Sippin’ Santa comes to town: Exclusive Beachbum Berry interview, plus festive cocktail recipes

A famous jolly old man with a white beard is gearing up for his annual appearance to spread good tidings and cheer this week. However, there’s another distinguished gentleman with a white beard and colorful garb who has already created enough spirited revelry to last well into 2020.

He sees you when you're drinking. The patron saint of Tiki cocktails, aka Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, is the spirit behind the dozens of Sippin' Santa pop-up bars across the country.

He sees you when you’re drinking. The patron saint of Tiki cocktails, aka Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, is the spirit behind the dozens of Sippin’ Santa pop-up bars across the country.

Of course, we’re taking about Tiki historian, author and bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and his festive Sippin’ Santa surf shacks, an offshoot of the popular Miracle holiday pop-ups. Our previous story explored the story behind both concepts, including info on the 28 Sippin’ Santa locations in the United States and Canada. Miracle has exploded like Christmas tinsel to 108 locations worldwide.

Launching the week of Thanksgiving, both of these over-the-top, kitschy concepts have become a seasonal ritual and show no signs of slowing. The bars are fully immersive and can be enjoyed on many levels, from the snobbiest cocktail enthusiast to newbies just looking for seasonal fun, food and frivolity.

Bonus recipes below
* Tribute to Christmas Eve of Destruction (Sippin’ Santa)
* Nutty Old Fashioned (Atomic Grog original)

The signature Sippin' Santa cocktail, as served at Flight 19 in Fort Lauderdale in November. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The signature Sippin’ Santa cocktail, as served at Flight 19 in Fort Lauderdale in November. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The drinks are definitely not frivolous. Miracle and Sippin’ Santa are owned and run by the successful Cocktail Kingdom, which also produces Berry’s top-of-the-line barware and published his two latest books, Sippin’ Safari and Potions of the Caribbean.

We caught up with “The Bum” during a break from his busy schedule making personal appearances and overseeing the Sippin’ Santa empire. His flagship bar, Latitude 29 in New Orleans, is in good hands under the leadership of “Mrs. Bum,” Annene Kaye, along with head bartender and GM Brad Smith, who did most of the heavy lifting in creating the latest Sippin’ Santa menu.

5 QUESTIONS WITH JEFF ‘BEACHBUM’ BERRY

There seems to be an insatiable demand for holiday-themed bars nowadays. Why do you think this has become a trend?

The Shaka Kalikimaka cocktail and Beachbum Berry Bora Bora Bum mug, which is available for purchase at Sippin' Santa locations. (SippinSantaPopUp.com)

The Shaka Kalikimaka cocktail and Beachbum Berry Bora Bora Bum mug, which is available for purchase at Sippin’ Santa locations. (SippinSantaPopUp.com)

Tiki bars give you a tropical mini-vacation, and when you pile Christmas vacation on top of your tropical vacation you get two holidays in one: twice the atmosphere, twice the flavors, and hence twice the fun.

How do you think Sippin’ Santa differs from Miracle?

Miracle is strictly a Christmas pop-up, while Sippin’ is just as Christmasy but with an added Tiki overlay.

How much input do you have on the drinks, and how much is Brad?

It varies year to year. Last year the drinks were some mine and some Brad’s, but this year the recipes are all Brad’s. I did some tasting and some tweaking, but in most cases Brad’s “first draft” was the one we went with. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

What cocktails would you suggest to hardcore Tikiphiles or Beachbum Berry fans?

A bird's eye view of the 2019 Sippin' Santa cocktails. (SippinSantaPopUp.com)

A bird’s eye view of the 2019 Sippin’ Santa cocktails. (SippinSantaPopUp.com)

I’d steer them to Brad’s Christmas Eve of Destruction, which has all the DNA strands of a golden age Don The Beachcomber-style Tiki punch, with Plantation O.F.T.D. rum cut by nutmeg syrup, lime, and Bénédictine. It’s always my first drink when I visit a Sippin’ location. The other would be the Jingle Bowl, a really rich, full, tasty communal Tiki drink served in a bespoke Santa’s Tiki Tub bowl.

Is there any new glassware this year? What are your favorites?

My absolute favorite new vessel is the communal bowl, Santa’s Tiki Tub. It’s got Santa and Rudolph soaking in a ceramic hot tub, and as you sip the communal drink filling the tub, you reveal more details of the tub as the liquid level goes down. I won’t spoil those for you, just drink a bowl and see for yourself!

PREVIOUS STORY
Another holiday Miracle: Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Santa locations double, expand to Florida
Another holiday Miracle: Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Santa locations double, expand to Florida Tiki enthusiasts have even more holiday cheer in store for them as Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Santa, a sister concept to Miracle helmed by the esteemed tropical cocktail guru, has quickly doubled its nationwide reach.
FULL PREVIEW: Sippin’ Santa menu and locations, Miracle updates

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While we’re still working our way through the menu at our local pop-up, Sippin’ Santa on Las Olas at Flight 19 in Fort Lauderdale, one cocktail has already distinguished itself as a standout. Christmas Eve of Destruction is a Beachbum Berry fave (see above) and also tickled our fancy as a great, traditional style Tiki cocktail. We took a shot at creating a tribute based on the ingredient list (overproof dark rum, lime juice, nutmeg syrup, Bénédictine, Angostura bitters) and our experience tasting the drink. It will definitely join the pantheon of holiday classics.

