All I Want For Christmas is Brew

12.23.11 Ed Daly

If holiday movies have taught us anything, it’s that family is the magic elixir to all of life’s problems. In about 24 hours, many of us will also learn that family time is also about as stress-free as being asked to stop Hans Gruber from taking over Nakatomi Plaza. That is why many treat December 23rd as a night to drink as if they’re entering combat in the morning.

Sure, SantaCon was two weeks ago, but now you’re faced with the immediate prospect of splitting Christmas Eve with a mom who wants to know when you’re settling down; and spending Christmas Day with dad and his new wife who couldn’t spell cat without you spotting her the C and the T. You’re needing that drink a little more. Here are some great places to go for some carefree holiday cheer.

A solid staring point is The Blind Tiger on Bleecker. Any good night of drinking should start with the perfect beer. Blind Tiger has every craft beer under the sun. Be it a holiday beer with some cloves and spices or a Belgian Ale that has as much alcohol as a 40 of Colt 45, Blind Tiger has as good a beer selection as any. Sure craft beer had its heyday in the late 1990’s but so did Jennifer Anniston and nobody is telling her to go away.

Then hop in a cab over to the great historic Old Town Bar on 18th Street. Take two steps in and you’ll see a Christmas tree so big that you half-expect the Whos from Whoville to surround it and sing Dahoo-Dooray Dahoo Dooray. Just beyond the mega tree is the 50 foot classic bar with a solid selection on tap. Before you pull the ripcord, take advantage of using quite possibly the best restroom in the country.

Walk a couple blocks east and you’ll find the festive Pete’s Tavern, the city’s oldest continuously running bar. A glass or two of Pete’s homemade eggnog and you’ll think O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi (which was apparently written there) will start to make sense. On second thought, a story where a woman sells her hair for a guy who loves her so much that he buys her a comb for Christmas might need more than two cups of nog.

Finally, head over to 22nd and 3rd for the pinnacle of all NYC Christmas bar crawls – Rolf’s. Each November, the bar/restaurant transforms from a standard German house of wurst to an explosion of garland, lights, and porcelain angels, that feels like being inside a Christmas tree. By the time you’ve labored through the insane crowd to get close enough to order at the bar, you’ll feel so proud of yourself that you’ll hardly notice the steep price tag for drinks. Between glasses of mulled wine or nog, patrons get to play aggressive games of “You’re standing on my jacket,” “I’m holding this seat for a friend,” and “Eww, this guy just passed front-to-front and I can tell just how excited he is about Christmas.” Who cares? This place is as Christmas as Bing Crosby and well worth the grind.

By tomorrow evening, it won’t matter that mom is on her third hour of telling you how she’s the last of her friends without grandchildren. Memories of Friday night will make you feel like George Bailey after the town of Bedford Falls inexplicably bailed out Uncle Billy. As I believe the great Clarence the Angel once wrote, “No man is a failure who has bars.”