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.
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.
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?
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!
The explosion of festive Christmas pop-up bars continues this season with the always popular Miracle concept now topping 100 locations across the United States, Canada and six other countries. Meanwhile, 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.
Miracle and Sippin’ Santa locations are opening in late November and running through New Year’s Eve. Individual locations may have different start and end dates, as well as daily and weekly hours. Check with the bars in your area for details.
The Miracle concept is the brainchild of Greg Boehm of Cocktail Kingdom (at the suggestion of his mother) and dates back to the “Miracle on Ninth Street” pop-up at his Mace bar in New York City in 2014. Miracle expanded to four bars in 2015, then went worldwide in 2016 under the leadership of general manager Joann Spiegel. Last year there were more than 80, a surge from around 50 the year before.
Berry is a longtime collaborator with Boehm, who published the author’s last two books as well as a nifty line of Tiki barware. Named one of Imbibe magazine’s 25 most influential cocktail personalities of the past century, Berry joined forces with his Latitude 29 general manager and head bartender Brad Smith to create a menu of holiday-themed Tiki cocktails that will be the star of the show all Sippin’ Santa locations.
Many of our favorites are back on this year’s Miracle menu: Bad Santa, Christmas Carol Barrel, Christmopolitan, and Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! Be aware that most of the cocktails have seen updates, large and small, by Miracle mixologist Nico de Soto. The Barrel is now a tequila drink featuring Mexican spices and liqueurs including coffee, orange and cognac. One new cocktail has been added: SanTaRex featuring rye whiskey and served in a nifty Tyrannosaurus Rex mug. There’s also a new shot, Mistletoe, featuring rye and gingerbread spices.
But we’re even more excited to get our first taste of the nine exclusive Sippin’ Santa cocktails, created by Berry and Smith. Who doesn’t want to try these soon-to-be Tiki holiday classics?
Christmas Eve of Destruction (overproof dark rum, lime juice, nutmeg syrup, Bénédictine, Angostura bitters) Don & Victor (Martinique & Jamaican rums, Italian bitter aperitif, sweet vermouth, D&V Batter, nutmeg) Festivus Flip (bourbon, Demerara rum, ginger-infused amaro, pomegranate, egg) Jingle Bowl (Jamaican & Demerara rums, apple brandy, amaro, lemon juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, maple & cinnamon syrups, Angostura bitters) Kris Kringle Colada (dark Jamaican rum, amaro, allspice dram, lime juice, pineapple juice, cream of coconut) Papa Noel (blanco tequila, apricot brandy, lime juice, pineapple juice, orgeat, cardamom bitters) Rudolph Shoots the Curl (herbal mint liqueur, amaro, dark chocolate liqueur) Shaka Kalikimaka (London dry gin, allspice dram, orange & cognac liqueur, lime juice, falernum, cranberry syrup, Herbsaint) Sippin’ Santa (aged Demerara rum, amaro, lemon juice, orange juice, gingerbread mix) * Download sample menu (PDF)
Florida was lucky enough to have nine Miracle bars, the most of any state, for the pop-up’s 39-day run from Black Friday through New Year’s Eve. I’m fortunate enough to work near the site of the dedicated West Palm Beach location and live not far from Death Or Glory, the Delray Beach craft cocktail haven that spearheaded Miracle’s entrée into South Florida.
I got a brief taste of the inventive concept in 2017, the first year of Miracle on Delray Beach. But it was enough to get me as excited as a kid waiting up for Santa when it was announced that the award-winning bar would launch a second location, Miracle on Rosemary, in a vacant space in downtown West Palm’s bustling CityPlace shopping and dining district.
In the weeks that followed, I made regular stops at both locations to unwind from the hectic holiday hubbub. But more importantly, I was on a mission to sample everything on the cocktail menu along with some of Steel’s decadent dishes. The results are detailed below. As with all of my cocktail adventures, I couldn’t resist the urge to rate the drinks on my own 1-5 scale. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I also took plenty of photos that I’ll also share here.
But first, a tip of the Santa hat to Cocktail Kingdom owner and visionary Greg Boehm, who in 2014 created the original “Miracle on 9th Street” pop-up at the suggestion of his mother in the space that later became his bar Mace in New York City. (Hear Greg talk about this and many other geeky cocktail topics on the Bartender At Large podcast released Dec. 2.)
Perhaps it was simply a holiday miracle, but it appears in hindsight that Boehm omnipotently foresaw the coming confluence of craft cocktails and Christmas. The average American consumes double the amount of alcoholic drinks over the holidays than any other time of year, according to research. Now, some of us have many more craft options than the standard eggnog and coquito.