A tribute to the Sippin' Santa classic, Christmas Eve of Destruction, by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2019)

A tribute to the Sippin’ Santa classic, Christmas Eve of Destruction, by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2019)

Tribute recipe:
Christmas Eve of Destruction

(Original by Brad Smith of Latitude 29 for Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Santa. Tribute by The Atomic Grog.)

* 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1 1/2 ounces nutmeg syrup (see below)
* 1 1/2 ounces overproof dark rum (Plantation O.F.T.D. preferred)
* 1/4 ounce Bénédictine
* 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for 4-6 seconds in a spindle blender. Pour into a Zombie or tall, festive Tiki cocktail glass. Add more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with grated nutmeg and a lime wheel studded with cloves.

All the elements work in perfect harmony, like a great Don the Beachcomber cocktail. Feel free to adjust some of the proportions to taste. For example, 2 ounces of rum and/or 1 ounce of syrup will result in a boozier drink.

Christmas Eve of Destruction at Sippin' Santa on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, November 2019. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Christmas Eve of Destruction at Sippin’ Santa on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, November 2019. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Mixing and ingredient notes

* Lacking the traditional tropical cocktail tool, the spindle blender (a top-down mixer like those used for milkshakes), feel free to use a standard blender. Just be careful not to over-blend. A few pulses may be enough. Or, if you prefer, shake it up in your shaker of choice with not-too-fine crushed ice.

* O.F.T.D., the 138-proof rum that Beachbum Berry and other Tiki and rum luminaries helped develop, is the backbone of this cocktail. It’s a potent blend of rums from Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados. If you’re one of the unfortunate ones without O.F.T.D. in your market, it wouldn’t hurt to ask Santa next year. In the meantime, try mixing 2 parts of 151 Demerara Rum (such as Hamilton or Lemon Hart) with 1 part of dark Jamaican rum and 1 part of aged Barbados rum.

* Bénédictine is an herbal liqueur produced in France featuring a wide array of berries, herbs, roots and spices. It’s widely available and crucial to the flavor profile so definitely seek it out. You’ll find it to be an interesting addition to other Tiki cocktails. Try this one.

Nutmeg syrup
You may find other recipes online, but we improvised this and it seemed to work well. So well that we’re featuring it in a second recipe below.
* Make a simple syrup with 1 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of purified water.
* Bring to a slow boil while grating one whole nutmeg into the pot.
* Lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, then cover and let steep for several hours.
* Double strain through cheesecloth into a bottle and refrigerate. It should last for several weeks, but our initial effort was so delicious it was gone much more quickly.

I was so enamored with the nutmeg syrup that I created what seems to have become another holiday cocktail tradition, a riff on an Old Fashioned. In this case, it’s a simple rum Old Fashioned with a few nutty twists.

The Atomic Grog's Nutty Old Fashioned is a festive holiday drink featuring rum, nutmeg syrup and walnut bitters. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2019)

The Atomic Grog’s Nutty Old Fashioned is a festive holiday drink featuring rum, nutmeg syrup and walnut bitters. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2019)

Bonus recipe: Nutty Old Fashioned
(By Hurricane Hayward, The Atomic Grog)

* 2 ounces aged Barbados rum (such as Doorly’s 12)
* 1/2 ounce nutmeg syrup (see above)
* 1 dash of walnut bitters
* Orange wheel or peel

Muddle all ingredients, then shake heartily with ice. Strain into an old fashioned glass over specialty ice, such as a sphere or large cube if possible. Garnish with an orange peel and top with grated nutmeg (optional).

While hardly traditional, this contains the classic elements of an Old Fashioned with many festive flourishes. I like using a Bajan rum, which tend to be lighter and more enjoyable in a rum-forward drink such as this. There are so many great ones, from Mount Gay and Cockspur to the very affordable Doorly’s range from Foursquare. I used the 12-year-old, but I will probably also enjoy this with the R.L. Seale’s 10-year or even one of the premium Foursquare vintage releases.

While I prefer a meaty wheel in order to infuse lots of orange flavor into my drink, you may prefer a lighter touch and use a slight peel or even just the zest as a finishing touch. As for the bitters, walnut is not essential but it really rounds out this cocktail with the perfect counterpoint to the rum and syrup. There are now several different ones on the market, including my favorite from Boy Drinks World.

Okole maluna and mele kalikimaka!

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Official sites and social media
Sippin’ Santa: Official site | Instagram | Facebook
Miracle: Official site | Instagram | Facebook
Beachbum Berry: Official site | Facebook
Cocktail Kingdom: Official site | Instagram | Facebook

The Atomic Grog on Beachbum Berry
* Beachbum Berry cocktail recipes | Take 5 Q&A
* New Beachbum Berry glassware, ‘Sippin’ Safari’ 10-year anniversary edition
* New Beachbum Berry barware from Cocktail Kingdom
* Returning to The Hukilau, Jeff Berry proves he’s never too busy to be a ‘Beachbum’
* Navy Grog ice cone: Lost art is revived by cocktail enthusiasts and a handy gadget
* ‘Potions of the Caribbean’ cruises back to the birthplace of Tiki cocktails
* Beachbum Berry digs deep to unearth vintage Zombies
* Rum Rat Pack starts a revolution at Hukilau 2011
* All posts featuring the Bum

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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