NEHS ga-DOL hah-YAH POH. That’s Hebrew for “a great miracle happened here” and it’s something that Jewish people in Israel say at Chanukah (Jews elsewhere around the world change poh – which means here – to shah, which means there).
This may sound like an odd way to start a story about the popular Christmas bars Miracle on 9th Street, Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack and Miracle on 7th Street but, like most good holiday stories there are layers and layers to the joy that comes to light when you dig deeper and you listen to and believe in the story and spirit of Christmas.
Shortly before Christmastime 2014 the iconic East Village cocktail den Louis 649 was looking somewhat less than cheery, as the bar had been closed for renovations. Something great was afoot, for sure; partners Greg Boehm and Zach Sharaga and their head bartender Nico de Soto had exciting plans in mind for a whole new concept, to be called Mace. But in the meantime, as the partners endured contractor and other delays (hey, miracles might happen here but we’re still talking about permits and inspections and things out of our control), here lay this perfectly good space with nothing going on inside of it. And thirsty people walking by all the time.
Sharaga shares, “Greg’s mom called and suggested we do a Christmas bar. She connected the dots noting the place was closed but thought we might as well do something for Christmas at least. She planted the seed. The team met the next day at the office, then brainstormed and locked down all the logistics. Nico already had drinks in his head!”
The holiday kitsch also came easy, and the down-the-block lines followed. And then, in 2015, Boehm’s other bar, which is known as Boilermaker the rest of the year, was converted to Sippin’ Santa’s. Again, a big hit! Boehm comments, “Last year I opened Miracle on 9th Street at my bar Mace. It was lots of fun and very busy. So this year we decided to open a Christmas bar at Boilermaker as well. However, we decided to add some surfer and rockabilly elements and Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack was born. Customers are genuinely having a great time. The environment is high energy with tons of Christmas spirit. The rooms is always filled with smiling people.”
Having these two bars allows Boehm to keep all the people in line happy–when one bar is full he can send them to the other. Or, should they really want to travel for some holiday spirit, guests can head to DC to visit Miracle on 7th Street, which owner Derek Brown created out of his sherry-centric destination, Mockingbird Hill. Brown explains how the concept traveled south and why it’s working:
“Angie [Salame, his business partner] and Greg Boehm were chatting one night and Greg was sharing how he and Nico De Soto had opened Miracle on 9th Street last year in NYC to much success. Angie loved the idea and convinced me. It just snowballed from there–pun intended.” Brown continues, “The core of what any good bar does is make things fun for its guests. Sometimes that’s laid back, mellow adult fun, as with cocktail dens. Sometimes that’s in your face post-adolescent fun as with sports and themed bars. This hit the right mixture for us where it’s not just shots and silliness but also serious cocktails, just done with a little holiday flare.” He admits that they didn’t really think they were pushing away one concept for another as much as that they’d just became enamored with the idea and were sure their guests would be too. “Actually,” he says, “we have more than a few Sherry cocktails on the menu and, truthfully, due to the success of Miracle on 7th Street, are selling more Sherry than we ever have! We just infuse a little nostalgia into them. That’s what Christmas and the holidays are about: sensory memories. We captured them in a glass. Then we used movie quotes from our favorite Christmas movies to name them. That was contentious, but we got through it.”
The stress of naming cocktails in DC, and the two-month long planning process it took to get Sippin’ Santa together, which then coalesced in two long days of bar decor with all hands on deck, has paid off. In spades. The NYC bars are filled with New Yorkers and guests flock in from the far corners of the globe; from places like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Albania, and Bulgaria. Sharaga gives a hat tip to NYC’s concierges for sending their guests to check out Miracle (NYC). And, in DC, the Santa hat wearing doorman, and carolers entertaining those waiting on line draw in even more potential guests who otherwise were just going to pass on by.
Good thing they didn’t, or they’d miss out. They’d miss out on drinks like Sippin’ Santa’s bestseller, Sexy Santa (Served Hot) *wink* — a hot, mulled wine variation; and Miracle on 7th Street’s Pisco, Scotch, Drambuie and lemon curd concoction known as You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!. They’d also miss out on the great photo opps that come from sitting in the Hanukkah Hideaway at Miracle on 9th Street where, Sharaga reveals, the photo opps are really great. He comments, “People who came last year actually ask to be seated there.”
Whether you sit back in the alcove on 9th Street, bathed in the blues and silvers of Hanukkah decorations, take your drinks with a bit of surfers’ laid back attitude or seek out the holidays in a glass destination in the nation’s capital, you’ll surely agree that bars like these are little Christmas (and Hanukkah) miracles. Brown concludes, “We live in stressful times. People need to add a little levity to their day and, though it seems like such an abstract concept, it’s really quite simple: we need more joy.”
If you missed making it to one of these pop-ups this holiday, simply bring the bar home with you. It’s easy to do it with Gretchen, Stop Trying To Make Fetch Happen:
Gretchen, Stop Trying To Make Fetch Happen
Created and served by the staff at Miracle on 7th Street
- 0.75 oz Moscatel Sherry
- 0.5 oz Spiced Cranberry Syrup – recipe below
- 0.25 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
- 4 oz Dry Sparkling Wine
Shake first three ingredients in a shaker with ice; strain into a chilled Champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine.
Garnish with a sugared rosemary sprig. To make rosemary sprig moisten a rosemary sprig with water. Shake excess water, then coat with superfine sugar. Let sit to dry completely.
Spiced Cranberry Syrup
- 1 16 oz. bag cranberries
- 24 oz. cane sugar
- 16 oz. ground mace
- 1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
- 4 oz. fresh orange juice
- peel of 2 oranges
Add all ingredients to a small pot. Warm over medium heat. Heat until simmering, then reduce to low heat. Cook until cranberries begin losing shape, at least 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through chinois. Cover in container and refrigerate.