Brew Ho Ho

Sud-slinging santas toast the season

The holidays are always a test of character—whether it's enduring the crowds; a family dinner; the cold, dark days; or the gnawing, end-of-year suspicion that you've missed the mark (again). Obviously, you can't deal with this stuff on your own, and you don't have to. The following bars have arranged for your relief with cheap pints and strong drinks, weird cheer, yuletide karaoke, and even that special spanking you forgot to ask for.


DIVES ADD TINSEL TO THE YEAR-ROUND LIGHTS

Don't expect fancy-shmancy eggnog at Lower East Side bar The Magician, but if you ask nicely, you may just be able to convince the no-nonsense bartender to work some magic—in the form of a hot toddy for a mere $6. Adding to the down-home charm is the fact that the drink is usually missing at least one ingredient, but there's always plenty of whiskey, and that's what counts. The hotness of the toddy depends on a crusty old coffee machine in the back, which seems to break down about half the time, making it more like a "lukewarm toddy," but nevertheless, the cheap drinks warm the spirit. The plain ol' white-tiled interior is a bit lacking in festive ambience, so head on over to the Trailer Park Lounge in Chelsea, where every day looks like Christmas . . . on acid. Get bombarded with full-on holiday kitsch, complete with cheesy tinsel garlands, fake trees, blinking lights, plastic reindeer, and a loving shrine to trash-talkin' ice princess Tonya Harding. If you get tired of Tonya, check out the over-the-top decorations at legendary gay bar The Monster, which gets fully decked out for the holidays, specializing in the ever popular "naughty Santa" motif. Gather 'round the piano and belt out some bawdy Christmas carols with a cast of kings and queens, or go downstairs to the disco-ball-lit lower level, where you can tell Santa what you really want (ho ho!). DAYAL

The Magician, 118 Rivington Street, 212.673.7881; Trailer Park Lounge, 271 West 23rd Street, 212.463.8000; The Monster, 80 Grove Street, 212.924.3557

HOTEL BARS THAT EVEN GRANNY WOULD GET LIQUORED UP AT

Once you've forgiven your rural-Ohioan family for voting red, have them stay at the Pan American Hotel, which boasts good rates, free parking, nearby public transportation (subway and bus), and exposure to the melting pot of Queens. Their half-diner, half-bar Duke's Restaurant offers live music on some nights and all the usuals, on tap and bottled (Coors Light, $4). A whiskey sour is $6 and not too strong, just enough to get the family feeling warm inside. Plus, when you're not there to hold their hand, Duke's staff is very friendly in that old-school way. Maybe your family have been to New York before and plan to squeeze in as much Broadway culture as they can. Comfort Inn Manhattan is very central. Expect to pay at least $50 more a night than at the Pan Am. Housed in an old bank adjacent to the hotel, Brendan's feels chichi with its high coffered ceilings, wooden bar, and stained glass, but the huge projection TV feels like home. Mixed drinks start at $5, and import drafts are $4.50 while bottles are $5. Your old-money grandmother requires something cozier than the Waldorf and considers newer downtown hotels vulgar. Take her to Washington Square Hotel, on the northwest corner of its namesake park, just west of those old New York townhouses. Like the deluxe rooms, the hotel's lounge, North Square, is art-deco-styled. The comprehensive wine list impresses, and the clean, natural Big Apple Martini ($9) does not reek of hideous green candy and actually tastes like a real Granny Smith—plus it's dainty enough for Nana. KIM

Duke's Restaurant, 79-00 Queens Boulevard, Elmhurst, Queens, 718.476.8186; Brendan's Bar & Grill, 42 West 35th Street, 212.564.5405; North Square, 103 Waverly Place, 212.254.1200

