The official start of winter is days away, but the brutally low temperatures aren't waiting for the solstice. That deep chill has set in, and fingers, toes and noses are feeling it. You can bundle up in mittens, coats, scarves or those weird half-face mask things to stave off the cold momentarily, but sometimes you have to melt that body freeze from the inside out. Sometimes a mug of hot chocolate at home just doesn't do the trick. Sometimes it takes something a bit stronger to thaw your core. Like the brandy barrel-laden St. Bernard, our local watering holes have come to the rescue.
The sushi at Tomo (708 Ninth St., Arcata) has its own allure, but the bar offers temptations, too. The Tomodachi is a wintertime go-to, though it can also be served cold for those balmy, summer months (which we apparently have now). Bartender Nathan Rushton confirmed that the mixture of Sho Chiku Bai sake and Takara Plum wine is a Tomo original. Translated from Japanese, tomodachi means "good friends." It's intended to be shared, but if you order the small, it's pretty easy to selfishly toss down by yourself. The plum wine adds just enough sweetness to cut through the potency of the sake without overindulging the sweet tooth. It settles nicely in the stomach, with or without the accompaniment of sushi rolls.
The Alibi (744 Ninth St., Arcata) has half a dozen drinks on the "Winter Warm-ups" menu, and they are all pretty tempting. Knowing the limitations of the human liver, it isn't possible to partake in the entire menu, so you have to make a careful choice. For me, the Peppermint Patty won out over the others based on the most important criterion: quantity of whipped cream. The simple yet heavenly concoction is a mug of hot chocolate spiked with peppermint schnapps and topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Like a liquor-laced Andes mint, the peppermint patty satisfies the taste buds and relieves the belly shivers.
So much of this time of year is for children — the brightly decorated trees, the reindeer knitted into itchy, woolen sweaters and the bearded guy in the red, velvet suit. But when all the halls have been decked and the children are nestled all snug in their beds, what delights are left for the grown-ups? Booze, of course. So settle in with a warm nightcap to defrost your insides, put a smile on your face and let some of that seasonal joy seep in.