Season's Spirits

If you're looking to make merry on the holidays, the best places to be are the city's bars. It's that magical time of year when the cocktails get warmed, the fires get stoked, and the lights—and patrons—get lit. Our favorite festive finds are never short on cheer, which is probably why they're the perfect places to reconnect with friends and family—or tie one on just for the heck of it.

Winter seasonal brews are meant to fortify: These brawny beers not only taste distinctly aromatic but have hefty alcohol content, too. Think dark ales, porters, and stouts not suited for fans of effervescent American-style pilsners like Budweiser. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is typical of the style: Molasses-like in appearance, it has a rich, chocolate taste and an 8.25 percent alcohol content. Brooklyn Brewery recommends savoring this popular stout in brandy snifters, although it's served in large plastic cups ($3 or 2 for $5) on Fridays from 6 to 10 p.m. in their warehouse, among sacks of malt and imposing metal casks. Catch the "Holiday Fest" on Saturday, December 13, featuring music, food, and beer like the limited-production Brooklyn Monster Barleywine. The newly opened Croxley Ale House & Eatery offers 75 bottle and 30 tap beers, including the pumpkin-and-nutmeg-spiced Harpoon Winter Warmer ($5). And on Saturday, December 6, this Alphabet City sports pub hosts a "Welcome Winter Party," pouring such seasonals as Sam Adams Winter Lager, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Anchor Christmas Ale, Affligem Noel, Corsendonk Christmas, La Chouffe Nice, and Brooklyn Chocolate Stout. 'Tis the season to be jolly, indeed. CARLA SPARTOS

Get lit up at Rolf's.
photo: Kate Lacey
Get lit up at Rolf's.


Holiday Preview

"A Brief but Startling History of the Chocolate Santa Claus" by Robert Sietsema

"Season's Spirits: Bars With Cheer"

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"Merry Mayem: Holiday Events"

Brooklyn Brewery, 79 North 11th Street, Brooklyn, 718.486.7422,
Croxley Ale House & Eatery, 28 Avenue B, 212.253.6140,

When the yen for holiday nostalgia goes deeper than Jim Carey movies and from-the-can pumpkin pie, it can tread into a hankering a Gotham studio just can't fulfill: a mantel hung with stockings and the wood-burning fire it encases. For all things hearth-related, the oldest digs in the Village are the most satisfying. Skip Gaslight and Art Bar, whose fireplaces burn low in the periphery, and snuggle up instead at Ye Waverly Inn. Its low ceilings and tidy trims exude colonial flavor, and three fireplaces crackle enough to warm the farthest table. A seasonal-drink list includes the rich and potent Robert Frost (cognac, Drambuie, and Benedictine, chilled; $10). Another Village oldie is Chumley's, the "secret" speakeasy that the masses have not kept sub rosa. It is admittedly over-hip and crowded on the weekends, but still hushedly festive on weeknights, especially near the fireplace (used to mold horseshoes before the establishment became a bar in 1922) when you have a pint of the spicy Pumpkin Ale ($6) in hand. CHRISTINE LAGORIO

Ye Waverly Inn, 16 Bank Street, 212.929.4377
Chumley's, 86 Bedford Street, 212.675.4449

Bueno Phyllis Diller, nipped and tucked peach! She of the deranged cackle—hehehehehe—ritzy housecoats, and shower cap of crinkly skunk hair. On weighing free cocktails to the drudgery of attending compulsory holiday orgies just to stay employed, Diller says this: "What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day." At our own seasonal keggers here at the Voice, we uphold the fine tradition of taking the office holiday party elsewhere once the open bar has been closed and the final drag queen has sung. One year, we stole away to the Otheroom, a secluded, candlelit cave of exposed brick and inky corners for illicit trysts with co-workers. Only beer and wine are served, so we ordered $8 glasses of a rioja, a Spanish wine, that tasted like chocolate-covered raspberries, and pledged to adopt an Eastern European teenager. Another year, we rambled east to the excellent, shadowy No Malice Palace, with its decaying, decadent heiress-gone-to-seed vibe and half-moon of doughy velvet couches. The rock critics among us throw their birthday parties here, so we knew to stick to bottles of Red Stripe ($5) and the occasional Sidecar ($7). Last year, after accidentally pinning the tail on the piñata, we wobbled over to Lotus Café, a snug, chill neighborhood joint that did not harsh our mellows. Sagging and wilted, we slouched around the long back table, circled by looming bookcases, and prayed that a round of rum and Coke ($5) would take the "no" out of noel. NITA RAO

Otheroom, 143 Perry Street, 212.645.9758
No Malice Palace, 197 East 3rd Street, 212.254.9184
Lotus Café, 35 Clinton Street, 212.253.1144

If the winter blues are getting you down, Brite Bar has the cure. Certified in helping Scrooges recall their lunch-box days, this modestly classy locale boasts a clean-cut and friendly crowd enjoying recess with strong martinis and Lite-Brites—mini versions of the age-old glowing art toy are placed along the bar with two life-size ones featured in the back among the comfy gray lounge chairs. If you're still wearing a frown, creamy Winter Warmers (Stoli Ohranj and Kahlúa; $9) will surely do the trick. Don't worry about folks' sharing their toys—after imbibing delicious and chocolaty Cupcakes (Vanilla Stoli and crème de cacao; $10), everyone remembers to play extra nice. Show-and-tell is optional. KEISHA FRANKLIN

Brite Bar, 297 Tenth Avenue, 212.279.9706

Shopping is a sport. But the easily fatigued need a time-out-and-jump-start-brew. Amid Herald Square's hubbub, catch a breather in Macy's Cellar Bar & Grill (downstairs past the "cellar-bration" of hokey holiday cheer). Set down the bags and refuel with a pitcher of Brooklyn ($16) or Rheingold ($15). Animated figurines, like Wayne Newton in the 1965 Thanksgiving Day Parade, invite you to warm the belly with fresh coffee and whipped cream spiked with Jameson's, Kahlúa, or Godiva Liqueur ($6.50). If department store prices aren't in your budget, head to Chinatown, where kitschy knockoffs reign. But when the streets feel packed with over a billion, duck into Princess Lounge, a karaoke bar with faux-marble tables and blaring hip-hop for Asian gangstas. Under the auspices of the lucky cat statue, mimic Chris Tucker in Rush Hour 2 with a cheesy ballad. Or summon the spirit of Bond in Princess's imitation of the martini (note: no vermouth), the 007 (Absolut Mandarin, O.J., and 7-Up rimmed with "explosives;" $8). For those who can brave the glorious mess at Century 21, make a pit stop at Dakota Roadhouse, a joint unlike those Wall Street nouveau pubs. Snag a booth surrounded by college-boy tackiness—condiment bottles, license plates, road signage—and grab a Beck's ($5) to go with a game of pool ($1.50), Big Buck Hunter ($1), or the Lobster Zone ($2), in which you use a claw to catch one of two live lobsters. Shopping needn't be a chore. As with all exercise, remember to take breaks and drink lots of fluids. JANET KIM

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