Season's Spirits

Macy's Cellar Bar & Grill, 151 West 34th Street, 212.868.3001
Princess Lounge, 59 Bayard Street, 212.233.1818
Dakota Roadhouse, 43 Park Place, 212.962.9800

The folks at Rolf's demonstrate a Santa's elfish work ethic in the three weeks it takes to prepare the Christmas wunderland you'll encounter when you step inside this 19th-century German tavern. Giant firs, pine garlands, illuminated stained glass, and ornaments the size of Burl Ives's head decorate every nook and cranny of this Gramercy pub, which makes merry by offering a selection of obscure seasonal German beers and schnapps with traditional German fare. Wash down a plate of potato pancakes ($9.95) with a Kaiser Kümmel caraway schnapps ($7.50) or a half-liter of Hofbrau Oktoberfest ($8.00). It feels like a Christmas fairy tale, rosy cheeks and all. Brothers Grimm and Jack Frost, do your wurst. RYAN HENRIQUEZ

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"

"No-Sweat Gift Guide"

"Merry Mayem: Holiday Events"

Rolf's, 281 Third Avenue, 212.473.8718

Face it: You're not going to pull into your parents' driveway in a new BMW this year like your younger brother. Once again, you'll be taking the bus home for the holidays. But it'll be fine—just medicate ahead for the long bumpy ride (and long grueling hours surrounded by family) with plenty of alcohol. Rather than sneaking sips from a bottle of cheap booze like the other drunks in Port Authority, head over to Splitz Cocktail Lounge, which is attached to the bowling alley on the second floor of Terminal 2. With its worn carpeting, mostly outdated r&b jukebox, and aqua-and-maroon pleather booths, Howard Johnson's seems upscale in comparison. While sipping beer (Heineken, $5) among the haggard-looking regulars, you're guaranteed to feel a little better about yourself. Take those few ounces of confidence down the hall to McCann's, a cozy Irish pub with way too many promotional beer banners, but an impressive photo-history display of the world-famous bus depot. Ordering a Jack and Coke ($6) here seems sophisticated, and even though it's a bit watered down, it goes well with the classic Motown tunes that fill the air. Stretch your legs on the way to Robert Emmett's. Through the large windows, the after-theater crowd (mostly bridge-and-tunnel soccer moms and their overfed husbands) looks out on the bustling, neon street below from a safe distance. It's the kind of place your parents would love: polished, sterile, oversize—a cheap imitation of luxury. Over a glass of wine (Shiraz, $7), you realize that coming here was a bad idea—it's as dull as your parents' living room. But then again, you might as well get used to it. KEN SWITZER

Splitz Cocktail Lounge, 625 Eighth Avenue, 212.268.6909
McCann's, 625 Eighth Avenue 212.594.1374
Robert Emmett's, 694 Eighth Avenue, 212.302.9999

There's something special about a long, horseshoe-shaped bar, such as the one at Holiday Cocktail Lounge, that can induce both conversation and solitude at once. A semicircle of faded men drinking Smirnoff and orange juice ($4.50) reminisce about how life was cheaper 20 years ago, but it's easy to tune them out, signal for another Jack Daniel's ($4) and stare into your lap. The strands of Christmas lights over the bar lend a festive air any time of year, and cast a flattering glow on the classic-rock jukebox and vinyl booths in back. The cranky old barman, Stefan, mixes strong, cheap drinks—provided he hears your order—which attracts a handful of NYU students on budgets, who tend to keep to themselves. Due to the low ceiling and narrow entryway, the place can feel like a nice, warm cave—and an unlikely place for family to find you. SHEELAH KOLHATKAR

Holiday Cocktail Lounge, 75 St. Marks Place, 212.777.9637

There's no better way to elude freezing temps and annoying, aimless pedestrians than to slip into a bar and wrap your hands around a mug of alcoholic cold comfort. Start your own personal trail of avoidance at Grange Hall, where they cook up their own wassail. For $7.50, the ambrosial concoction of dark rum, brandy, apple cider, and other autumnal ingredients may not put the spirit of Christ in your heart, but it will dump some much needed spirits into your bloodstream. After the effects of the wassail have worn off, hit the Waterfront Ale House, where you can get warm cider laced with rum, Irish coffee, or any kind of traditional hot toddy. Added bonus: when you rest your tired face over the mug, you get a free mini-facial. The downside: Cheapie facial makes you look sweaty. In need of some air, you head to the High Bar in the Gramercy Park Hotel, where portable heaters keep the awning-covered roof deck toasty, so you can get lit (and light up!) under the stars. If you still feel a nip, try seasonal cocktails like the steaming Harvest Moon Brew (cider, light rum, and cranberry and orange juices with alcohol-drenched fruit), the Peach Cobbler (cider, peach schnapps, and cinnamon) and, for those who don't want a dessert in their drink, the Ginger Rum Tea (a subtle combination of rum, fresh ginger, and tea). Good thing the $14 price and carbo-load mean you can't overindulge. MICHELLE KLEINSAK

Grange Hall, 50 Commerce Street, 212.924.5246
Waterfront Ale House, 540 2nd Street, 212.696.4104
High Bar in the Gramercy Park Hotel, 2 Lexington Avenue, 212.475.4320

Blind Tiger always feels warm inside—and it's not just because of the roomy wooden booths, or the super-tasty Scotches and microbrews that are flowing from noon onward daily (1 p.m. on weekends). Because, you see, not only is the Blind Tiger's ever changing, surprise-filled beer list the closest thing you'll find to a Christmas present from a bar in this town, foot-long Sabretts (with all the fixins) are free on Mondays. Pair the dogs with a tall glass of Brooklyn Pennant Pale Ale ($3 on Mondays) for a perfect present to yourself after gift buying has left the wallet a little light. MAURA JOHNSTON

« Previous Page
Next Page »