Toasting up to, with glasses of holiday cheer

The rumor of drinking alcohol more heavily during the colder months has certainly been heard – and slurred.

But do people really follow Mercury’s lead and get down with the winter?

Liquor, notably vodka, has purportedly served Russians in staving off bitter winters ever since ice was cold.

Such drinking habits have crossed the ocean to Philadelphia.

“[Drinking] has definitely seemed to pick up recently,” said Melissa Gordon, a senior elementary student and bartender at Maxi’s on Liacouras Walk.

Gordon claimed bar goers don’t order any different drinks during the colder weather – just more of the same. But Maxi’s does carry a Samuel Adams seasonal brew: the Winter Lager.

“I don’t know if it’s because it’s colder, but a lot of people say [Winter Lager] is their favorite seasonal beer,” Gordon said.

Maxi’s is not alone in this. Many bars, pubs and restaurants in the area report an increase in alcohol sales during the colder half of the year. It could be that people mistakenly think that alcohol makes you warmer, or it could be a lack of better things to do besides drinking.

It seems to be a combination of the two, according to other local bartenders.

“When it gets colder, people order harder alcohols,” said Philadelphia resident Jonathan Fiero, a former employee of Barclay Prime in Center City who now works at Spano’s. “Whiskey, [Southern Comfort], bourbon, things like that. People used to comment on how it warmed them up, but I never knew if that was true,” he said.

Although alcohol might seem warming at first, the expediting of one’s blood flow is sure to eventually elicit shivers, if not hypothermia. During wintertime, Fiero said summer winos warm up to liquor.

“I never really noticed an increase in [consumption] though. Just different drinks,” he said.

An array of seasonal drinks are available and are ordered around the area. In addition to the Sam Adams draft, many national and local breweries offer winter seasonal beers. Victory Brewing Company offers only four spring and summer beers, but eight fall and winter beers.

Like most other winter beers, its brew line is darker, thicker and more hopping. Those who drink nothing unless it comes with an umbrella, don’t fret – there’s plenty of winter cheer to go around.

The frigid winter doesn’t stop Scott Lodwick from mixing drinks. The South Philadelphia bartender said his repertoire of holiday drinks was not a gift, but a lesson.

“I had to learn how to prepare all of that stuff [to be a bartender],” Lodwick said. “There are, like, four versions of a drink called the Candy Cane, and I don’t think I’ve ever served one.”

But what about the classics?

“My personal favorite is the White Christmas. It’s mostly eggnog and [Southern Comfort]. It goes down easily and it’s a nice twist on eggnog,” Lodwick said. “I mean, who doesn’t drink eggnog around Christmas?”

Apparently more people than those who are lactose intolerant. Eggnog was once a common fixture in the drinker’s fridge, but has been ousted by seasonal beers and liquors.

“My father says nobody orders eggnog anymore,” said Marc Massetti, a junior economics major whose father owns a restaurant in Clarks Summit, Pa. “Mostly they just order heavier beers.”

Mike Gleeson can be reached at

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