Dive bars to drown your yuletide sorrows

Escape the holiday madness at these watering holes.

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  • Photograph: Hannah Mattix

    Coal Yard

    Coal Yard

  • Photograph: Courtesy of Duff's

    Duff's

    Duff's

  • Photograph: Nitzan Krimsky

    Montero's Bar & Grill

    Montero's Bar & Grill

  • Photograph: Nitzan Krimsky

    The Minor Arcana

    The Minor Arcana

  • Photograph: Hannah Mattix

    Toad Hall

    Toad Hall

  • Photograph: Lindsay M Taylor

    Veronica's Bar

Photograph: Hannah Mattix

Coal Yard

Coal Yard

Coal Yard
This dimly lit hole-in-the-wall feels like it's been around for ages even though it's only been open a year. Select pints are just $2 before 8pm, but the quickest shortcut to ditching your winter blues is the $5 special: shot of Evan Williams and a can of Rolling Rock. 102 First Ave between E 6th and E 7th Sts (212-677-4595, coalyardbar.com)

Duff's
If your ideal holiday is more Nightmare Before Christmas than It's a Wonderful Life, then this heavy metal bar won't disappoint: In addition to skulls, horror-flick posters and a coffin used as a bench, you'll find a 1988 Cadillac hearse parked outside. Judas Priest on the jukebox and a steady stream of live music promise to purge your ears of any residual carols if $2 "Jesus Juice" shots don't do the trick first. 168 Marcy Ave between South 5th St and Broadway, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-2092, duffsbrooklyn.com)

Montero's Bar & Grill
Once a haunt for sailors and longshoremen, this weathered watering hole still smacks of salty charm, with 64 years' worth of nautical bric-a-brac covering the walls. No one will bat an eye if you feel like nursing a solo drink (a $3 PBR, perhaps), or you can chat up the regulars if you want to hear sagas about the Brooklyn of old. 73 Atlantic Ave between Hicks and Furman Sts, Brooklyn Heights (646-729-4129)

The Minor Arcana
Trade greeting cards for tarot cards at this divination-themed drinkery named for the 56 "lesser secrets" of the deck. The suits won't predict whether you'll survive your nosy aunt's annual interrogation, but they will serve as drink tickets for sampling the 12 beers on tap during 2-for-1 happy hour. 706 Washington Ave between St Marks Ave and Prospect Pl, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-399-7722)

Toad Hall
Named for The Wind in the Willows' fictional estate, this low-key tavern is a beacon of no-nonsense boozing in a neighborhood prone to an excess of holiday cheer. While there's no happy hour—"it keeps out the riffraff," as one bartender put it—there's a sizeable tap list that includes Palm and Captain Lawrence Pale Ale ($6--$7 a pint), plus free trail mix and a much-loved pool table in back. 57 Grand St between W Broadway and Wooster St (212-431-8145)

Veronica's Bar
This old-school locale has catered to blue-collar union workers since the 1940s. Rub elbows with the neighborly and largely Irish-accented clientele (and affable Veronica herself), while knocking back $3 drafts. 34-04 36th Ave between 34th and 35th Sts, Long Island City, Queens (718-729-9744)

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