Homes for the Holidays

Bars to hibernate in when the weather dips

As winter seeps into your bones, avoid the temptation to hide out in your teeny apartment. Sure, you can depend on trusty "cohorts" Jack, Jose, and Jim to keep you company during the colder months, but why not meet them at some of our favorite watering holes instead? The following bars have arranged to keep you—and some actual friends—warm and entertained whenever you decide to venture away from the remote control. Just leave the pajamas at home.

Safe Havens for Literate Lushes

illustration: Gina Triplett and Matt Curtius

Oh, pale Galilean (or bookish Brooklynite), if it is loneliness you seek to conquer during the existentially enervating holidays, make a pilgrimage to one of these storied watering holes. Eschew the food at prim Fedora, a West Village speakeasy that went respectable in the 1950s, and settle at the tiny bar with your tattered paperback of The Portable Dorothy Parker; after several very dry, very dirty martinis ($6) you'll be very drunk—and very happy you're not in love. For a rather more gay old time (note emphasis on "gay" and "old") visit the Town House, a discreet, posh, Upper East Side bar for mature men of means and their admirers. There's a dress code, but if you're under 30 you'll do all right in a sweater and chinos as you pose with a champagne cocktail ($8) and a copy of How to Marry a Millionaire. Perhaps you'll meet a member of the prestigious Grolier, that private club for antiquarian-book enthusiasts whose black-tie events are as surreally camp as they are exclusive. For those with less esoteric tastes, there's Old Town. For over a century this art nouveau saloon has been the downtown haven for crusty newspaper types and other writers. Stand at the bar with a black and tan ($6.50) and make up stories about the "good old days," when the Voice was really the Voice . . . Or come early, colonize a booth, and fondle a copy of Pete Hamill's A Drinking Life. Just don't yak on your cell or they'll chuck you out before you can say "Cholly Knickerbocker." BEGHTOL

Fedora, 239 W 4th, 212-242-9691; the Town House, 236 E 58th, 212-754-4649; Old Town Bar & Restaurant, 45 E 18th, 212-473-6728

Escape to Polynesia With Tiny Bubbles in the Wine

For those who can't migrate to warmer climes, there is always the poor man's vacation to the South Seas known as the tiki bar—if the atmospheric lighting, totemic idols, and scads of bamboo thatch don't transport you to an exotic island locale, then the drinks certainly will. Take East Village bar Otto's Shrunken Head. Order up a Pang's Punch ($8) and you'll know you're going places before your first sip, when you discover that it actually glows in the dark. At heart a tiki-cum-rock-and-roll bar, Otto's also serves up nightly music in its back room and features an old-school photo booth with which to commemorate your trip. For a slightly less grungy, more upscale incarnation of the Polynesian theme, check out Brooklyn's Zombie Hut. The house signature drinks are the Frozen Zombie (small $5, large $8) and the Flaming Tiki Torch Shot ($5), which is not only served on fire but with marshmallows on a skewer that you're encouraged to roast before downing this powerful brew. Zombie Hut also boasts a working fireplace that, if all else fails, is guaranteed to keep you warm while you close your eyes and picture sunny, tropical vistas. MULLINS

Otto's Shrunken Head, 538 E 14th, 212-228-2240; Zombie Hut, 261 Smith St, Bklyn, 718-875-3433

Hit the Slopes at Nearby Lodges

While downhill skiing in the city involves garbage can lids, duct tape, and landfills, a handful of local establishments have made aprés-ski a reality, complete with the prerequisite fireplace. Walk into Aspen, a restaurant closer to Chelsea than to Colorado, and travel back in time to a '70s ski adventure, replete with deer heads on the wall. Sip their version of a Mexican hot chocolate (mint-infused tequila, combined with zesty hot chocolate, south-of-the-border style; $10). Downtown in the East Village, Kabin features a fake-log wall, antique signs (the kind that hang in every Montana home), and a sled dangling from the wall. Or take a break from Manhattan and head to Boerum Hill's Kili, where exposed-brick walls and wooden beams scream wool sweater with snowflake prints. Warm up with a $7 mulled wine or think spring with the Kili Martini (peach schnapps, peach vodka, peach juice; $7). Thankfully, these pseudo ski lodges up the ante on the real deal by refusing to hire sucky singers to perform guitar-driven hits for drunk coeds after a long day out in the elements. BRAUNSCHWEIGER

Aspen, 27 W 20th, 212-645-5040; Kabin, 92 Second Ave, 212-254-0204; Kili, 81 Hoyt St, Bklyn, 718-855-5574

You Can Always Go Home Again

Growing up, cold winters were about wasting time downstairs in the rec room. That's why when seasonal affective disorder gets you down, indulging in the nostalgic comforts of home can start that serotonin flowing again. An archetypal rec-room bar, Welcome to the Johnsons boasts a requisite second-hand couch encased in plastic (protecting you from the sofa rather than protecting the sofa from dirt). The bartenders here will require you to pay $3 to $4 for your beers, unlike Gramps, who barely noticed a couple missing from the spare fridge. Go ahead, build a beer-a-mid of empty PBR cans on top of the bar. You have to be 21 to drink, so no bratty kid sister is around to knock it over. If you're homesick for the kind of basement entertainment that included your big brother's band practice, dive into 169 Bar, where you can listen to some raw rock 'n' roll and loiter around like an annoying little brother. Teetering on the edge of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, 169 is devoid of pretense: The full aroma of stale beer and sweaty dudes helps you relive the good old days. REMSBERG

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