Make the Season Extra-Festive at These Holiday Pop-Up Bars in Houston & Galveston

It’s now a seasonal tradition. Four Houston-area bars have been turned into spectacular winter wonderlands with cocktails to match. The Sippin’ Santa and Miracle Bar pop-ups are annual, nationwide events that turn bars and restaurants into festive holiday destinations. The Miracle Bar pop-up, which started at an unfinished New York City bar space in 2014, and its sister concept Sippin’ Santa, offer riffs on traditional holiday drinks, such as mulled wine and eggnog, as well as spicy shots and creative iced cocktails infused with warming flavors such as baking spices. 

Sippin’ Santa

Unlike the Miracle pop-ups, the opportunity to catch Sippin’ Santa is a rarer opportunity. Curated annually by rum and tiki drink expert Beachbum Berry, it hasn’t been hosted in Houston since it was at Lei Low in 2018.

From November 22 until December 28, Night Shift, at 3501 Harrisburg in the East End, is hosting Sippin’ Santa at its neighboring event space, Ronin Art House. In addition to special music and drinks, Night Shift created four unique, tiki-inspired settings for guests to enjoy.

Night Shift’s jungle-themed room includes Christmas lights and an active volcano. Photo by Ryan Baker

The designs and building of the pop-up were handled by Rootlab, a local fabrication company. The kick-off week of Sippin’ Santa started with Night Shift sharing the adventures of Naughty Nick, a massive tiki-inspired statue, as it visited many popular Houston landmarks. You’ll now find Naughty Nick guarding the Night Shift entrance.

The settings are:

  • The Jungle Room, a combination of classical tiki and holiday vibes, complete with stuffed flamingos dressed in Santa suits, a beach scene and a faux active volcano.
  • Disco Holidays conjures vibes of sitting on a peppermint in a room full of mirrors and disco balls. The disco balls are connected by reflective green and red garlands, creating a lively atmosphere.
  • A snowman is the centerpiece for the Ice in the Tropics patio. This space is mostly white, creating a snow-covered aesthetic, which is accented with red table cloths and traditional Christmas lights. The more subdued decor gives the impression of a more intimate setting.
  • Plaid couches, enormous stockings and a fireplace decorate Uncle Jerry’s Basement, giving the room a Christmas-infused “That ‘70s Show” feel.

Night Shift co-owner and award-winning bartender Justin Ware said that the transformation of the rooms occurred quickly — over just four days — and the plan is for the decor to evolve over the season.

The assortment of Christmas and Tiki-inspired drinks at Sippin’ Santa. Photo by Randy Schmidt.

The drinks for Night Shifts Sippin’ Santa are tiki at heart. The Kris Kringle Colada is a smooth tribute to Piña Coladas that uses amaro and allspice liqueur to add a layer of warmth to the normally icy drink. Other unique cocktails include The Regifter, which combines French rum with caramelized pineapple, garam masala, cherry liqueur and lemon.

For guests that are not into quixotic tiki drinks, Ware and company have added the Tiki Manhattan and Tiki Old-Fashioned (which are not part of the official Sippin’ Santa menu). The Tiki Old-Fashioned is made with rye whiskey, pineapple amaro, Angostura bitters and tiki bitters. The rye comes across gently, and the drink goes down easily, while still offering hints of spice from the various bitters. Other drinks include White Russian Christmas and Yule Log Grog, which each add mildly spiced, holiday-inspired twists to classic drinks, as well as a few more cocktails that are unique to the pop-up.

Christmas decorations at Johnny’s Gold Brick. Photo courtesy of Johnny’s Gold Brick.

Miracle Bar Pop-Ups

Three other Houston-area bars are all taking part in the the annual Miracle Bar pop-ups: two returning establishments and one newcomer. Heights bar Johnny’s Gold Brick, Galveston’s Daquiri Time Out and new Midtown restaurant, Winnie’s are all taking part in the Miracle bar pop-up.

Daiquiri Time Out began the festivities on Tuesday, November 23, with no posted end date, as of yet. Johnny’s Gold Brick and Winnie’s start the Miracle Bar pop-ups on Friday, November 26 and Saturday, November 27, respectively, with both ending on December 30.

The organizers of this nationwide event give each participating bar a holiday-themed menu and a big range of festive glassware for serving the drinks, and the bars provide the wall-to-wall decorations. In contrast to Sippin’ Santa, Miracle creates a more traditional, yet intentionally over-the-top Christmas atmosphere. Last year, Johnny’s covered most of the bar’s walls with gift wrapping, hung presents from the ceiling and hoisted a gigantic inflatable Santa Claus onto the roof, which could be seen from blocks away.

The SantaRex mugs available at Miracle Bar. Photo by Melissa Hom.

Along with the complete change in decor, guests can also look forward to Christmas-themed cocktails such as the Christamapolitan, a take on the Cosmopolitan that adds spiced cranberry sauce, rosemary and a spritz of absinthe, or the Bad Santa, a twist on hot-buttered rum with oat milk and nutmeg.  The SantaRex, a play on a tequila mai tai, combines mezcal and tequila, melon liqueur, orgeat, lime and tiki bitters. In addition to the ten cocktails, the drink menu rounds out with the twin Naughty and Nice Shots. The Naughty Shot is cinnamon-spiced bourbon, and the Nice Shot is gingerbread-spice rye.

For both Miracle and Sippin’ Santa, the holiday glassware definitely contributes to the appeal. These include Santa shot glasses, thematic coupes, collins and rocks glasses and the ever-popular SanTaRex mug. These are available for purchase at the respective bars.

Be sure to check the hosting bars’ websites for additional details and hours. Since walk-in space is limited, online reservations are highly recommended. Here are the direct links for each:

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