As is typically the case with any big drinking holiday, our advice for how to best enjoy New Year's Eve at the bars is to avoid it altogether. But since you're obviously not going to listen, here are a few tips to keep in mind to minimize headaches — metaphorical ones, anyway.
PICK A BAR AND STICK WITH IT.
On any other night, bar-hopping is a good way to experience as many settings as possible and ensure that you don't enjoy any of them. It's even more problematic on New Year's. Julian Manning's advice? Stay put. "Find the party, bar, or friend's house where you want to be and settle in for the night," says the bar manager of Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake. "Bars are already on edge on that night, and most problems happen when you decide to hop from place to place. 'A couple of drinks here and a couple drinks there' turns into 'lots of drinks' fast. It's a very good recipe for getting into trouble."
ORDER YOUR DRINKS AHEAD OF TIME.
This may come as a surprise, but there are all sorts of other guests at the bar, all of whom want to order a drink. Weird! "I think many people underestimate the crowd at the bar leading up to the midnight surge," says Keith Harmon, wine director at Tres Gatos. "Get your round of drinks prior to 11:30 to avoid countdown angst."
DON'T BREAK THE BANK.
"I think the biggest amateur mistake is spending too much money," says Sean Griffing, co-owner of TRADE. "An easy way to avoid this pitfall is to either host friends for cocktails before going out or throwing a New Year's party at home." See, even a bar owner thinks you should stay home. "In my experience, you save money and can better connect with friends and family." If you do go out, skip the most expensive bottle on the list. The point of the night is to share good tidings with friends, not to flex your wallet dick.
SKIP THE STANDARD BUBBLY.
Drinking a regular old glass of Champagne on New Year's is boring. Do you drink nothing but Guinness on St. Patrick's Day? Do you drink bald-eagle blood on the Fourth of July? Take a page from Tom Tellier, beverage director of Restaurant dante and il Casale, and spritz up your prosecco with a little Aperol to add a more complex, citrusy, bitter note. Sterling Jackson of the Ritz-Carlton's Avery Bar suggests adding a sugar cube along with rhubarb bitters and Lillet Rouge to your Champagne.
Want a different kind of bubbly? The Beehive's Bertil Jean-Chronberg recommends a sparkling red. "It's a great alternative to Champagne because it still has the fizz and that 'special occasion' feel, but it also pairs well with all types of food." Or why not toast with a beer instead, says Max Toste of Lone Star Taco Bar. "Lambic beer is the Champagne of the beer world. Its tart and zippy flavor goes very well with hors d'oeuvres and fancy party snacks." Jason Kilgore of Catalyst suggests Brouwerij Bosteels DeuS, a beer that's made much like Champagne. "It goes through secondary fermentation, disgorgement, etc., in the same manner, but is still brewed initially," he says. "And the bottle design is clearly a rip-off of Dom, so your friends won't think you're cheap." Or you could always reach back in time for a celebratory drink, says TJ Douglas, owner of the Urban Grape. Mead, he explains, was used for centuries at celebratory feasts throughout Europe, "sort of like today's modern-day New Year's Eve parties."