By Anna Merlan
By Albert Samaha
By Tessa Stuart
By Anna Merlan
By Roy Edroso
By Carolyn Hughes
By Chuck Strouse
By Albert Samaha
Oh, the hairy holidays! Time of familial fighting, parental put-downs, and dire differences! Next time you get the urge to strangle big brother Bart, bite the bullet and head straight for the corner bar. And remember, you'll be in good dysfunctional company.
The Shady Bunch
In preparation for holidays with the fractured fam, I go on a custom-tailored drinking binge. First I trot to spook house Jekyll and Hyde(91 Seventh Avenue, 989-7701), where I raise the glass to my Italian father's side of the family and the extreme duality of the alcoholic personality. The "spooky" host-comedian sets an appropriate vibe; his distorted accent and hurtful sense of humor assure me this is the perfect memorial for the living ("Why do you have those stirrups in your ears?" he asks, jabbing a finger at my hoops. "Someone going to mount your head and ride?" Now, that's the Christmas spirit! Uncle Lee, is that you?!). Apropos drink specialties include the Failed Experiment, which I bypass for Mr. Hyde's Frozen Mudslide (mediocre, $6.50). Fake fog fills the air as I sip, and an electronic Hyde growls: "I will kill you all!" Minus the weak drinks, feels just like home . . .
Next: Mekka (14 Avenue A, 475-8500). I pour a little out for my hell-raising black stepmother, who taught me the art of the pointed rhetorical exit line (Dad: Where're you going? SM: OUT! Door: Slam.) To be cute, my pallid self orders the Soul Sister ($7.25). It's lemony and extremely potent, just as stepmother would've wanted. Warm cornbread brings me back to earth . . . sort of.
Time for a nightcap. In reverence to my dear, sober(ing) Jewish mother I head to Second Avenue Deli (156 Second Avenue, 677-0606). The ceremonially popular Manischewitz isn't offered, so I settle for a Kosher Gami Sauvignon Blanc from Israel ($5.75). With a passion for exact mimicry, I take only a few sips before claiming tipsiness and pushing the glass away. Eclectic like a line at the DMV, you gotta love the fam. Merry Christnukwanzah, NYC! CHELSEA PERETTI
Dashing on the Go
Spartos makes a mad dash for the 3:02 Harlem line to Mount Vernon, but her holiday haste proves pointless: Out of breath, she reaches track 29 of Grand Central Terminal(Park Avenue and East 42nd Street, 800-METRO-INFO, www.grandcentralterminal.com) only to find a portly conductor cheerfully ho-ho-ing from a departing train. So our terribly tardy heroine rushes to a pay phone to call Ernie and Lois collect ("Mom, Dad . . . put the turkey on hold!"), then huffs it over to Vanderbilt Hall for the annual holiday fair. From the rows of funky vendors, Spartos impulse-buys a crunchy buckwheat pillow scented with sleepy chamomile; comfy Nick-and-Nora pj's covered in clear blue skies and fluffy white clouds; a ceramic "New York City cookie jar" (to hold duck sauce and ketchup packets!); and a sparkly Lucky Wang pom-pom ponytail holder. Next, Spartos lugs her shopping bags to the classy new lounge at Metrazur (east balcony, 687-4600), where she sips on a kicky Knickerbocker Limited (Vox vodka, Cheri Beri, and sour mix; $8.50) while watching the Statue of Liberty march on the main concourse's Sky Ceiling during the free and patriotic Laser Light Show. When she tires of the brilliant stars and snowflakes, she races downstairs, grabs an unsuspecting Midwestern tourist, and demonstrates the vocal-throwing powers of the amazingly cool Whispering Arch. Then it's a quick dip into the pearl of an Oyster Bar (lower level, 490-6650) for some slippery bluepoints ($1.45 each) and a crisp St. Pauli Girl ($5.50). Spartos checks her watch. Uh-oh! Where did the hour go? She books it back upstairspausing to smooch a cute suit under the Laser Mistletoeand heads straight for The Bar Car(tracks 29 and 119; no phone). "Gimme a Commuter Special [16 oz. Rolling Rock can; $2], and hurry!" cries Spartos, before sprinting aboard the 4:02. C. SPARTOS
'Tis the Season to Be Nogging
I've recently been opening up the homestead every weekend forshudderdinner parties, that most bourgie (but fun) contrivance and first sign of creeping lameness. With dinner comes steady consumption of alcohol, and Christmas just brings this home like the mail. I've heard legendary stories of the salesmen of Warehouse Wines & Spirits(735 Broadway, 982-7770). They make drinking look like an adventure, trilling the names of makes, years, and serving recommendations as if they were born next to a vineyard. I marveled as a customer dropped $600 on wines while the salesman gave him a 45-minute initiation into the art of fine winoism. I weaseled out of the place with three bottles of Old New England Egg Nog, a muddled, semi-sweet cream made with brandy and rum ($6.99 for a liter bottle) and a cheap bottle of red ($5.99) to make sangria with brandy. "Wine and cheese plates," I chimed, taking a swig of nog. "It's so the next step." JOSÉ GERMOSÉN
Dear, droll Science Fair. My bookish, rumpled Westinghouse winner. Five months we have courted. Near Thanksgiving our bliss was tested. My mother: "Has Science invited you for Christmas?" His father: "Has Shallow Gal asked you for Hanukkah?" Everybody else: "Isn't this your first New Year's Eve together?" So Science channeled the Krebs cycle as we navigated the awkwardness of other people's holiday expectations with our own boozy congress.
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
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 himselfJesusascending 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 leavea 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 tipplesa 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
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), andyes!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
Super In The Sky
I like to envision the One Upstairs as being a lot like my dear, departed dad. I see the Big Ol' G-d/God/Allah/Abba/ Father/Mother/Sister Moon/Brother Sun as a good housing super, the one who serves tenants well because she/he lived in the projects. My holiday grievance? I want peace and repairs.
Wine has been a tool to loosen the super up for centuries. A good one never takes a bribe, but she/he can shake a leg at a holiday party. Wine in hand, I knocked at the super's door in as many buildings as I could get to.
My first stop was at the Conservative Synagogue of Riverdale (475 West 250th Street, at Henry Hudson Parkway East, Bronx, 718-543-8400), the childhood shul of mi amor-o-witz. At the very end of the service, bread and wine were blessed. At the kiddush (meal) afterward, small cups of wine were set out on tables. As I sat close to the cantor of Loved One's own holy tenant association, I raised the wine to my mouth and said my peace.
Next was Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church(275 North 8th Street, Brooklyn, 718-384-0223). Not quite my childhood shul, but close enough to molto Italian St. Rita's. Again, near the very end of the service, bread and wine were blessed. I lolled past saints and mustachioed men on a long, long line to the cup o' wine. Once again, I drank to the end of the war, and the start of true building repair. ALEXIS SOTTILE
The Voice's Holiday Preview:
"Gotham Gifts: A Guide for Bargain Hunters"
"Chow Choices: A Holiday Food Miscellany"