Seasonal Brew

Paladar (161 Ludlow Street, 473-3535) on a Saturday night was shadowy and amniotic. All twinkling lights and hushed confessions. We sat at the bar so Science could knock my knees and smoke his Nat Shermans. Science ordered the $6 sugary mojito tarted up with fresh mint. I got a Rolling Rock ($3.50). After a few sips of his potently mixed cocktail, Science began reciting the metabolic pathways of biochemistry, which always makes me swoon. Then we confirmed this Nuevo Latino sanctuary is for necking. Even when pickled to the gills, chivalrous Science always walks me home. We stopped along the way at cozy Tavern on Jane(31 Eighth Avenue, 675-2526), where Science drew Punnett squares on paper tablecloths. Neighbors tipple together here, as divinely smoky smells float from the fireplace. Science slurrily requested a Jack and Coke ($5.50); I picked Boddingtons ($5). Then we agreed to run away to Bora Bora till the second of January. —NITA RAO


Jingle Hell

Well, I won't be spending the holidays with my parents this year, which at first I thought would be the greatest Christmas gift of all. But as the sound of stressed-out couples bickering over gift prices begins to fill the air, I find myself somehow missing them. I imagine they're with me tonight, tipping a few back at Burp Castle(41 East 7th, 982-4576). My mother, a godly woman, loves this place: the robed "monks" behind the bar, candles on tables casting a dim glow, and murals of cherubs and of the birthday boy himself—Jesus—ascending into heaven. "I'll have a crème de menthe," she says. Normally, I'd find this embarrassing, but not tonight. I simply chuckle and inform her that it's a beer-only (around 600 available) bar. We opt for two St. Landelin Blond ($7.50 each) and my father orders an Ipswich Porter ($6.50), to which my mother responds, "Oh no, you don't. You know how you get when you drink!" He yells back, "I'm not drinking, it's only beer for crying out loud!" We move on before we're asked to leave—a sign on the wall states "Whispering Only."

After a short cab ride ("Four dollars? We only went a few blocks!"), we arrive at the Parkside Lounge(317 East Houston Street, 673-6270). Amongst the countless glittering Christmas lights and plastic decorations, even the weathered drunks at the bar don't look so bad. "Their electric bill must be outrageous!" my mother remarks. "They got a john in this place?" my father asks. Two Heinekens ($4), a crème de menthe ($4.50), and several arguments later, "Unforgettable" comes on the jukebox. "Oh, it's Nat King Cole," my mom says, "let's dance." My father rolls his eyes and reluctantly obliges. As I watch them sway together, I wonder to myself: Maybe miracles really do happen at Christmas. Hell, the way they're looking at each other, they might even sleep in the same bed tonight. —KEN SWITZER


Skating on Thin Ice

Tree-hugging Tatiana, unable to save the world's most famous spruce from the evil grip of the wood chipper last Christmas,is at it again. This time our temperamental radical takes to Rock Center Cafe(20 West 50th Street, 332-7620), where she prepares to handcuff herself to Prometheus's ankle, right under the twinkling lights of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, and thus to convince the powers that be of the virtues of recycling.

Two weak tipples—a Rémy Red Punch (Rémy Red, Mount Gay Eclipse Rum, and Pineapple Juice; $7.50) and a Green Apple Margarita (Sauza Tequila, triple sec, Pucker's Sour Apple Liqueur, and fresh lime juice; $7.50)—later, Tatiana tries to keep it together, but the sugary tipsiness, combined with rinkside turns and triple axels by showy skaters nearby, turns her stomach topsy-turvy. Till next year, figures our timid activist, heading to the toilet.—GRACE BASTIDAS


Rum Running

Coquito (egg whites, coconut milk, vanilla, dark rum, sugar, and cinnamon), my favorite Puerto Rican version of eggnog, is hard to find. Any given Boricua mother keeps six pitchers of it chilling in the fridge when Yuletide swings round, but forget locating it at your local Nuevo Latino bar because "Coqui-what?" is all you're gonna hear.

At Esperanto (145 Avenue C, 505-6559), I drown my frustrations with a Kiwi Roska (blended kiwi and vodka, $6) as I sit begrudgingly staring at some dried chili peppers hanging from the ceiling. When "The Girl From Ipanema" begins to play, I creep to the bar for another. One Esperantino (crushed lime, caipirinha mix, ginger ale, and a dash of mint; $7) later, I'm finally in festive spirits. A long walk across town finds me at Isla (39 Downing Street, 352-CUBA). They serve icy mojitos (Bacardi Silver, splash of seltzer, muddled lime, and fresh spearmint; $11) in four different flavors (coconut, mango, guava, and pineapple), a crazy, spicy Luna Roja (Sauza Gold, Cointreau, agria fresca with a salt and cayenne pepper rim, $12), and—yes!—coquito. At first they try to beguile me into imbibing a glammed-up version that's too thick, too creamy, and cheap on the rum. But thank God for their cute bartender, David, who asks the chef to revert to his grandmother's recipe. I only have one thing to say. "Three more please." ¡Salud!—KEISHA FRANKLIN

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