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Food + Drink

USA’s Wildest Party Bars

There are a lot of reasons to love the holidays, but let’s face it—the booze-filled, bar-hopping whirlwind that always ensues tops them all. (See you Jan. 2, juice cleanse). From a legendary dive in Austin to a craft beer-focused pub in Portland, we’ve got nine spots guaranteed to get you feeling festive.

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Photo by Claire Hogan

1

Lala's Little Nugget, Austin

It’s been Christmas at Lala’s Little Nugget since it opened in 1972 thanks to the perennial kitschy lights and decorations that make up the dive-y space. What to expect in December: an even more ramped up holiday theme, with an ornament wall and sparkling tinsel at every turn, and a new menu by local favorite Stubbs BBQ. Things that don't change? The jukebox, Santa Snoopy, and lip-smackingly spicy Bloody Mary.

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2

Rolf’s, New York

You’d be hard pressed to find a more festive bar than Rolf’s, a German spot that looks like a Christmas bomb exploded: dangling ceiling wreaths, colorful poinsettia-lined walls and a sea of red-and-gold ornament balls. The perfect holiday pairing for the winterland decor--the spiced Gluhwein, a hot sangria made with cinnamon and cloves.

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3

Pete’s Tavern, New York

Just off the Union Square Christmas Market, the circa-1864 Pete’s Tavern is a Manhattan institution. There's no better time to go than the holidays, when 10,000 rose-colored lights hang from the ceiling, sparkly trinkets cover the walls and winter dioramas are showcased in the windows. Order a homemade spiked eggnog and take in the scene.

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Photo by Joy Asico

4

Mockingbird Hill, Washington D.C.

This year, Derek Brown’s sherry and ham bar, Mockingbird Hill, in Shaw, transforms into the "Miracle on Seventh Street," a winter landscape of gold stars, model trains, and in-full-character Santa. The offerings are more big kid than family friendly like the European-style cocoa jazzed up with mezcal and the I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus made with pink peppercorn-infused gin and a wintergreen garnish.

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Photo by Frank Ishman

5

Good Times at Davey Wanes, LA

The name says it all. It’s pretty much impossible not to have a good time at this funky retro 70s bar in Hollywood. There's a secret entrance, boozy holiday snow cones served out of an airstream trailer, shuffleboard, live music and ridiculously good people watching. Just make sure you have nothing to do the next morning.

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6

Butch McGuire’s, Chicago

If Fao Schwarz (R.I.P.) opened a tavern, it would look like the rollicking Gold Coast dive Butch McGuire’s. Double decker trains whirl past nutcracker figurines, stuffed animal mobiles and gingerbread men hang from the ceiling, red-and-green wallpaper covers the bar--365 days a year. Try the 99 Peppermint, with hot chocolate, whipped cream, and candy cane liqueur.

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Photo by Gabi Porter

7

Mace, New York

Like its counterpart in D.C., the cocktail den Mace is all holiday cheer, all the time throughout the month. Run by Parisian barman and Experimental Cocktail Club vet, Nico de Soto, and Greg Boehm of Cocktail Kingdom, the festive drinks range from chocolate gelt-infused tequila to pumpkin-infused Barbados rum.

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8

Horse Brass Pub, Portland, OR

The festive scheme here has a quintessentially Portland bent. Just look at the Christmas tree decorated with craft beer cans--the owner Don Younger was one of the pioneers in the small batch brew movement--and cigarette boxes. The seasonal beer list is the way to go. We love the winter warmer-style lagers from local producers like Oakshire Brewing's Ill Tempered Gnome and Frosty Leo from Ecliptic Brewing.

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9

Atrium Bar, Denver

Come holiday season, Downtown’s festive-minded head to the nine-story Atrium bar at the historic Brown Palace Hotel. In December, the soaring space oozes glamour, with light-trimmed arches, elaborately displayed gingerbread houses and a ribbon-strewn Christmas tree under a dazzling 25-foot chandelier. Also part of the tradition: A live pianist playing sing-along holiday hits.

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Photo by Alex von Kleydorff @ The Hour

10

Miracle on Wall Street, Norwalk, CT

Hidden above Norwalk’s Apricot Bar & Grill, Miracle on Wall Street serves the state's most potent and innovative holiday libations. Highlights: the bourbon-based Redneck Flip, a whackadoodle blend of Applejack, Budweiser marshmallow syrup, beef jerky bitters, and egg, served in chintzy ceramic snowman glasses.