HOT DOM SEEKS SEXY SUB FOR HOLIDAY CHEER

Those who prefer to sip their spiced wine while enjoying a light whipping or enduring a spat of nipple torture can easily find a festive holiday venue in kinky Manhattan. Guests at the Den of Iniquity will find the dungeon spruced up with a small Christmas tree, decorated with mousetraps and topped with the holy dildo. Join the other slaves in giving sexy gifts and paying respect to their mistresses. Stop by Jezebel's comfortable lair for eggnog, a brightly lit tree, and fishnets, and don't forget to bring your significant other. Maybe this time you can convince her to join your upcoming CBT session with a sultry dom. The ladies of Pandora's Box have a special way of celebrating Hanukkah. Prove you're Jewish (circumcision doesn't count!), or at least recognize a matzo ball, and get a $5 discount during the holiday. Additionally, the week between Christmas and New Year's, Pandora's clients will receive a holiday stocking—sheer, black, and previously worn by one of the mistresses. So tie yourself up with ribbons or, better yet, leather, and let these ladies introduce you to a whole new level of holiday cheer! BRAUNSCHWEIGER

Den of Iniquity, 212.299.2149; Pandora's Box, 212.242.4577; Jezebel, 212.962.0109; addresses available upon request


WATERING HOLES WHERE YOU CAN ALMOST FEEL THE OCEAN BREEZE

Baby, it's cold outside, and thanks to all those gifts you've bought, your wallet is a little thin. That doesn't mean that you don't deserve a vacation. Escape the bustle of holiday shoppers and the bitter chill in the air by ducking into Hurricane Hopeful in Williamsburg. Opened by a Cape Cod surfer, this bar is part ode to summers on Nantucket and part cheapskate Hawaiian vacation. Sip a $9 Tiki Rickey (rum, coconut cream, fresh lime juice, and soda) or Aloha and Goodbye (gold rum, vanilla syrup, coconut cream, and fresh ginger) out of giant coconuts and you'll start to feel the warmth of the tropics. The place's kitschy, beachy decor helps set the mood, and if you sit at one of the picnic tables in the covered winter garden you'll get to feel the sand beneath your feet (though please keep your shoes on!) because the floor has been strewn with it for a coastal feel. If you need more of a getaway than the L train can provide, hop on the ferry to Staten Island, where, in a Kmart strip mall, you'll find an honest-to-God tiki bar. Jade Island is over 30 years old—a relic from a time when drinking tropical girlie drinks served by men in Hawaiian shirts, while surrounded by giant Greg Brady-worthy tiki statues, was the height of sophistication—but the thrill of drinking your Pineapple Paradise (pineapple juice, rum, and "rare spices") out of a real, hollowed-out pineapple will never get old. The huge Polynesian cocktails ($5.95 to $6.75) pack a wallop, and with these prices (beer is $2.95), you'll know you're on an exotic island that is not Manhattan. RABER

Hurricane Hopeful Chowder Bar, 139 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, 718.302.4441; Jade Island Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, 2845 Richmond Avenue, Staten Island, 718.761.8080

DRINKING CAN BE A HEARTH-TO-HEARTH EXPERIENCE

When holiday cheer is in short supply, you need a little something besides a space heater to bring on the warm and fuzzies. West Village classic bars like Chumley's and Gaslight aren't the only place for a satisfying hearth-hopping experience. Gramercy has Cibar, a hot-pink pickup joint that formerly gave cigar smokers a place to act out nouveau riche fantasies. If you can't find a body to warm you over the long winter night, at least get festive by the fire with a $10 Apple Martini (champagne, cinnamon vodka, apple juice, apple liqueur) or a Ginger Lime Rickey (fresh ginger, vodka, limeade). For the gentrifiers, Gibney's in Astoria is the place to pull up a stool, enjoy a pint of Guinness ($4), and get rowdy with the locals. The table by the huge gas fireplace (where you can avoid the glare of the five TV screens) is equally nice for having a relaxing sip of one of the fine Irish whiskeys behind the bar. If you'd like to pretend you're only steps away from a beach littered with half-naked party people, try a Bloody Zygo martini ($11) or passionfruit vodka shot ($5) at Keybar. Every night, their DJs spin Eurotrashy house that will keep you wiggling under all those layers. JONES

Cibar, 56 Irving Place, 212.460.5656; Gibney's, 32-01 Broadway, Astoria, Queens, 718.545.8567; Keybar, 432 East 13th Street, 212.478.3021

