Why should Champagne have all the fun? When it’s time to get festive, folks always want to reach for the bubbly. But beware: Projectile corks kill up to two dozen people a year. This year you owe it to yourself (and the ones you hold dear) to embrace the holiday spirit with a non-pop-topped tipple. Safety first, after all. Besides, this is the era of inventive cocktails. Check out our list of the 10 best winter cocktails in NYC right now, each worth savoring during this celebratory season, or warming up with once the holiday glow is gone.
Summer in the Andes, Park Avenue Winter, 360 Park Avenue South, 212-951-7111
Take a vacation from winter with an instant voyage to Summer in the Andes. Pisco is the new gin, and the South American grape-based spirit informs this Park Avenue Winter cocktail with a gentle tinge of fruit, highlighted by an herbaceous wisp of allspice and vanilla. It’s a drink designed to take you places — and just think how much you’ll save on airfare.
Douglas Fir Gimlet, Pegu Club, 77 West Houston Street, 212-473-7348
For a true sense of the season, order a Douglas Fir Gimlet at the Pegu Club, Soho’s shrine to all things gin. Tanqueray naturally boasts a Christmasy bouquet with its juniper-forward nose, but the addition here of infused evergreen buds brings a forest to your face with every sip of this spruced-up gimlet.
Bittersweet Symphony, Dram, 177 South 4th Street, Brooklyn, 718-486-3726
Since much of the city will be partying on or around the Brooklyn waterfront as the ball drops, it would be foolish to pass up one of Williamsburg’s most reliable watering holes. The cocktails at Dram are notoriously well balanced, eschewing the cloyingly sweet monstrosities that dominate many nearby menus. The Bittersweet Symphony — served hot in the mug — is a wonderful winter warmer, with herbaceous undertones of Fernet dancing along the oak and tannin notes of Medley Brothers bourbon.
Ginseng Glow, Middle Branch, 154 East 33rd Street, 212-213-1350
Middle Branch, Murray Hill’s hidden oasis, slings haute mixology in an accessible forum. Step away from the biting cold with this rum drink, which is brightened by Aperol and a sprinkling of ginseng tea powder. The herbal additive has long been venerated for its medicinal properties, so it stands to reason that the Ginseng Glow can cure the very same hangover it creates.
Pickled Martini, Empire Diner, 210 Tenth Avenue, 212-596-7523
This isn’t your dad’s dirty martini. Pickling being all the rage these days, it stands to reason that drinks should benefit from higher-quality pickling agents than the traditional olive juice of yore. At Empire Diner, the accoutrement in question comes in the form of house-pickled vegetable juice. It sends a complex salt tone to round out the jalapeño-infused vodka at the Pickled Martini’s core. This is a cocktail that’s warming for winter, and at least as festive as the traditional sparkling wine.
Bronx Bomber Toddy, NYY Steak, 7 West 51st Street, 646-307-7910
Spiked tea is a sensational way to soothe the soul while slowly getting smashed. It’s easy to accomplish both with NYY Steak’s Bronx Bomber Toddy, a melodious mixture of Templeton rye, Carpano Antica, and cherry liqueur. What starts as a slightly sweeter boulevardier is warmed with hot-brewed mandarin orange tea. Sip slowly and repeat.
Talisman, Bacchanal, 146 Bowery, 646-355-1840
Coffee cocktails are ideal to keep you chugging along through a long night, but they can also be gross and unsettling to the stomach. Bacchanal’s Talisman doesn’t overdo it with heavy cream or simple syrups. It’s a thoughtful amalgam of Dewar’s, Drambuie, and hot-brewed espresso, spiced up with a touch of cayenne. It presents just enough to arouse the palate without overcrowding it.
Smoked and Roasted, The Wayland, 700 East 9th Street, 212-777-7022
If you didn’t get the memo, mezcal is all the rage these days. And because nothing says Northeastern winter like fresh chimney smoke, this time of year provides an excellent excuse to jump on the bandwagon. The Wayland in the East Village provides a suitable entry point with its $12 Smoked and Roasted, which enhances the notes of roasted agave with chipotle-infused agave nectar. It invites a fiesta of flavor into your mouth!
Winter Walnut, The Lounge at Atera, 77 Worth Street, 212-226-1444
Rye and rum makes a formidable foundation for any cocktail, but the two can easily clash if not melded mindfully. The Winter Walnut at The Lounge at Atera is worthy of its own Michelin status, employing walnut liqueur and orange bitters to expert effect: They effortlessly mask the potency of the navy-strength rum underneath. Prepare to be sent to sea.
Baked Apple, The Pines, 284 Third Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-596-6560
The Baked Apple at The Pines is American as…well, you know. Honeycrisp apple, maple bitters, and autumnal herbs collide to give this bourbon beverage a nose of freshly baked pie — just like Mom used to make. And there’s even a surprise appearance by scotch — just like Dad used to drink.