When the wind starts whipping through the streets and hats are no longer just saviors for bad hair days, we’re not gonna pretend like we don’t keep indoors, which happens to be a great excuse for holing up and indulging in our favorite libations. And with that in mind, we’ve rounded up the 35 best holiday cocktails in New York.
Whether you’re looking for delicious traditional bevvies or wild new takes on seasonal favorites, our handpicked list boasts the most delectable drinks NYC has to offer (from Central Park to the bottom of Brooklyn). Whether you want to imbibe on a spiced-honey-bourbon concoction at a Cobble Hill hot spot or sip some gingerbread-apple mix at a tony UES boîte, we've got your back. Now go forth and get a taste for these holiday spirit(s)…with options as stellar as these, we’ll be pleased as punch to do exactly the same.
Housed inside the Setai Fifth Avenue, chef Michael White's classic French-Italian restaurant is one of those special occasion spots. You know — sky-high heels, back-of-the-closet dress and unbelievable food that makes the next day's lunch look, well, wilted. With a classed-up scene perfect for date night, Ai Fiori's combination of tableside service and holiday favorites makes their hot Vin Brule and creamy, homemade Normandy Nog a dressed-up way to ring in the season.
If you're sick of hiding your favorite wares underneath that poofy coat, bust out that glammed up dress and glitzy bib that means business, and rock some kicky pumps like street salt won't ruin ‘em on the way home. You can grab a drink at the marbled bar, too, but when you look this good? A waltz through the dining room is all but necessary.
Ai Fiori, 400 5th Avenue (at 36th Street), 212-613-8660.
Willow Stretch Jersey and Linen Blend Dress, $850, available at Net-A-Porter; H&M Jacket, $29.95, available at H&M; Stella & Dot Estate Bib Necklace, $198, available at Stella & Dot; Nasty Gal Electrify Envelope Clutch, $40.60, available at Nasty Gal; Zara Pointed Court Shoe with Straps, $99.90, available at Zara.
Photos: Courtesy of Ai Fiori
Hurricane Sandy all but robbed us of haunted houses and Halloween frights, but if Apotheke is the closest we'll get to a mad scientist's lab, we're cool with that. The drink options at this Chinatown speakeasy err on the side of Prohibition-era potables, with cocktails modeled after a chemist's concoctions and fresh ingredients sourced from a rooftop herb garden, too. We may have missed the endless nights of October terror, but their Sleepy Hollow, a bourbon-apple mix powered by a dash of butternut squash, cinnamon and spices, makes the return seasonal scares with every sip.
Grab a couple pals and bunker down on the bar's lush seating, in close view of the antique medicinal bottles lining the bar. If we’re all pretending it’s the ‘20s when cocktails are involved anyway, tap into the time’s lush styling with a beaded frock that looks fresh off the set of Boardwalk Empire, and boots that look anything but. And, if you're looking for something that's more 'tis this season with your throwback duds, the Corazon de Fuego — a hot, fruit-filled rum drink — should do the trick.
Apotheke, 9 Doyers Street (at Pell Street); 212-406-0400.
Photo: Courtesy of Apotheke (interior), Photographed by Sara Haile (drink)
To get to this underground bar, you’ll have to get to Soho, bypass an unmarked door, and...talk to your neighbor? Yes, it sounds as peculiar as another season of attempting kitten heels, but at 1534, they take ambiance seriously. Whether you consider the bar’s rules to be cheeky or just a pinch invasive, either way, they’ve leveled the playing field for talking up that cutie one table over — and encourage all the wild behavior you haven’t partaken in since the college party-hopping days.
Since you’re already letting your guard down by belting along to that ‘80s Seger classic (rule #8!), sport your most daring overcoat — this Marni metallic brocade number should serve for sartorial inspiration — with a kitschy clutch and glitzy heels for your collective moment in the spotlight. Throw back a shot from the staff (rules #9 & #10) if you’re lucky enough to get one, or order up The White Hand Gang — this mix of whiskey, lemon juice, and rosemary syrup with a dollop of Apricot Preserves will be your fruitcake-in-a-glass, only fancier. Offering a stranger a sip is a perfect way to check rule #7 off of that list.
1534, 20 Prince Street (between Elizabeth and Mott streets); 212-966-5073.
Marni Metallic Brocade Coat, $1,749, available at MyTheresa; Zara Studded high Heel Boots, $189, available at Zara; Topshop Sleeveless Turtleneck Midi Dress, $52, available at Nordstrom; Sabine Wrapped Collar Necklace, $28, available at Piperlime; Olympia Le Tan The Rich Man Book Clutch, $1,179.22, available at FarFetch.
Photos: Dominic Perri
We’ll never really know if George Washington chopped down that cherry tree or not, but one thing we’re certain of is that he’d be a fan of Bearded Lady. The kitschy-cute Prospect Heights bar gives their cocktails tongue-in-cheek monikers, and while a couple of ‘em are good enough for the record books, the Town Destroyer is where it’s at. Named after America’s first Prez, this mix pays homage to when Washington wrote to the Laird family to get his hands on their Apple Brandy recipe. If nothing seems overtly American about a mixing the spirit with pear preserves, lemon juice, egg white and nutmeg, any history buff will clue you in that it’s all in the details — Town Destroyer was Washington’s Iroquois name!
This watering hole makes for some serious drinking — do you see the size of that glass?! — and with the owner himself calling it “light but deadly,” these drinks are a liquor-filled force to be reckoned with. Kick your wardrobe basics up a notch with statement-making earrings and glimmering shoes for a well-balanced outfit you could easily repurpose the next morning if need be. Swap out the sweater and change up your baubles, and the only thing you’ll have to grab in the AM is a fistful of Advil.
Bearded Lady, 686A Washington Avenue (at St Marks Avenue); Brooklyn; 469-232-7333.
Messeca Julien Flat, $174.95, available at Ashbury Skies; rag & bone Vanhi Skirt, $495, available at rag & bone; AllSaints Mosley Blazer, $295, available at AllSaints; Giles & Brother Siren Drop Earring, $155, available at Giles & Brother; Miss Selfridge Black Garter Stitch Sweater, $61, available at Miss Selfridge; Wolford Velvet DeLuxe Tights, $45, available at Nordstrom.
Photos: Catherine Cole, Courtesy of Bearded Lady
There are a few age-old gems scattered around New York City, and Bemelmans Bar is no doubt one of the best. If you've been, you know all about its old-school glamour, down to the tiered tray of delicate snacks. And if you haven't? Throw on your best Friday night look, grab a loved one, and get thee to the Upper East Side, stat.
The glamorous, dimly lit spot located inside the Carlyle Hotel is something of a dream come true. The walls are lined with artwork by Ludwig Bemelmans, a former hotel resident and author of the Madeline books. (Twelve little girls in two straight lines!) The music, provided through December by jazz pianist Loston Harris, gives you a glimpse of what life was like in a less technological time. And the sophistication, from the gilded ceilings to the spot-on service, is well worth the steep price of a special-occasion trip to this uptown gem.
If fruitcake's your version of toasting to the wintertime holidays, their Gingerbread Apple Christmas Cocktail should be the best trip to the dessert table since, well, forever. Balance the bar's UES femininity with some downtown swag by pairing an oversized, nubbed blazer with a short patterned dress, like a nighttime take on daytime duds. Pass on the overcoat, too — you'll be so snuggled up at your teensy table, you won't even need another layer.
Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street (at Madison Avenue); 212-744-1600.
Photos: Courtesy of The Carlyle