It’s a cold, cold world—and this holiday season, things are about to get even colder.
A night of tradition, Christmas Eve is when (speaking from little experience) stockings are hung, eggnog is consumed, and warm bulbs are strewn across mantles as a wintry mix streams down outside. Maybe you have a song you always listen to on this night—a grating tune made tolerable through the stylings of Dolly Parton or Rod Stewart. Maybe your family gathers around a piano as your prodigy sibling plays yet another timeworn Christmas classic! Jokes are told, as are disputed versions of collective memories, and joviality is had by all.
That is, of course, a more conventional way to spend the holiday. For some of us, this ”wonderful life” is one we only know as outsiders—a life we’ve glimpsed through the circle etched out of the condensation on the neighbor’s window.
Okay, maybe it’s time to stop lingering; the neighbors are starting to get creeped out.
In fact, there’s a much better way to spend a lonely Christmas Eve (without a restraining order). For those who are non-believers, anti-establishment, my fellow Jews, owners of a lonely heart, or lone wolves, here are 10 bars in major cities where you can revel in solitude over festive cocktails, but not feel totally alone on yet another day of the year designed exclusively to make you feel as if you are. Our criteria for a good Christmas Eve bar? It’s cozy, you won’t be stuck with couples or families, the staff is welcoming, and there are holiday vibes (but they don’t go overboard). So, get over yourself and spend some time alone this Christmas Eve. Cheers!
WHERE: New York, New York
Why It’s Good: No need to downgrade just because you’re flying solo this Christmas Eve. Treat yourself at this Upper West Side hotel bar in a tree-lined, Central Park-adjacent neighborhood. Stare out onto the New York City skyline as the burbling Hudson River is made eerie by nightfall, and wonder when your life took this turn.
Your Order: Shakespeare’s Globe (gin, root beer, vanilla syrup, Cointreau, Douglas Fir liqueur, glitter). It’s a cocktail inside of a snow globe. Sold.
All Souls Bar
WHERE: Washington, D.C.
Why It’s Good: This candlelit corner bar in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood has it all: friendly staff, a loaded jukebox, cozy booths, and holiday hours—they seem to anticipate the much-needed break from bonding with relatives.
Your Order: No. 2, The Perfect Manhattan (Maker’s 46, sweet and dry Dolin vermouth, Angostura bitters). Warming up with a Manhattan on a chilly winter night sounds kind of perfect, right? Who needs family?
Get Well Bar
WHERE: Toronto, Canada
Why It’s Good: If you’re feeling nostalgic for all the toys you never got in years past, warm up on a cold Canadian Christmas Eve at Get Well Bar, where you can stare into the screen of a vintage arcade game and see your hollow reflection staring right back.
Your Order: A pint of Granite Keefe Irish Stout if it’s on tap—the menu is a rotating selection of seasonal drafts and bottled beer.
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
Why It’s Good: LA during Christmas is like a college campus—the city weirdly becomes a ghost town as everyone flocks to the east coast in search of snow. You’ll soon feel like a ghost, too, as you look out onto vacant, palm-tree lined streets from La Poubelle, across from the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre in Franklin Village. Relax at an outdoor table at this French bistro with a good book in hand. That’s the only company you really need after all.
Your Order: A glass of white wine. There may be a slight chill in the air this time of year, even in Los Angeles, but you don’t necessarily need a winter cocktail. A nice glass of chardonnay is apropos, especially if you’re seated in front of their very realistic Paris mural.
WHERE: Montreal, Canada
Why It’s Good: Go to this pub to blend in, make friends, or to see some free entertainment—in the past, they’ve held a comedy show on Christmas Eve called “Matzo Ball Soup” and served a kosher menu all day.
Your Order: Irish Coffee. Because when in Rome.
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar
WHERE: New Orleans, Louisiana
Why It’s Good: With New Orleans’ lax open container laws, you can take your booze to go and wander the French Quarter, which has become somewhat of a tradition at this bar on Christmas Eve. This day only, French 75 stays open all day long.
Your Order: The Tom and Jerry. The cold-weather, eggnog-like cocktail is a specialty here. Originating in the 1800s, it’s made with “Tom and Jerry batter,” rum, spices, and cognac or bourbon.
Bar Hemingway at the Ritz
WHERE: Paris, France
Why It’s Good: To quote someone on TripAdvisor, here’s a bleak look at Paris around Christmas time: “Carols are not sung. Snow is extremely rare.” Other users seem to dispute this assessment. We say, you’re alone in Paris on Christmas Eve, which sounds pretty damn fun, so you might as well class it up at a swanky hotel bar.
Your Order: 51 dry martinis. Apparently Hemingway himself drank that amount here, all in succession. Drown your sorrows?
The Punch Bowl Bar at The Malton Hotel
WHERE: Killarney, Ireland
Why It’s Good: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Come to this decked out hotel bar and soak up some holiday cheer.
Your Order: Whiskey. It’s kind of their specialty.
WHERE: Tokyo, Japan
Why It’s Good: In Tokyo, it’s common for couples to go out on Christmas Eve and get engaged. A few years ago, this restaurant and beer bar banned couples on Christmas Eve so as not to make the single staff or patrons feel lonely. “If you are single on Christmas Eve, then it’s easy to get down,” said an employee working at the restaurant at the time. Assuming they’ve kept this up, this is our kind of holiday tradition.
Your Order: Not exclusively a bar, the specialties here are beer and spaghetti. One of each, please.
WHERE: Chicago, IL
Why It’s Good: Open 365 days a year, this cozy neighborhood bar always gets into the holiday spirit. Sidle up to fellow loners and be merry!
Your Order: The Candy Cane Martini, duh.