Brew Ho Ho

Sud-slinging santas toast the season

BARS NEAR HIGHWAYS CUT FAMILY TIME IN HALF

Perched atop the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and a half-block from the BQE, Moonshine, although mildly terrifying to walk to, is easily accessible by car. In addition to some of the cheapest beer in the city (a bucket of any four cans for $5), the six-month-old Red Hook bar (its motto: "a little Texas honky-tonk comes to Brooklyn") has pool, gunning video games, and more than 50 pounds of free peanuts a week—offerings that are sure to satisfy relatives passing through. On Christmas Eve, owner Nick Forlano plans to "do the local-mall thing"—a neighborhood friend will dress up as Santa, hoist people onto his lap, and hand out random, meaningless gifts. The scene at Buttermilk will be a little less enthusiastic (incessant White Stripes-playing and seasonal festivity seem somehow at odds). Still, the bar—a street from the Prospect Expressway and a long hike from the F—is a good bet for parking. Another of Andrew Benedict and Scott Fredrick's signless-dive success stories (the duo also owns Great Lakes and the Boat), the place is smugly dingy. With cheap beer and distant highway squeals, it's easy to forget you're inside a blossoming chain. AVIV

Moonshine, 317 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, 718.422.0563; Buttermilk, 577 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.788.6297

ENTERTAINING EMBARRASSING HOMETOWN 'FRIENDS,' ON THE DL AT PENN STATION

You were drunk, you got emotional, it was Thanksgiving weekend, and it felt good to hang with your old friends at your hometown bar. But now it's a week before Christmas, and "Sticky" and "Horse" are cashing in their invitation. Prepare for their arrival at Penn Station over a couple of stiff and savory blood-orange martinis ($8) at nearby Tracks Raw Bar & Grill. The lighting is dim, the dark-wood bar stretches for nearly a mile, the decor nods to the olden days of train travel, and the bartender plays Coldplay and Modest Mouse. Soak it up, because from here on out, it's likely to be nothing but cheesy club music. You still have a few minutes, so get into the suburban spirit at Kabooz's at Penn Station. It beats T.G.I. Friday's and Houlihan's, which are right down the hall, and despite the fact that these guys would kick your ass if they caught you drinking it, their Purple People Eater martini ($8) is delicious. Finally, they arrive, in matching Red Sox hats and reeking of Jack Daniel's. After a couple of bear hugs, you cross the street and head to Tir Na Nóg. They think it's "kinda fancy," but the place doesn't make much sense to you: A traditional-style Irish pub, but with stained-glass windows, faux monk-scripted phrases on the walls, and animal taxidermy prominently displayed? While Horse blatantly stares at the waitress's breasts, you order a round of Bellhavens ($5 each), and of course Sticky adds, "And three shots of sambuca!" Maybe not such a bad idea—you're going to need it. SWITZER

Tracks Raw Bar & Grill, 32nd Street and Eighth Avenue, 212.2446350; Kabooz's, Penn Station, 32nd Street and Eighth Avenue, 212.760.0848; Tir Na Nóg, 5 Penn Plaza, 212.630.0249

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