Sleighing it at the Miracle on 7th Street Pop-Up in D.C.
This year's pop-up bar is decked out with thousands of hanging ornaments, wreaths, decorations, a vintage sleigh from the 19th century, and a Beyoncé mural.
Ah, the holiday season. Everyone's favorite time of the year to celebrate with family and friends — while totally Instagramming your crew drinking beside a Santa-hat-wearing Beyoncé “I Sleigh All Day” mural. Right? Sounds like a new tradition to me, and it's just one of the many must-do attractions at this year's Miracle on 7th Street holiday pop-up bar in Washington, D.C.
When the Miracle pop-up first debuted in D.C. three years ago — following the inaugural Miracle on Ninth Street bar at Mace in New York City the year prior — it took over the Mockingbird Hill space, then one of three connected bars from Derek Brown's Drink Company. Now, the festivities last all the way from Thanksgiving until New Years, and all three bars have since morphed into one giant rotating perma-pop-up. This year saw a cherry blossom slash Japan and Super Mario pop-up, followed by an incredible Game of Thrones setup, and a frightful Halloween bar.
“The journey into a year-long rotating pop-up bar has been intense and amazing,” says Drink Company CEO Angie Fetherston. “It's opening a new bar every few months. We are having the best time building shrines to things we love and sharing them with everyone.”
But returning to the original, the little miracle that started it all, is extra special. “Miracle is hands down our favorite pop-up,” Fetherston says. “It's magic. The bar fills with palpable joy from our staff and our jolly revelers — it's a beautiful thing. Now in our third year, people refer to us as a holiday tradition, which we love.”
This year's bar is decked out with literally thousands of hanging ornaments, wreaths and decorations, a vintage sleigh from the 19th century, that Beyoncé mural alongside a 12-foot Christmas tree, presents and gingerbread houses and so much more. Of course, it's important to be welcoming to all, which is why there's also a dedicated Chinese Food and a Movie room, for those of us more familiar with that particular tradition.
While running a full-time pop-up series is incredibly challenging on its own, there's extra pressure in the form of the now-enormous expectations people have. Lines down the block and national attention is great for business, as long as you can continue delivering. And for Drink Company, that's all about having the right team in place. “I think the team gets stronger and more creative with each pop-up, both with the design of the spaces and the drinks development,” Fetherston says. “They keep pushing themselves to extraordinary feats, learning as they go along, so the raising of the bar happens naturally.”
This year's schedule presented the most daunting task yet, a less than three week turnaround from the end of their Halloween PUB (pop-up bar) Dread, to the debut of Miracle. “While we took extra care designing our schedule and creating some things in advance, we knew it would be late hours no matter what,” says special projects manager Adriana Salame. “With two and a half weeks, although the days can be long, the light at the end of the tunnel is always close and it feels more like a fight against time.” The crew then relied on a team of eggnog-fueled friends and regulars to meet their deadline.
Salame's favorite component to this pop-up adds not only festivity, but also interactivity, to the experience. “The moment Matt [Fox, special projects director] brought up his idea for the large, light-up picture menu, we knew it would be awesome. Everybody loves this feature. It facilitates the connection between guest, menu, and bartender. I want to find ways to incorporate them in future PUBs.”
For Fetherston though, it's all about that sleigh. “We have a gorgeous restored sleigh from the 1890s, it's survived the Great Depression, Prohibition, and two World Wars — let's see if it survives Miracle 2017,” she says.
As for the drinks themselves, hilarious and punny names such as Brew Dolph The Rein Beer and Maccabeats By Driedel, alongside show-stopping presentations, grab the headlines. But they still have to actually be enjoyable to drink, too — that's kind of the point, though it's sometimes lost in the mix with thematic concepts.
“Coming up with delicious cocktails has always been a goal of ours at Drink Company and the Miracle menu is no exception,” says senior bar manager Paul Taylor. “The amount of guests that come through our doors makes it imperative that each cocktail that goes over the bar is not only visually awesome, but also tastes great. The whole experience is what we aim to achieve.”
His personal favorite is a clarified milk punch packing a few surprises. “This year my vote would go to the 'Elf's Breakfast,' a clarified milk punch that tastes like the glorious leftover milk from cereal,” Taylor says. “It's unusual and familiar all at the same time, plus it's garnished with a candy spaghetti wrapped around a fork and you can't beat candy spaghetti, that's science.”
Meanwhile, the drink he believes could potentially be the most versatile and survive beyond the Miracle confines is an intensive Manhattan riff. “These cocktails were created to fit inside the thematic constraints of our holiday pop-up so they are very specific,” Taylor says. “In my opinion the 'Red Ryder, Carbine-Action, Two-Hundred Shot, Range Model, Air Rifle,' which is essentially a buttered popcorn Manhattan, would do well outside the context of the Miracle bar. Made to represent the large popcorn tins given out around the holidays, it could fit the stirred and spiritous option on any menu, because popcorn sounds good any time of year.”
The drinks are so delightful and the presentations so intoxicating, it's not unusual for customers in pop-ups past to try to bring home some of the more elaborate glassware as personal souvenirs. So much so that the bar now holds onto IDs for certain drinks, “but if that doesn't work, we hope the concept of coal in their stockings will,” Taylor jokes.
So, be a good boy or girl this year and leave the glassware at the bar so everyone can enjoy the celebration.
The Miracle on 7th Street pop-up runs through December 31st, opening at 5 p.m. on weekdays and starting early at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, bringing much-needed holiday cheers all day long.
Maccabeats by Dreidel
by senior bar manager Paul Taylor
- 0.75 oz. Cotton & Reed White Rum
- 0.5 oz. Martell VS Cognac
- 0.5 oz. Manzanilla
- 1 oz. Plum Sauce**
- 0.25 oz. Orange Juice
- 0.5 oz. Lemon Juice
Directions: Shake, strain over crushed ice in double old fashioned / rocks glass, garnish with a plastic dreidel.
**Plum Sauce Syrup
- 900 grams plum juice (700 grams plums + 500 grams water blended + strained)
- 300 grams white granulated sugar
- 975 grams brown sugar
- 650 grams prunes
- 75 grams caramelized pineapple concentrate
- 500 grams ginger juice (250 grams ginger + 250 grams water blended + strained)
- 80 grams szechuan peppercorns
- 80 grams cinnamon
- 40 grams cloves
- 40 grams star anise
- 50 grams soy sauce
- 20 grams apple cider vinegar
Directions: Toast spices in a stockpot. Add all ingredients, except acids, to stockpot and bring to a boil, smash the prunes with a potato masher during this process, then turn off heat. Transfer contents into a cambro located in an ice bath. Allow to cool then strain through chinois. LABEL TWICE + DATE + REFRIGERATE.
If not making the plum sauce syrup, take packaged / store bought hoisin and replace the plum sauce in the above recipe with 3/4 oz. Hoisin.