Smell of Steve, Inc

Why is December an especially good month for drinking? Because it dissuades you from trying to kill yourself or your annoying relatives. Make this bleak month go by like Vixen with his tail on fire by dragging Uncle Merv out to these spirit-filled holiday retreats. He'll be more interesting in no time.

IV, 15 SW 2nd, 790-9090; Shanghai Tunnel, 211 SW Ankeny, 220-4001

Okay, so you know about swanky IV--but you probably don't know it's the best place in town to enjoy the Mercury's favorite 110-proof, celebratory liqueur, green chartreuse. It's a slim five bucks for this clean, sweet, liquorice-tasting shot--distilled from 130 plants and made from a recipe known to only three monks who oversee production at the world's largest liqueur distillery in the French Alps. The drink makes you feel warm and high, rather than slobbery and drunk, and once you're toasted, you can stumble over to the Shanghai Tunnel for a wine glass of the splendidly tart Belgium beer, Framboise Lambic. They're the only place I know of in town that has it on tap Ah, what a highbrow evening of debauchery.

Huber's, 411 SW 3rd, 228-5686

Famous for their Spanish coffee, Huber's is a great place to take out-of-town guests--you know, when you're pretending you don't spend all your time in the same rock club throwing cigarettes on the floor. The old-boy, woodsy atmosphere is intimate and not overly yupster, plus the century-long chronology of the bar plastered up on the wall will give grandparents a giant historical boner.

McCormick and Schmick's Harborside Restaurant and Pilsner Room, 309 SW Montgomery, 220-1865

Another helpful guest haven, McCormick and Schmick's, has the best warm drink retreat in Portland. With 11 choices on their hot-sauce menu, you can enjoy a Hot Apple Pie, Peppermint Patty, Hot Buttered Rum, Blueberry Tea, or a plain old Hot Toddy--all while enjoying the scenery of the freezing cold Willamette. Also, if you're too darn lazy to whip up a batch of Eggnog, but don't want to miss out on its creamy, liquory taste, the Pilsner Room has graciously done it for you. (And, if nothing else, a trip for Eggnog is a great excuse to get out of the apartment and stop watching Monday night UPN.) Plus, eat cheap with dinner-size apps from 4-6 pm, and 10 pm to close, and take this rare opportunity to pay the bill.