Over the Top Christmas Pop-Up Bar
Credit: Melissa Hom

“It was just a hobby that got out of control,” says Greg Boehm, one of the founders of Miracle on 9th Street, the global holiday bar pop-up that’s perhaps best likened to an upscale cocktail den situated in the middle of a holiday party explosion. Now in its fourth year, the idea was born when Boehm, in the midst of opening his New York City cocktail bar Mace, got a call one day from his mother.

“My mom called me in November and said, ‘Don’t do construction in December. Do a Christmas bar for the month,’” he said. Boehm and his partners took her advice, and the first Miracle on 9th Street was an overwhelming success. The next year, a friend of Boehm’s in D.C. wanted in; in 2016, 17 bars around the world opened their own versions of the Miracle pop-up. And this year, more than 50 are joining in the fun. Thanks, Mom.

Boehm — who’s also busy running his two bars, Mace and Boilermaker, and his barware supply company, Cocktail Kingdom — works with manager Joann Spiegel and the rest of his team at Miracle to essentially franchise out the concept to participating bars. Each spot receives a playlist, barware, some décor, and a menu of drinks created by bartender Nico de Soto that they can customize as needed, such as the You’ll Shoot Your Rye Out, a mix of pumpkin spiced rye whiskey, Budweiser-marshmallow syrup, and egg, and the Snowball Old Fashioned, an Old Fashioned made with gingerbread bourbon and served, as the name suggests, over a snowball — Boehm’s personal favorite this year. “It’s the one I’ve found myself ordering at every location,” he said.

This year, those locations span cities as diverse as Pittsburgh, Rio de Janeiro, Seattle, Hong Kong, and Athens. There’s even a tiki-themed sister bar, Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack, which has set up shop in Chicago (at Lost Lake, in Logan Square); in New Orleans (at tiki king Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s Latitude 29); and in New York City (at Boilermaker, Boehm’s bar).

You’ll find the same basic menu at most of the bars, but each establishment is free to adapt the concept as they see fit. The result is that each individual Miracle pop-up retains something of the flavor of its community. “In Montreal, one’s fancier, one’s kitschier. It’s fun to see how the one in Charleston embraces Christmas versus how the one in Delray Beach, Florida did it versus the one in Pittsburgh. They’re part of our group but you still definitely get the hometown flavor: Pittsburgh is a little grittier; others are a little more polished; in Delray you still feel a bit of the local Florida vibe.”

Partners are carefully chosen by the Miracle team via an informal interview process. “You sort of know quickly who gets it and who embraces the idea. It doesn’t really work to do anything halfway,” Boehm said.

The idea has done exceedingly well in every city, with some locations quite literally overrun with people eager for a piece of Christmas kitsch — Detroit’s Miracle iteration, The Skip, had two-hour wait times on its opening day. When asked why he thinks the concept has been embraced with such fervor, Boehm pauses. "I’ve thought about it a lot; I think it’s because the way we work with our partners is to create something that’s all-encompassing. The glassware complements the drinks; the playlist is just the right balance of nostalgia with a little bit of modern mixed in. And the drinks are really good."

“It may sound corny, but it’s actually completely true: when I walk into [these] places, people are smiling in a way that you don’t always see in cocktail bars. I went to two locations recently, both in Montreal, and everybody seemed to be happy, truly happy. That’s just contagious,” he added.

Below, a peek inside some of our favorite Miracle locations to check out on your travels this month, plus a full list of where to find one wherever the holidays take you.

And the full list of participating bars for 2017:

  1. Asheville, NC – Miracle on Wall Street (at MG Road)
  2. Athens, Greece – Hosted at The Trap
  3. Atlanta, GA – Miracle on Monroe (by Big Citizen)
  4. Atlanta, GA – Miracle Two (by Big Citizen)
  5. Austin, TX – Miracle on 5th Street at The Eleanor (by The Roosevelt Room)
  6. Baltimore, MD – Miracle on Magothy Beach (at Mutiny Pirate Bar & Island Grille)
  7. Boston / Cambridge, MA – Miracle at Kimpton Marlowe (Lobby Bar)
  8. Charleston, SC – Miracle on East Bay Street (at The Gin Joint)
  9. Chicago, IL – Miracle on Dearborn Street (at Brando’s Speakeasy)
  10. Chicago, IL – Sippin’ Santa (at Lost Lake)*
  11. Cincinnati, OH – Miracle at The Overlook Lodge
  12. Cleveland, OH – Miracle at The Spotted Owl
  13. Delray Beach, FL – Miracle on Delray Beach (at Death or Glory)
  14. Denver, CO – Miracle on Little Raven (at Wayward)
  15. Detroit, MI – Miracle at The Skip
  16. Fort Worth – Miracle in Cowtown (at Proper)
  17. Hong Kong – Hosted at The Lily & Bloom
  18. Los Angeles, CA – Miracle on Sante Fe (at Westbound)
  19. Louisville, KY – Hosted at Rye
  20. Madison, WI – Miracle on King Street (at Lucille)
  21. Malden, MA – Miracle at Mystic Station
  22. Milwaukee, WI – Miracle at The Outsider
  23. Minneapolis, MN – Miracle at Lawless
  24. Montreal, Canada – Hosted at Nexus Bar
  25. Montreal, Canada – (Deluxe version)
  26. New Orleans, LA – Sippin’ Santa (at Latitude 29)*
  27. New York, NY – Sippin’ Santa (at Boilermaker)*
  28. New York, NY – Miracle on 9th Street (at Mace)
  29. New York, NY – Miracle on the Harbor (at Pier A Harbor House)
  30. Orlando, FL – Miracle on Orange (at The Courtesy Bar)
  31. Panama City, Panama – Miracle on aMano
  32. Paris, France – Hosted at Glass
  33. Philadelphia, PA – Miracle at In The Valley (ITV)
  34. Pittsburgh, PA – Miracle on Market (at The Original Oyster House)
  35. Quebec, Canada
  36. Raleigh, NC – Miracle at The Haymaker
  37. Rio, Brazil
  38. Sacramento, CA – Miracle on 21st Street (at The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar)
  39. San Diego – Hosted at Polite Provisions
  40. San Francisco – Miracle PCH
  41. Sao Paulo, Brazil
  42. Seattle, WA – Miracle on 2nd (at Rob Roy)
  43. Sherbooke, Canada
  44. Springfield, MO – Miracle on Walnut (at Missouri Spirits)
  45. South Bend, IN – Miracle at The General (by Render Kitchen & Bar)
  46. St. Louis, MO – Miracle STL
  47. Tucson, AZ – Hosted at Elvira’s
  48. Washington, D.C. – Hosted at Mockingbird Hill
  49. Waterbury, CT – Miracle at Highland Brass Co.
  50. Winston-Salem – Hosted at Bar Pina
  51. Worcester, MA – Miracle at The Citizen

*Indicates a Sippin’ Santa location, Miracle’s tiki-themed Christmas bar