Holiday movies usually follow a formula, which is part of why they are so soothing and easy to watch year after year. And quite often, comedic holiday movies (especially rom-coms) involve a scene in a bar or restaurant elaborately decorated for the holiday season.
And when we say elaborately, we really mean extra, as in the Urban Dictionary meaning of the word. We’re talking lights and garlands and tinsel from floor to ceiling. Ornaments hanging from the bar, a fully adorned tree in the corner, and Santas everywhere the eye can see. In pre–social media times, this was usually just a draw to get people in the door. Now, it’s the ultimate Instagram backdrop.
These kinds of locations are also easier to find than ever, thanks to the expansion of Miracle and Sippin’ Santa, two holiday-themed pop-up cocktail bar franchises with locations from San Diego to London and nearly everywhere in between. How the pop-up works is that Miracle and Sippin’ Santa collaborate with existing bars, installing the decorations and implementing a limited-time, holiday-appropriate cocktail menu.
This year’s Miracle menu includes the Jingle Balls Nog (cognac, cream sherry, almond milk, cream, egg, vanilla, and nutmeg); the Bad Santa (aged Jamaican rum, velvet falernum, mixed spiced butter, oat milk, and nutmeg—and best served hot); and in honor of the most controversial holiday movie (Die Hard), there is the Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! (Barbados rum, rhum agricole, overproof rum, ube and coconut orgeat, and acid-adjusted pineapple juice).
Fortune recently spoke with Miracle’s owner and creator, Greg Boehm, about how the franchise has exploded in popularity, how business has fared under COVID, and just how he comes up with those crazy cocktails year after year.
The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Fortune: The first Miracle popped up in 2014. What inspired you to launch the project?
Greg Boehm: My mother inspired me to launch the holiday-themed cocktail bar before I finished construction on my cocktail bar, Mace. From there, Miracle on Ninth Street was born, and its fervent reception soon led industry friends from other cities around the globe reaching out to re-create the Miracle holiday magic in their own bars. The holiday season has always been a time to share in cheer, camaraderie and bring people together, just like bars and restaurants. So I felt, “What better place to bring that to life than at my own establishments?” Holiday magic combined with signature cocktails and boughs of holly is the perfect pairing in my mind.
In the past several years, Miracle and Sippin’ Santa have become really popular—especially given the elaborate decor that a lot of people like to snap and share on Instagram. How does the design process vary among pop-up bars? Are there any rules or guidelines that need to be followed?
Our partners are allowed to decorate any way they choose as long as it’s all things holiday! Some of the bars do themes such as Christmas vacation, Star Wars Christmas, or Santa at the beach. So it really depends on what the owner wants.
One thing that remains similar at all locations—both Miracle and Sippin’ Santa—is the custom glassware created by Cocktail Kingdom. These signature vessels alone can be the star of the show and really drives home the thread that connects all the locations.
What kind of experience are you hoping that diners take away from their time in the pop-up bars?
Entering its eighth year, the Miracle team is committed to making this one of the best seasons yet, with new cities and teams joining the mix and previous bars returning. After the challenges of 2020, the ability to bring both cocktail concepts back safely is a momentous occasion to toast to this year. Each magically curated space serves as the perfect background for heartfelt reunions and shared experiences with loved ones all season long.
The cocktail menu gets more, dare we say, festive by the year. What’s the brainstorming process like for creating the holiday cocktails? Which drinks are most popular with guests?
Joann Spiegel is the creative lead behind the Miracle menu. She works on these almost a year out from the upcoming season, exploring Christmas flavors and holiday culinary traditions globally as well as pulling from her own personal flavor associations with Christmas. It is quite the process to nail a menu that works so well on a global stage. The most popular drinks really vary market to market, but there are some universal ones, like our Christmapolitan and Snowball Old-Fashioned that float to the top of the list each year.
Miracle and Sippin’ Santa bars are so popular now that would-be visitors need to make a reservation. But Christmas was effectively canceled in 2020 owing to the pandemic. How has COVID influenced and/or changed operations since then?
The safety and enjoyment of guests is our top priority at all our locations, and each bar is required to follow their state’s regulations and guidelines to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and not at risk.
There are now 140 Miracle and Sippin’ Santa locations across North America as well as one in London. How do you recruit new locations? Where would you like to see Miracle pop up next?
I would like to see a Miracle in every single market! I always say, if there are humans living in a particular area, then they should have a holiday destination too, no matter how small or big that market is. Recruiting locations is quite the task, vetting locations to see that they understand what they would be getting involved in. Miracle produces extreme volumes in business, so we have to make sure these new locations can support this level of increased business in a condensed period of time.
The Miracle map is ever-growing, so new locations need to be carefully added so that they are spread out far enough from existing locations. When we first started to grow we would ask that question, “Where do we want to see another Miracle location?,” choose that location, and then choose the location that best fit the criteria of being able to host an activation this big. Now, eight seasons later, there is quite the waiting list of locations coming to us asking to be considered. In a lot of ways we are only just hitting our true stride in terms of growth. Expect a lot more locations in future seasons.
Never miss a story: Follow your favorite topics and authors to get a personalized email with the journalism that matters most to you.