For the third year in a row, the holiday spirit is coming to Shaw. But this year, it’s not just the pop-up Miracle on Seventh Street bar that will provide a rosy glow to many faces: The Midwestern-themed bar Ivy and Coney is transforming itself into Chai-vy and Cohen-y Hanukkah Bar to celebrate the “132nd most important holiday of the Jewish calendar” from Dec. 1 through New Year’s Eve. The two bars are only about three blocks apart, so we decided to see how they stack up.
Miracle on Seventh Street: This is the third year for the Miracle on Seventh Street, the wildly popular holiday-themed pop-up bar whose success begot pop-ups dedicated to “Game of Thrones” and Halloween. Three adjacent bars have been transformed into five rooms of festive cheer, with model trains, candy canes, giant nutcrackers and yards of shiny baubles. One room — the Chinese Food and Movie Room — features non-holiday decorations and a giant menorah.
Chai-vy and Cohen-y: “When the Christmas Bar first started” in 2015, says Ivy and Coney owner Josh Saltzman, “we thought it was a great idea and started joking that we should do a Hanukkah-themed bar,” since half of the ownership team in Jewish. “It’s wacky, and it fits our idea of having a good time and enjoying a little irreverent fun,” Saltzman says. “We hope that people wouldn’t be mad with us if we had a Shotnorah and a dreidel competition.”
This is new territory for Ivy and Coney, and Saltzman says that outside of decorations, including covering the ceiling of the rooftop deck in blue and white lights, and a menu featuring potato latkes and schnapps, they won’t change anything else about the neighborhood bar, which is a magnet for fans of the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears . “We just hope people have a good time and don’t take it too seriously,” he says.
Miracle on Seventh Street: It’s going to be hard to top the Iron Throne featured at the last pop-up bar, so the Miracle team came up with a room full of photo-ops. Customers can sit in a Victorian sleigh surrounded by presents, wreaths and a giant mural of Beyoncé wearing a Santa hat. However, says Drink Company President Derek Brown, some people have been skipping the sleigh to just get a photo with Bey, while others have been posing in front of the 12-foot Christmas tree.
Chai-vy and Cohen-y: Inspired by shot skis — skis affixed with multiple glasses to allow a group to down a drink at the same time — the Ivy and Coney team came up with ShotNorah, a menorah that would allow nine people to take shots of Manischewitz or Slivovitz, the Eastern European plum brandy, at once. The original 16-foot-long design proved too unwieldy, so it has been scaled back to let eight people participate. (It’s too much for two people to handle, Saltzman says, so bartenders will group singles and couples to make groups of six to eight.)
Miracle on Seventh Street: Head bartender Paul Taylor tries to keep his cocktails rooted in the holidays, with flavors of gingerbread, plums, and even popcorn-infused Maker’s Mark bourbon. (Watch out, because some of the drinks on opening night were heavy on the sugar — including the sticky sugar around the glass rims.) The Maccabeats by Dreidel, garnished with a plastic dreidel, is a smooth and fruity mix of Cotton and Reed rum, plum syrup, sherry and cognac, but if you’ve been waiting outside on a chilly night, you’ll want to go straight to You Go Glen Coco, which is Jack Daniels with salted hot chocolate and a thick, decadent whipped cream, served in a cheery Santa mug.
Chai-vy and Cohen-y: The bar will stock multiple flavors of Manischewitz wine, which Saltzman calls “the drink of choice when you were 14 and nothing else was available in the liquor cabinet.” It can be drunk out of the ShotNorah ($2 a shot) or in a $5 glass. The bar also plans to have spiced cider ($3, or $8 for the spiked version), schnapps and Slivovitz, plus He’Brew beers.
Pair the drinks with matzoh ball soup and potato latkes, served with a choice of applesauce or sour cream. “It’s my family recipe,” Saltzman explains. “I’m an applesauce guy. Everyone else in my family is sour cream.”
Miracle on Seventh Street: Once you’re inside, there are photos to be taken and cocktails to be drunk . . . and that’s about it. Miracle on Seventh used to host choral groups and performers, but Brown says it’s harder to do so now that the bar has gotten so popular. Still, he says, “We’ll have some surprise guests. We’ll definitely see Santa Claus.”
Chai-vy and Cohen-y: There will be nightly events during Hanukkah, but the biggest draw on the calendar is the Dreidel Spinning Competition on Dec. 19, which will take place using a special “Spinagogue.” Saltzman says 50 to 60 contestants will see who can keep their dreidel spinning longest, but this event isn’t just about technique: “This is WWF Dreidel right here,” he says. “You have to come up with a name and a shtick,” and costumes are a bonus. Saltzman isn’t kidding: he’s dubbed himself “the Beltway Ganiff,” while a bartender is competing as “Shlomo Shun 4 Me” (say it fast). There’s no entry fee, and sign-ups will take place through the Ivy and Coney website.
Miracle on Seventh Street: “So much about Christmas is nostalgia,” Brown says. His favorite part of the bar is the Gingerbread House, a room tucked in the back that’s decorated with cookies, candy canes and frosting. Growing up, he says, “I loved eating sweets and candy and cookies” during the holidays. The Gingerbread House features elves making fresh-baked cookies throughout the night, and it’s the aroma that Brown loves: “It smells like home to me, and that’s a very powerful thing.”
Chai-vy and Cohen-y:
Every night during Hanukkah, the bar will slow down when it’s time to light a candle. “The reason we were into it when I was growing up is that it’s an excuse for family to hang out and tell a story about the victory of the underdogs,” Saltzman explains. Also there will be presents given away every night, starting with the gift of socks on Dec. 12 (while they last).
Miracle on Seventh Street: 1843 Seventh St. NW. Through Dec. 31: Open Monday through Friday at 5 p.m., and at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed Christmas Day.
Chai-vy and Coheny-y: 1537 Seventh St. NW. Friday through Dec. 31. Open Monday through Friday at 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at noon. Closed Christmas Day.