Where will you be when the clock strikes midnight?
A. Clinking glasses and locking lips with loved ones—and maybe a new friend or two.
B. Roaming the streets in search of a party or bar that will take pity and let you in.
The quality of your New Year's Eve revelry is in your own hands, and all it takes is a little advance planning. Whether you want to ring in 2015 out in the bustling, bubbly (and often reservations-only) city, or throw a memorable bash at home, this guide will get you where you're meant to be when the ball drops.
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GO OUT FOR . . .
A fancy, fabulous prix fixe
In Chelsea, Del Posto offers a lavish Black and White Bash with passed assaggi (that's Batali-ese for appetizers), a live band, open bar and advertised "dancing and decadence" for $250 a guest or $2,250 for a merry band of 10. Lock in six courses, party favors, a Champagne toast, dancing and a perch at Jean Georges's Nougatine and the Terrace on the glittering edge of Central Park for $398 a person or blow your year-end bonus on a $625 white truffle tasting menu and $250 wine pairing aside your fellow swanksters at Daniel restaurant's gala affair.
Feasting made easy
Gather your loved ones (and ones you hope to love) around a massive hunk of protein before you kick off your January vegetable repenting. For $75 a person, a party of two to 14 gets a three-course fried chicken or short rib feast at Momofuku Má Pêche (kick in $56 for the optional beverage pairing) or spend $115 to $130 per carnivore for a six-course prix fixe with dry-aged rib eye, whole-roasted duck or bo ssäm at Momofuku Ssäm Bar (beverage pairings for $55 or $85).
Step into the Torrisi boys' Carbone zone for the night's second seating, which includes an amped-up five-course span of the restaurant's dishes (king crab alla scampi, lobster ravioli royale, tagliatelle al tartufi), plus a no-holds-barred dessert spread and a Champagne toast, all for $595. Or get down at Dirty French with a post-9:45-rez surf 'n' turf (choice of blackened lobster or sole meunière, escalope de poulet or steak au poivre), plus oysters, Surryano ham, a few truffled-up dishes, dessert and, yup, a Champagne toast for $275.
One last pig-out in 2014? Why not. Mobb Deep will host an NYE listening party at the LES outpost of Sweet Chick, where for $125 a person, guests can go H.A.M. on a roast swine, unlimited chicken and waffles and sides all night, and an open bar from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Or chart a course to Greenpoint's River Styx for a roasted goose with lentils ($70, serves four), cotechino with lentils ($24)—purported to bring good luck in the New Year—timpano, that massive, molded pasta dish immortalized in Big Night ($22 a person for up to eight people), and a special Champagne cocktail that can be lit on fire tableside ($12).
A variety pack of deliciousness
Big dish a bit too much commitment for NYE? For $75 (plus beverages), spend the evening snacking on Toro's tapas, including classic pintxos, seasonal plancha bar items, paellas and desserts. Cava toast at midnight? Check. And did we mention the ice luge and DJ? Fung Tu on the LES will dish up an adventurous six-course menu ($95, plus $55 for wine pairings during the second seating, which also includes party favors and the obligatory bubbles) including beausoleil oysters with ma-la vinegar, sweetbreads manchuri, pickled cauliflower and bird chiles, egg noodles with pickled red onion, Chinese sausage, chopped clam-black bean sauce, chile oil and Maine sea urchin and plenty more.
A spin of the wheel
Prix fixe too predictable? As Birds & Bubbles chef/owner Sarah Simmons says, "We just want people to come and have fun!" Grab a table for the LES restaurant's standard fried chicken, sides and extensive sparkling wine offerings, or nab an OMG-they-never-do-this reservation at Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey's Grocery, Fedora, Montmarte or Perla. There'll be an à la carte menu in addition to optional luxe upgrades, wine list additions, some "surprises" and, say it with us, a Champagne toast at midnight. Walk-ins are welcome at Bar Sardine as well. Okay, so it technically is a prix fixe, but for $55 Awadh offers diners the choice of any appetizer, entrée and dessert, along with rice and breads from Awadh's menu, which includes black pepper and pomegranate-marinated grilled chicken, masala-wrapped whole fish with turmeric ($5 supplement), saffron-infused bread pudding and plenty more, plus party favors on every table.
STAY IN AND . . .
Sip bubbles like a boss
The hottest club in NYC is . . . your living room. Or studio. Or futon. Whatever your real estate situation, attention to a few crucial details is what lofts a party from a hangout to a soiree. So class things up: Even bargain-basement bubbles taste better when they're sipped from a flute. A glass one—not those pull-apart plastic jobs. (Technically not the "right" glass per some experts, but we find them festive and essential.) It might seem like a splurge, but until December 23, they're only $1.92 for a six-pack at IKEA for members of the furniture giant's free loyalty program, and $4.79 after that. Can't make the schlep to Red Hook? Bed Bath & Beyond's 12-pack of Champagne stemware will set you back $10, and just about every department store in town is offering deep post-Christmas discounts on fine stemware for the rest of the year. A minor indulgence? Maybe, but your OJ, soy milk and seltzer will get a little bit of borrowed sparkle the whole year through.
No room to store 'em? Make each guest ferry one home—and they'll have no doubt whose is whose, because you thoughtfully provided stickers, ribbons, wire and beads to fashion impromptu tags for when the evening gets a little blurry.
Eat like kings
Speaking of–even NYE revelers can't live on Champagne alone (though we try, oh, we try). We've put together a menu of distinctive nibbles (Roasted Almonds with Crispy Herbs, Spiced Lamb Meatballs, Caramelized Onion Dip and a Spiced Olive Mix) that will keep your guests festive, fed and free to mingle (not to mention standing upright). Scribble up pretty table tents to let your guests know what they're enjoying (and prevent any allergic incidents) or letter it prettily in lipstick on your window glass, mirror or other easily wipeable surface.
Punch up your evening
If you'd like a chance to indulge yourself (it's near impossible to eat at your own party!), consider pre-batching a festive punch alongside the bubbles and letting guests self-serve, or pour one of Drinks Editor Jim Meehan's simple sparklers: a White Mimosa, SpritzZ Cocktail or Rosé-Tinted Glass.
Have a (more) pleasant New Year's Day
Want to go down as 2014's best host ever? Send each guest home with a recovery kit of a bagel and schmear (or your favorite carb), a bottle of water or sports drink, and a packet of your favorite pain reliever. Shop ahead and consider it a little extra karma for the New Year.