel color of lukewarm whiskey sings of a sweet and proletarian relief!

"Reviewing what is, on average, cheap beer and shitty whiskey is kind of funny," LaViolette said. "There's a tongue-in-cheek element to it. It started out kind of as a bit, but I've enjoyed the process of cultivating a bizarre online persona. I'd never done that before."

Call it a boilermaker, call it a beer-and-a-shot, or a beer-shot as LaViolette says, the combination is the cornerstone of the happy hour menu, the after-work respite for millions. "I really came of age as a drinker in Philadelphia," LaViolette told me. "Philly has what's known as the Citywide Special: pretty much any divey bar, you walk in and say "give me a Citywide," they know what you mean, it's a beer and a shot. That became part of my routine quickly. I became a beer-shot guy. I didn't invent that shtick for the page."

Working in restaurants, LaViolette moved to New York, and he's started studying internet culture at Columbia. "In my non-beer-shot life, I'm a sociology PhD student," he told me. I wondered whether he thought the beer-shot combo has any culinary value aside from its financial accessibility and narcotic utility. "There's something about the burn of the smoky whiskey with a crisp, bubbly, light refreshing beer," he said. "I think it's good." I think so, too. 

What's the best well whiskey? "It doesn't really matter, but I like Old Crow, I like any sort of Evan Williams. If it's an $8 beer-shot, I would hope it's a little better, but if it's $5, beggars can't be choosers."

LaViolette says he's most happy to see Narragansett, PBR and Bud Heavy included in the deal. "I would consider an IPA," he said, "but in general, give me a bland macro-beer." And what's the best vessel? "On form factor alone, bottle, can, then glass." But in terms of proportion, he'd take a pint over a 12-ounce bottle or glass.

"It would be bad for my brand to say less beer is better, so I'm gonna say more beer," he told me. I asked LaViolette to give me a rundown of his favorite combos in the city. 

The Windjammer, 552 Grandview Ave, Queens.

LaViolette gave The Windjammer's Miller High Life and Whiskey combo a rare 5/5. (@nyc.beershot)

"My number one, always. This is my local watering hole in Ridgewood. They have four or five different combos, including one for $5. I love this bar because it's a true neighborhood establishment. You go there enough, you start to recognize some characters, you build a rapport. People bring their dogs, people bring their kids, there's a pool table. It feels like a real neighborhood institution of a sort that is not always easy to find, while still being very welcoming, and having a great beer-shot. It's a can't-miss if you're in the Ridgewood area."

Turtles All The Way Down, 236 Malcolm X Boulevard, Brooklyn. 

"If you are in the Bed-Stuy area, they have a great beer-shot. I believe it's $6 for a Bud bottle and a shot of whiskey, and you can do a one dollar upcharge for a pickleback with their house-made spicy pickle juice.

I'm super pro-pickleback. I think it's great. I love pickles. I love pickled things in general. I think it's a big winner."

Fish Bar, 237 5th Street, Manhattan.

"A really small little cash-only hole in the wall on Fifth Street. It's really cute, they have a huge fish/underwater themed mural. The bartenders are all really chill. They do a PBR and a whiskey, but the whiskey pour is in a rocks glass. It's eight bucks, but you definitely get a solid pour, I'd say it's more than a shot. That neighborhood can be kind of chaotic, with a lot of NYU students, and this is just a chill, cheap hole in the wall with a slightly more mature clientele."

North Pole Pub, 428 Bergen Street, Brooklyn.

"It's a great spot if you're ever going to a Nets game or a Liberty game, a concert, whatever at Barclays Center. Park Slope is a pretty nice neighborhood, pretty bougie. It's not always easy to find a real dive in those kinds of neighborhoods, and North Pole is a real savior in that regard. They have a $6 Bud and whiskey. The Bud is served in a chilled mug, which is always great to see. Nice bartenders. They've kind of got outdoor seating that's a bunch of picnic tables on the sidewalk, and there's always people just kind of chilling, ripping cigs. Different tables talk to each other. It's a real friendly vibe. There's one secret thing about North Pole that makes it even better, but I can't tell you, because if everybody knew it wouldn't be a secret anymore. That's a little Easter egg for the readers."

Botanica Bar, 47 East Houston Street, Manhattan, and Milano's Bar, 51 East Houston Street, Manhattan.

"Botanica's a little younger, hipper, it can get pretty loud in there on a weekend. But they have a $5 draft Narragansett and shot. Great deal. Indoors it can get pretty dark and loud, but they have nice enclosed outdoor seating that they've built that has this big booth seating. So if you can get one of those, it's super chill. Great spot. And then Milano's next door is super narrow, and has a real old head dive kind of feel. Older clientele, salty. They've always got a baseball game on the TV, that kind of place. Both of these are rare finds for that neighborhood, and have definitely saved me on many nights when I've been out there and needed somewhere to go that was fun."

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