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Like snowflakes, no two hot toddies are identical. A shot of whiskey, a squirt of lemon, a draft of hot water, some spice, and you've got a warm winter remedy. But if hot toddies don't stoke your embers, there are plenty of other seasonal stove-top brews: spiked ciders, mulled wines, dosed coffees. Fittingly, most of the establishments serving these toasty tonics also offer hearty, stick-to-your-ribs meals, often by a roaring fire. And don't worry if there are no scalding spirits on the menu: These baristas can whip up practically anything you like!
The trusty bartender at Second Avenue standby and Brit outpost the TELEPHONE BAR(149 Second Avenue, 529-5000) will fix you up a host of hot drinks, many of them unadvertised (the specials recently listed a $6 spiked apple cider and a $6.50 seasonal holiday wine mulled with fresh berries and spice). An alcoholic antidote to the wet, freezing mess outside, their hot toddy (John Powers Irish whiskey, hot lemon water, clove-studded lemon; $6) was served steaming in a glass mug. Telephone also proffers an extensive list of winter microbrews, including the rich, cinnamon-y Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale ($5). And relaxed pub that it is, you can enjoy your libations snuggling in front of the little-known fireplace in the back lounge.
If you're in search of a splurge, the bar at GRANGE HALL(50 Commerce Street, 924-5246) will do swell. Located on one of those fabulously quaint Greenwich Village blocks, this former speakeasy exudes warmth despite its rich crowd: The host is accommodating and down-to-earth, a portrait of FDR hangs behind the bar, and Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" plays elegantly. Here, the cocktail of choice is a hot wassail (spiced apple cider, citrus juices, and dark rum or brandy; $6.50) that was a soothing, TheraFlu-like potion filled with apple-cinnamon goodness. Also worth touting was a frosty pint of light and pungent Brooklyn Saison ($5.50), the local brewery's new French-Belgian-style ale, which recently won a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup. Or party down with a bottle of bubblythe reasonably priced Pacific Echo brut ($28) filled more than six flutes!
You won't be drinking champagne at O'FLAHERTY'S ALE HOUSE(334-336 West 46th Street, 581-9366), but that's not the point of this column, is it? Sip on an Irish coffee ($6.50) insteadit's the bartender's piping-hot specialty, blending Irish whiskey, coffee, cream, and sugar, and luxuriously dolloped with whipped cream and an emerald shamrock. It would make a fit follow-up to a substantial Murphy's stout pie ($10.95). Or opt for the good fried hot wings ($3.90 for six) and a pitcher of cold brew ($13-$14). Located on the theater district's restaurant row, this pub mecca has a huge rectangular bar, a lovely garden and green room (with a tree growing through the roof!), a pool table, darts, two fireplaces, a front lounge lined with comfy couches, and an eclectic library-like decor. It's about as cozy as you can get on a wintry day, and isn't that what hot toddies are all about?