Where did it come from, and where will it strike next? The “Christmas bar” trend is in full, festive swing in Atlanta, with at least eight restaurants and bars serving up seasonal fare alongside kitschy, instagrammable décor.
Miracle on Monroe kicked off the Christmas bar phenomenon in Atlanta in 2015. The pop-up, which has seasonally taken over Tapa Tapa restaurant in Midtown Promenade for three years running, was conceptualized by a New York-based bar owner, Greg Boehm.
Miracle on Monroe is part of a larger Miracle brand of Christmas bars that has now spread to nearly 100 locations around the world. In Atlanta, there are three Miracle bars this year: the original Miracle on Monroe, Miracle on Highland at The Brasserie and Neighborhood Café at Parish, in Inman Park, and Sippin’ Santa: Miracle’s tiki-themed Christmas bar at BonTon in Midtown.
When asked what food or drink is a “must-try,” Eric Simpkins, the creative cocktail creator for Miracle Atlanta, said, “I think the “Run Run Rudolph this year is akin to a mulled wine…For cocktail lovers, the ‘And a Partridge in a Pear Tree’ with the aromatic, spiced pear flavors mixing with tequila and a touch of smoky mescal is great for the adventurous.”
Miracle locations are also serving up holiday-themed snacks and entrees. If you head to one of Atlanta’s Miracle locations, you may have to wait in line for several hours during peak times.
Simpkins notes, “The wait is long, but it is a bit of Christmas magic inside…we take creating a holiday spectacle very, very seriously…it’s not just decorations and a themed menu, it’s a seasonal lifestyle, holiday immersion…Adults deserve to feel Christmas wonder, too.”
If holiday magic is up your alley but waiting in long lines isn’t, Simpkins advises, “Plan ahead, show up early on a Wednesday or Sunday.”
Almost directly across the street from Miracle on Highland in Inman Park is another Christmas Bar: the six-month-old cocktail spot Little Spirit has transformed into Little “Christmas” Spirit for the season.
Owner Randy Pechin told Decaturish that the concept has been in the works for a little while.
He said, “Soon after we decided on the name Little Spirit, I was thinking through initiatives for the year and ‘Little Christmas Spirit’ just popped into my head. It seemed to good a fit for us to not have some fun with it.”
He added, “I was also raised a Jehovah’s Witness until I was a teenager, so maybe I’m trying to make up for missed Christmases.”
Unlike other over-the-top Christmas bars, Little Christmas Spirit is decidedly tasteful. Pechin’s business partner Cindy Wong decorated the space, and they describe it as “awesome without being overwhelming.”
Eleven holiday-themed cocktail options will help guests imbibe in the spirits of the season. The bar’s standout holiday offerings include a “build your own” hot toddy and hot chocolate, as well as a hot dog called “Relish the Holidays” featuring a Pigman Goods dog with cranberry relish, spicy mustard, fig jam, and sweet pickled jalapeños on a potato bun.
Pechin described the menu as “unintimidating” and noted, “We really try to be a bar that is approachable for everyone.”
With more and more restaurant-goers eager for a Christmas bar experience, Pechin offered the same advice as the Miracle team.
“If you’re looking for a laid-back experience, check us out Monday-Wednesday, or come Thursday-Saturday for a more energetic atmosphere,” Pechin said.
Outside the Perimeter, Red Sky, a Marietta restaurant known for its tapas and dueling pianos, has transformed their space into a bar themed around the classic holiday comedy, A Christmas Story. It’s the first Christmas bar outside the perimeter (shortly followed by Santa’s Bar & Lounge at WT Social House in Marietta).
Red Sky’s holiday décor, created by Jamie Roberts, includes a leg lamp gleaming in the window and a photo op area with Ralphie in his Christmas bunny pajamas. Red Sky’s chef and business partner Brian Kennington had the idea to theme the pop-up around A Christmas Story, and the menu reflects the theme.
Smoked duck breast is served with an orange-ginger glaze, cranberry chutney, and roasted Brussels sprouts – and you don’t even need a pack of neighborhood dogs to steal your turkey to enjoy it. The Malted Ovaltine Martini serves up classic nostalgia with vanilla vodka, chocolate liquor, a dash of heavy cream – and of course, don’t forget the Ovaltine.
Red Sky owner Terry Kirby told Decaturish that he’s found himself ordering a lot more vodka than usual to make cranberry mules, as well as prosecco for the “Christmas in a Glass” cocktail.
Some items, like the Caramel Bourbon Pecan Crisp, have been so well received that Red Sky is considering adding them to its year-round menu. Kirby notes, “What sets us apart [from other Christmas bars] is that we’ve already incorporated the entertainment factor…every Sunday during the month of December. We’ve added a day for holiday shows.”
Dueling piano shows on Friday and Saturday nights start at 9 p.m. and go until midnight (reservations highly recommended), while select weekdays and Sundays offer other musical holiday performances on acoustic guitar and more.
Additional pop-up Christmas bars this year include Yebo Ski Haus, an upscale chalet-inspired interpretation of the trend at Yebo Beach Haus in Buckhead, and Tiki Holiday at the S.O.S at Tiki S.O.S. in Decatur.
While not a full-fledged event, the King of Pops Bar in Ponce City Market is also serving up holiday-inspired “poptails” with ingredients like spiced syrup, apple cider, and of course, popsicles.
So, why do Atlantans love Christmas bars so much?
One guest at Red Sky said, “It’s like sitting inside of a Christmas snow globe.”
Kirby of Red Sky added, “You can sit down and have these holiday-inspired foods and cocktails and feel warm, welcome, and taken care of.”
For the Miracle locations, it’s also important to take care of the community; two official Miracle charity events will take place this year on December 11. One, at Miracle on Highland, will benefit The Giving Kitchen while the other, at Miracle on Monroe, will benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.
It seems that the Christmas bar trend will continue to grow in years to come; Miracle on Monroe hinted to Decaturish that 2019 could be their biggest year yet.
Simpkins said, “I don’t want to give too much away, but we always have more ideas. The easiest ‘gimme’ is next year, we hope to have a dedicated location for large events only, in addition to at least two locations of Miracle, and at least one Sippin’ Santa at BonTon.
Christmas bars are sure to pop up at other restaurants next year, too.