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Christmas candy: North Square's Big Apple Martini
photo: Cary Conover
GUILTY CATHOLICS GET IN TOUCH WITH THEIR INNER SPIRITS

Church Lounge at the Tribeca Grand Hotel seems an appropriate Christmastime destination, righteous to the idea of a well-groomed, star-studded night out, with its swanky lobby of couches, altar of candles, polished clientele, and its famous Tartini (a $12 lemongrass-infused Stoli raspberry puree and fresh lemon). If you tire of the 25 to 35 aggressive fashion-rock star-celebrity types who stay at the hotel, you can go to Hell—literally. The meatpacking district fixture wants to liberate you from the Prada trendiness of places like Church Lounge. Loyal to the neighborhood's former seediness, patrons claim that everyone's social in Hell, so lonely holiday-season bargoers can look for love here—to jukebox hits that range from Jay-Z to Johnny Cash. Its irreverent decor—old-fashioned photos of yesterday's celebrities marked with red devil horns, red-lit chandeliers, and walls adorned with Aztec-influence devil masks—is complemented by the sinful, gooey red cocktails with names like Fallen Angel (Malibu, Stoli vanilla, Grand Marnier, OJ; $9) and Red Devil (Southern Comfort, sloe gin, triple sec, lime juice; $10) that insist you indulge now, repent later. COLE

Church Lounge, Tribeca Grand Hotel, 2 Avenue of the Americas, 212.519.6677; Hell, 59 Gansevoort Street, 212.727.1666


SPIKED DRINKS AND SPIKED HEELS, HAPPY HOUR WITH YOUR LITTLE SISTER

Your little sister can vote, smoke, and drink, but she'll always be 13 in your mind. Now she's fresh out of college, where she's acquired the ability to drink you under the table. To satisfy your contradictory impulses to keep her innocent (sober) and show her a good time (drunk), take her to the Upper West Side Scott Quentin Campbell eatery @SQC. Campbell's hot chocolate is world renowned, and the bartenders utilize it in a rich SQC chocolatini (served warm, Valrhona chocolate, Absolut Vanilla, crème de cacao; $9). Then move on to the DUMBO staple Pete's Waterfront Ale House, and take it easy on her by ordering a Candy Apple (hot apple cider, Rumplemintz, and Tuaca; $6). Or just happily dive into the paradox by downing a few shots of Grandma's homemade apple-pie (infused-vodka made with three varieties of apples, spices, and pear; $5.50). LAGORIO

@SQC, 270 Columbus Avenue, 212.579.0100; Pete's Waterfront Ale House, 155 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.522.3794

KARAOKE ON CHRISTMAS EVE, THE NEW FRUITCAKE AND CHEESE LOG

Screw New Year's, Christmas Eve is the best night of the year for getting hammered. Perhaps even sloshed enough to let down those inhibitions and sing in public—'tis the season for carols, after all. Japas 55, a cozy midtown karaoke bar, is always open and brimming with revelers filled with spirit (and spirits) on Christmas Eve. Order a Sapporo ($7) or do as the Japanese regulars do and buy a bottle of your favorite liquor ($75 and up), then hunker down at the bar, where bartenders will hand you the mic so you can sing from your stool. Songs—from "Silent Night" to "Havah Nagilah"—cost a dollar. In the past they've put the kibosh on Wham's "Last Christmas" by midnight, so get there early if you plan to celebrate George Michael-style. Downtown at Sing Sing Karaoke, the hefty songbook contains everything from Aaliyah to Zwan, but you'll probably want to concentrate on the four-page Christmas section. Drink some liquid courage (Kirin on tap is $5) and request a song ($2). Feel like singing, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"? They carry versions by both Springsteen and the Pointer Sisters. Feeling traditional? Try "We Three Kings." Want to celebrate like you're on vacation in sunny Mexico? "Feliz Navidad" is for you. Who cares if you are tone-deaf? You won't remember it in the morning! RABER

Japas 55, 253 West 55th Street, 212.765.1210; Sing Sing Karaoke, 81 Avenue A, 212.674.0700

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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