Pop Goes The Bar

Themed pop-up bars enable experimentation and attract a different clientele.

Holiday-themed pop-up Miracle, which originated in New York City in 2014 and now has more than 90 locations, takes over Dallas bar Hide (Miracle at Hide pictured) throughout the month of December.
Holiday-themed pop-up Miracle, which originated in New York City in 2014 and now has more than 90 locations, takes over Dallas bar Hide (Miracle at Hide pictured) throughout the month of December.

Often tied to a seasonal theme or specific type of drink, pop-up bars have become a way for bartenders and managers to experiment and play behind the bar. These limited-time venues are well-received for providing unique experiences in an often-familiar space, and the fact that they’re tied to a specific theme generates buzz. The team behind St. Louis’ On Point Hospitality decided to try their first pop-up this fall, opening the Halloween-themed Corpse Reviver bar for a two-week stint in their private event space The Hideout, adjacent to their popular restaurant Yellowbelly.

“I thought it would be really fun to do a haunted pop-up bar for the two weeks leading up to Halloween,” says On Point Hospitality co-owner and beverage director Tim Wiggins. “We’d seen success with holiday-themed pop-ups in the past, but no one had done a Halloween one in St. Louis. It was a great opportunity to showcase the creativity of our bar team.”

Named after the classic Corpse Reviver cocktail, the Halloween bar offered a dozen spooky- and fall-themed drinks. The bartenders made special ingredients like pumpkin seed-orgeat syrup and candy corn-infused amaro, and offered cocktails like the Ghost Malone ($12), mixing J. Rieger’s Midwestern vodka, coconut milk, almond syrup, and pineapple and lime juices, topped with Barritt’s ginger beer and garnished with coconut dust and a temporary tattoo.

In Los Angeles, the operators of downtown cocktail bar Here and Now transform their space into the Christmas-themed venue Blitzen’s for the month of December. Because of the concept’s popularity last year, the bar did it again for a short “Christmas in July” this summer, and they’re bringing Blitzen’s back for about four weeks during the 2019 holiday season. To support the concept, they transform the normal bar space into a holiday oasis, returning it to its original state once the pop-up’s run is done.

“We have a lot of fun with this,” says Here and Now owner Sarah Meade. “The great thing about a pop-up is that it’s not a lifelong commitment. People have more urgency to come because there’s a time limit.” The Santa’s Nightcap ($11) was one of the most popular drinks at Blitzen’s last holiday season, made with Altos Blanco Tequila, Banhez Joven mezcal, Mr. Black coffee liqueur, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, melted chocolate, milk, and a mix of cinnamon, clove, allspice, and cayenne. “We create holiday cocktails and feature spirits that evoke nostalgia and memories,” adds Meade.

Holiday-themed bar Miracle is among the most successful and well-known pop-ups in the world. The concept—which was launched in New York City in 2014 and has since expanded to more than 90 pop-up locations in cities around the globe via franchise agreements—is built around over-the-top kitschy winter holiday décor. The Miracle Dallas unit—which takes over the city’s popular bar Hide for the month of December—was the third-highest grossing Miracle location worldwide in 2018, and Hide’s owners are excited to bring it back this year.

“The benefit of hosting Miracle at Hide is the exclusivity of it,” says Scott Jenkins, Hide’s beverage director. “We have a dedicated group of customers who already come to our bar and now they can experience something entirely different.” The Dallas location is so popular that Hide hires about three times more than its normal staff for the month of December. The Dallas pop-up’s best-selling drink is the Snowball Old Fashioned ($14), mixed with Evan Williams White label Bourbon that’s been fat-washed with butterscotch, Cocktail Kingdom Wormwood bitters, spiced molasses syrup, saline solution, and orange zest.

“We have to be extremely well-organized to handle the large volume of guests that visit the pop-up,” Jenkins says. “Hordes of people visit because they know it’s only here for a limited time. We’ve had lines of people waiting over two hours to come in. We get longstanding customers and a lot of new faces at Miracle. It’s great for us.”