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BYOB by the Numbers

I have spent most of my adult life in areas that have great BYOB – “bring your own bottle” – restaurants.  I live in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where the number of on-premise liquor licenses is very limited and those that become available are very expensive.  And for years our family has had a vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard, where some of the “dry towns” never got around to repealing Prohibition.  You can drink in these towns, but just not buy a drink.


As with most opportunities in life, it’s helpful to have a plan to take best advantage of them.  Here is my plan – or set of guidelines – for getting the most out of the BYOB experience, whether you’re a solo couple or with a group.


1.  Check the restaurant’s corkage policy on their website – usually at the bottom of the dinner menu.  Sometimes you’re charged for each bottle opened and not a set fee per person or per table.  If you and your friends want to pull a lot of corks, be ready to pay.


2.  Purchase an insulated wine carrier and bring your white and sparkling wines to the BYOB well-chilled. Ice buckets are messy, take up too much space and are often a long time in coming.


3. Bring more whites than reds.  I know, everyone wants to show off their expensive reds, but you need enough whites to cover drinks before ordering, appetizers and some of the main courses.  Reds are mainly for the mains.  Alternatively, choose a sparkling or two for the first pours and apps.


4. If there are just two of you dining, bring a backup bottle in case the first one is corked.  Also with just two, choose a red that can stretch between red meat and fowl or fish, such as Pinot Noir.


5. Carry a cork puller.  If things are busy, opening your own keeps you from waiting.  Often I will tell the server in advance that I’ll be doing this to avoid bad feelings.  Also that I’ll be pouring my own wine – when and how much I want.


6. If I’ve brought some really good stuff, and it’s a smaller restaurant where I know the chef, I’ll send a glass to the kitchen.  It’s a friendly thing to do, and it usually makes the service even better.


7. If a bottle is half-empty, I leave it for staff as a reverse doggy bag (I’m told it’s never wasted).  If a bottle is half-full, I’ll re-cork tightly and take it with me as well as any unopened bottles.  And I’ll put the carrier out of sight in the trunk, as open bottles are illegal where I live.


What have I forgotten?  Or didn’t know?

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