At Miracle, with the Christmas spirit flowing freely, cocktail newbies are more likely to dip in their toes, or just dive in headfirst. “We kind of trick them into drinking cocktails,” Boehm has been quoted as saying.
Or course, this interest has been building for years on both fronts. But while major metro areas have long become accustomed to having outstanding craft bars in every neighborhood, great swaths of the U.S. (and many countries overseas) are still in the cocktail dark ages. Enter Miracle, which has blown up as a contagious concept, adding some 30 locations last year alone. There’s no reason to believe it won’t top 100 in 2019.
Who says the Christmas spirit is a thing of the past? In the cocktail world, it’s been growing exponentially since the unwrapping of the “Miracle” pop-up bar concept in 2014 in New York City.
Palm Beach County will double its pleasure this year when Delray Beach’s Death Or Glory not only brings back the popular six-week holiday food-and-drink festivities, but also expands to a new location in downtown West Palm Beach. “Miracle on Delray Beach” and “Miracle on Rosemary” both launch Friday, Nov. 23, the latter popping up in the former Burger & Beer Joint space that has been closed since spring 2017.
Miracle on Delray Beach at Death Or Glory: 116 N.E. Sixth Ave. in Delray Beach. Go to DeathOrGloryBar.com or call (561) 808-8814. Also on Instagram and Facebook. Open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Street, lot and valet parking available. Miracle on Rosemary at CityPlace: 550 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 158, West Palm Beach. Go to CityPlace.com or call (561) 808-8814. Also on Instagram and Facebook. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Street, lot and valet parking available. Note: A shorter version of this story ran in The Palm Beach Post.
The CityPlace location is on the east side of Rosemary Avenue, just south of Hibiscus Street. It’s conveniently right next to the valet parking stop for the entire shopping and entertainment complex.
Many bars and restaurants have come and gone in CityPlace, but it’s unlikely the venue’s shoppers and moviegoers have seen anything quite like Miracle. Featuring more than a dozen whimsically themed craft cocktails and gastropub food items, the 4,200-square-foot bar is festooned with kitschy Christmas decor from floor to ceiling.
The venue seats more than 150, with large bars both inside and outside plus comfy booths throughout. Holiday music will play on a nonstop loop, featuring everything from classic Christmas crooners to the Ramones. And you may even run into “Bad Santa” serving his own special drink.
The menu definitely leans toward the naughty side, with potent drinks for all tastes including And A Partridge In A Pear Tree (tequila), Koala-La La La, La La La La (gin), Jingle Balls Nog (cognac), Snowball Old Fashioned (rye), Christmas Carol Barrel (rum), Christmopolitan (vodka), and Gingerbread Old Fashioned (bourbon). All are served in distinctive mugs and glassware that you can take home with you.
Non-adventurous guests will still be able to order many standard cocktails at the CityPlace pop-up. The spirits list will be limited, beverage director David Bouchard said, but “what we will have for each spirit category will be quality and with a purpose and a reason.”
While most of the drinks are standard across all the Miracle bars, the food menu was created by executive chef Jessie Steel, the general manager at Death Or Glory. Expect the same decadent bar food he’s known for in Delray Beach, pleasing all tastes from carnivores to vegans. “Our food menu is a reflection of what we do at Death Or Glory,” Bouchard said. “We’ve just gotten whimsical and playful with the names of the dishes to match the Miracle concept. There’s something for everyone.”
Among the dozen items are a Chinese Turkey entree of Peking duck breast and Feast of the Zero Fishes featuring vegan jackfruit “crab” cakes. “They’re all named after scenes from Christmas movies or songs,” Steel said. The menus at both locations will be mostly the same, Steel said, with the CityPlace selections tailored slightly to the specific equipment in the Rosemary kitchen. Getting the kitchen up and running has delayed the debut of the food menu until Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Miracle on Rosemary will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and will feature an all-day menu of small plates, appetizers and entrees. Steel also brought along some of his signature items from Death Or Glory, including the crispy chickpeas and fried brussels sprouts.
For the brunch crowd, there will be special Bloody Marys featuring Ketel One Botanical Vodka. Bouchard said he’s also planning a lineup of Moscow Mules featuring the low-ABV infused peach, grapefruit, and cucumber mint vodkas. “It’s almost like a gin, but it doesn’t have the juniper in it,” he said. Classic Moscow Mule mugs will also likely be employed. Other spirit brands will be featured with promotions and unique cocktails, he said.