Almost everyone likes winter right when it starts. You forget about subway cars with no A/C, you feel less bad about devoting half your closet space to three jackets, and beer and jewelry commercials suddenly fill you with festive joy. But at some point after Christmas, things change. You spend too much money on gifts, you get tired of hat hair, and you’re ready for this weather to stop happening to you.
The tipping point happens at different times to different people. But whether you’re still in the mood to drink Scotch next to a fireplace wearing an ugly holiday sweater, or you’re a crosswalk puddle away from booking a one-way flight to Miami - the 15 spots on this guide have you covered.
WHERE TO GO WHEN YOU’RE NOT SICK OF THE SNOW YET
After that one friend gets back from their long weekend upstate this winter, they’ll probably mention a house in the woods, families of deer, whiskey, and red meat. Smile and say it sounds lovely, but know that you can get a very similar experience at Freemans on the LES. The bookshelves, old couches, and very good American food make it feel like a lodge in The Catskills, and there are even lots of deer, but they’re taxidermied and hanging on the wall.
Sure, you’d probably love to go on a ski vacation to the Alps, but that would require lots of time and money, let alone health insurance and a renewed passport. Instead, go to Cafe Select, an all-day spot in Soho, and take advantage of the best part of any ski trip: apres-ski. Have some wine and small plates in the bar area in the front, or get a table in the fondue room in the back.
Maybe we saw Independence Day when we were a little too young, maybe not. Either way, we spend a lot of time thinking about where we’d go if the sh*t ever really hit the fan. Slush-covered sidewalks aren’t quite the same as alien invasions, but they both make us want to go to Mekelburg’s to ride it out. This restaurant in the back of a high-end grocery store serves the best sandwiches in Williamsburg, as well as decadent takes on comfort food, like a salt-baked potato topped with a scoop of caviar. And if the aliens or winter weather advisories do get the better of us, you can bet that we’re not going down sober, which won’t be a problem thanks to the big selection of craft beers and option to add a shot to any can of beer for $1.
Some people put up Christmas lights as soon as the Thanksgiving table has been cleared, and then there’s Clark Griswold and Martha May Whovier, and then there’s Rolf’s. This German bar and restaurant in Gramercy is decked out in colorful lights, wreaths, ornaments, and dolls year-round, and when you’re drinking mulled wine or spiced eggnog here, you’ll put off getting your A/C out of storage for another week.
When people plot hostile takeovers in Davos or superhero franchises at Sundance, we imagine it happening somewhere like Brandy Library. Illuminated shelves of brown liquor - the spirits menu alone is 15 pages long - cover walls of this big, low-ceilinged cocktail bar in Tribeca, and the seating is made up of leather lounge chairs that wouldn’t feel out of place in a private smoking den. Sit by the fireplace with a date, and try flights of Calvados or Armagnac while Googling what Calvados and Armagnac are.
Most bars with beer steins, communal seating, and pretzels the size of spare tires are good places to hang out in the winter, and Bohemian Hall in Astoria is no exception. But what makes this place different from other beer gardens is its massive outdoor space, which is decorated during the winter with lights, Santa’s sleigh, and a 25-foot-tall Christmas tree.
The idea of glamping always seemed kind of silly to us - why go through the charade of staying in a tent when it’s just as luxurious as a hotel? We’re still not totally sure of the answer, but after spending time in the Winter Garden at The Standard, we think it has to do with having your own private space that kind of feels like nature. During the winter, the outdoor garden at this East Village hotel fills up with heated yurts that have faux fur chairs and blankets in each one. Some of them are big enough for groups, but they’re best for drinks and snacks, like spiked hot chocolate and fondue, with a date.
Drinking by a fireplace in a dimly lit room surrounded by bottle-lined shelves sounds ideal in the dead of winter, and even though it might sound like something you’d typically associate with drinking dark liquor or cocktails, it’s just as enjoyable with wine. At Black Mountain Wine House in Gowanus, the shelves around the fireplace are filled with small production wines from around the world, and whether you’re interested in blind-tasting three wines for $10 during Happy Hour, or sharing a bottle and some small plates with a date, this place is a great option.
WHERE TO GO WHEN YOU CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT SUN FEELS LIKE
The shuffleboard hall of fame is located in Clearwater, Florida. We have no idea what else goes on in Clearwater, but we’re pretty sure it never experiences slush puddles that somehow seep through waterproof boots. If you want to understand what that type of worry-free living is like, head to Royal Palms in Gowanus. The tropical-themed bar has 10 shuffleboard courts, and in the event that some of your friends don’t feel like sliding discs across the room, the massive space also has two bars, oversized board games, and plenty of seating.
You know who doesn’t have to deal with black ice and snow that suddenly turns into rain? People who are smart enough to live on the Amalfi Coast. Pretend you’re one of them at Mama Capri. Even though you probably can’t make use of the backyard for a couple more months, the interior of this coastal Italian spot in Cobble Hill has white brick walls, turquoise chairs, and woven basket lights that make you feel like you should be wearing at least one piece of linen clothing.
Hanging out by Port Authority never makes anyone feel better about anything, unless it involves getting cocktails and small plates at The Polynesian. This huge, indoor-outdoor rooftop bar from the people behind Carbone and The Grill serves high-quality bar snacks and tiki drinks in mugs shaped like treasure chests. Drinking a flaming cocktail near Times Square would probably feel kitschy if it weren’t this delicious (and strong).
If you find yourself on Family Feud, and Steve Harvey asks you for words people associate with summer, you just need to remember a night at Miss Lily’s 7A in the East Village. Think about drinking piña coladas and frozen margaritas while eating fish tacos, followed by shots of rum with Red Stripes on the dancefloor while Rihanna blasts from the speakers. And then just say, “beach” - that’s probably the top response.
Llama Inn has enough hanging plants that it could almost pass for a Rainforest Cafe, but instead of kids shooting spitballs at mechanical parrots, this Peruvian restaurant in Williamsburg is filled with groups sharing ceviche with plantain chips and cocktails. Get the “Llama del Rey,” which has pisco, rum, grilled pineapple, and a bunch of other ingredients that people whisper to themselves when they’re experiencing S.A.D.
With a vaulted ceiling, white walls, and abundance of plants, Donna feels like a wedding venue in San Miguel de Allende. But this cocktail bar in Williamsburg is a fun spot to get tacos and tropical drinks, rather than a place to watch your friend make out with someone you know isn’t right for them. Actually you may see that here too.
There are a lot of tiki bars in NYC, and while most of them serve drinks that give you headaches and cotton mouth reminiscent of vacations at the beach, Mother Of Pearl does the best job of actually feeling like a destination while you’re there. Sit in a booth under flowing white curtains, plants, and multi-colored chandeliers, and share a cocktail in a shark head-shaped mug with a date.