Santa doesn't like gin. "When Santa drinks gin," the man himself said one night last week, "he tastes it for three days." A little after 11:00 p.m., Santa appeared to be very jolly; according to the barman at Liberty on Capitol Hill, he'd killed the keg of Liberty Ale and moved on to pints of Stella. ("I don't know what the reindeer are drinking," the barman said.) The flask lodged between Santa's substantial belly and for-decorative-purposes-only belt was empty. "I drank it already," he said. About the belly: "That's real," he said with pride. "That's a lot of beer." Santa was unconcerned that his suit made him look fat.

Santa put the crowd drinking at Liberty at a 50-50 naughty-to-nice ratio. He was given to promising women brand-new canary-yellow cars. Santa likes the ladies, it was clear, and he's seeking to address the wage gap as best he can. Santa asserted that yellow cars don't get stopped for speeding as much as red. He used to have a motorcycle, he said wistfully; now, off-season, he sometimes tours in a motor home. His favorite color is blue, a preference he declined to elaborate on.

A very sweet elf in a red velvet minidress, fur-trimmed boots, and red-and-white thigh-high stockings took commemorative photos of supplicants with the man of the hour, who was firmly ensconced on Liberty's banquette, getting up only to visit the restroom. One woman posed with Santa and her martini. Regarding her photograph afterward, she said, "I look kind of guilty." What did she ask for? "To please make him fall into the ocean and float far, far away." Who? "Santa knows."

Santa and the owner of Liberty (which also serves sushi) discussed fishing; Santa is an avid fisherman and will be getting back to it in Cancun in January. (In an aside, the owner of Liberty reported that both of Santa's hands were visible in the majority of the evening's photographs, "so that's good.")

The elf proved to be Santa's very own daughter, an enterprising local photographer by the name of Laura Totten, who would also take Father Xmas to the Tasting Room and BalMar over the next few nights. Photos cost $10. Mrs. Claus was present, too, wearing silky dark red and a jingle-bell bracelet. She interrupted an extended conversation with Santa.

"Are you getting in trouble?" she said.

"I'm not telling lies!" he said.

"You're going back to the North Pole in about five minutes," she said.

Someone told Santa that they hadn't seen him in a long time, that they'd missed him. "I've always been here, and I'll always be here, forever and ever and ever," he said. "You just have to believe in your heart." recommended

Santa Claus, North Pole, Earth