On December 31, 2010, my friends and I toasted to the man who first put pickled onions in a glass of gin. [The line was stolen from Roger Sterling .] It was appropriate: 2010 was the year I discovered the existence of cocktails that are savory rather than sweet.
In 2009, I celebrated the new year with one great friend over a long dinner. We sipped cucumber cocktails and shared a bottle of wine, and we ate four courses of vegan food. It was simple, tasty, and spent in the perfect company.
From that day, I decided my future New Year’s Eves would involve dinner reservations and little else. I am not a curve-flaunting, sequined-dress, 5-inch-heel, pay-$200-for-an-open-bar kind of girl. Nor, however, am I the type to watch the ball drop from the couch in my pajamas. When a new year opens, I need to know I am out in the world and living. Restaurants are my happy medium.
This year, I had three companions. Our common threads: the mutual age of 25 and our attendance of NYU, whether in the past or in the present. We all showed up at our East Village dining destination in various incarnations of black; between the clothes and the location, we were token clichés of our alma mater.
Our 9:30 PM reservations brought us to The Redhead , a small, Louisiana-style neighborhood restaurant on 13th Street. According to a waiter, people come to The Redhead because “they want to eat bacon.”
To each her own: I come to The Redhead because they put pickled onions in gin and grind black pepper on top. [Other perks: buttery rolls, a farmers market-driven menu, and a free cookie with your check.]
That night, I wore nude heels in the melting snow. We were served dinner after 10 PM, and we concentrated more on our glasses than on our plates. Seated in the middle of the restaurant’s dark and tiny dining space, it occurred to me that I no longer understand the concept of rules. As usual, it was an evening of owning whatever it was that felt right.
Midnight came. We were standing. Martini glasses were lifted. We donned New Year’s tiaras with feathers and strands of silver beads; we blew into noisemakers and popped confetti. It was silly. We didn’t care.
Hours later, exiting onto First Avenue, I became aware of the slush for what seemed the first time. Cabs wizzed by; they were all full of passengers. There I was with my future roommate, standing in inappropriate footwear in the middle of a three lane road, staring at a line of cars. I spotted a dozen others doing the same, and for a twenty-minute eternity, I think we all wondered if we would ever make it home.
That’s why my friend and I handed an off-duty cab driver $25 to carry us 40 blocks. There are no rules. Especially on New Year’s Eve.
It seemed more essential for my friend to get immediately home, so I asked our illegal driver to drop us off in front of her apartment door. I walked the five blocks south to my own building. The streets, even in my deserted neighborhood, were buzzing: the click of female heels, the chatter induced by alcohol, the swish of the melting slush.
At 3AM, I turned my key into my apartment door. 2011 was off to a grand start.