Washington's most buzzed-about bar last year was the Miracle on Seventh Street, a pop-up that turned Shaw's Mockingbird Hill into an explosion of holiday decorations: garlands, tinsel, a gold-painted dinosaur nativity scene, a chandelier made of dreidels. Customers waited in line for hours for a chance to sip festive drinks, listen to carols and soak in the holiday spirit.
Given the theme's success, it was pretty clear that Miracle on Seventh Street would be back. What we didn't know at the time, though, was that Derek Brown and Angie Fetherston would scale the concept up, turning all three of their adjacent bars — Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich and Southern Efficiency — into one giant holiday party.
Details are still being finalized, but here are the basics: The pop-up opens Nov. 25 and runs through Dec. 31. Though there are three bars, there's only one line for entry, which will be outside Eat the Rich. Once patrons get past the bouncer, they can move from Eat the Rich to Southern Efficiency through an interior hallway, or walk down the block to Mockingbird Hill without having to get back in the line. Though there's only one cocktail menu, each bar will have its own decorating scheme, Brown said.
Last year's drinks proved wildly popular: Bartenders poured an average of 800 to 1,000 cocktails per night, and they expect to triple that amount this time around. The task of creating the new cocktail menu fell to Paul Taylor, senior bar manager for Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich. Here's what you can expect from the bar's 12 cocktails, which includes three returning drinks.
The menu is obviously tied to the holidays.
The senses of taste and smell are frequently intertwined with memories, which is why so many familiar ingredients find their way into Taylor's cocktails. The first questions Taylor asked himself when brainstorming for the menu, he said, were: “What flavors mean the holidays to you? How can you translate those into cocktails?”
Put On a Yarmulke was inspired by chocolate oranges, which Taylor remembers having at friends' houses during his childhood; the super-fragrant Buzz, Your Girlfriend, WOOF! is made with St. George Terroir Gin, which is distilled with Douglas fir and Zirbenz pine liqueur, before being mixed with a house-made rosemary grapefruit soda. A sprig of pine in the glass makes each sip feel like you're sticking your nose in a Christmas tree. (Beer lovers: This is the perfect cocktail for those who prefer IPAs.)
Sometimes the holiday ties are more abstract. For Led By a Bottle is More Like it, Taylor created what he calls a Three Kings syrup, based on Myrrh, bay leaf and birch bark. When mixed with blended Scotch and bitters, the drink is more reminiscent of an Old Fashioned and pairs well with the chocolate cigar that arrives in the glass.
Drink names might strike a chord: Even if you can't tease out the origin of Xmas is Run by a Big Eastern Syndicate right away, you might remember it if someone else mentioned a different line in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” “I love how much fun the names are," Brown said. "Everybody thinks they know where the quote is from, and then their friends say, 'No, you're wrong,' and everybody pulls out their phones.”
There's a cocktail that tastes just like cookie dough.
“You have to have the novelty drinks in the Christmas Bar,” Taylor said. For some visitors, “it will make their whole experience to have the cookie dough cocktail or that green chartreuse marshmallow, or to Instagram a drink called Gretchen, Stop Trying to Make Fetch Happen.”
“The cookie dough cocktail” is actually called Snow Angels, Ice Skating, Cookie Dough and Snuggles — one of two drinks on the menu with names nodding to “Elf." The secret to its incredibly smooth, rich texture is butter-washed vodka, which involves combining melted butter and vodka then freezing it to remove the solids. Some oils are left behind, giving the vodka a rounded mouthfeel. Taylor also infuses Frangelico hazelnut liqueur with butter and brown sugar and mixes the results with coffee liqueur, crème de cacao, salt and milk.
Did I mention that it tastes just like cookie dough? There's a cookie dough bite for the garnish, so you can compare for yourself.
It's probably not a drink you'll order more than once -- unless you enjoy chugging White Russians -- but it's creative and totally in the spirit of the Christmas Bar.
Yes, it's all meant to be Instagramable.
Perhaps the most unusual item on the menu is called RUM HAM! (all capital letters) -- a shot blending four different kinds of rum and a pineapple-Bud Light syrup, then served in a mini-Bud Light can with a luau-worthy garnish of ham, pineapple and a maraschino cherry.
“It came from us trying to figure out how to have a Christmas shot,” Brown said, as well as how to incorporate Bud Light, one of the sponsors of the Miracle on Seventh Street, into a drink. They drew inspiration for the name from an episode of “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," which involved a whole ham soaked in rum. “You want it to be super-Instagramable," Brown said. "And the hashtag #RumHam will be pretty awesome.”
The rest of the bar's garnish game is strong: Xmas is Run By a Big Eastern Syndicate comes with a custom holiday fortune cookie, and Led by a Bottle is More Like It sports a gold-wrapped chocolate cigar. There are bites of cookie dough and Chartreuse-tinged marshmallows.
Above all, the drinks are really good.
Some people will order Xmas is Run by a Big Eastern Syndicate because they want to try a rum drink garnished with a custom fortune cookie. But if that mix of dark Plantation Rum, a five-spice syrup strong on clove and star anise, bitters and lime showed up under another name on the Columbia Room's cocktail menu, no one would bat an eye. It's just that delicious.
“We're trying to make cocktails at a high-enough level that if some cocktail geek comes in, they're not like, 'Oh, this is a dumb Christmas bar,'" Brown said. “We could get away with it, in a way, but this is not an excuse to forget about what we care about. It's an excuse to have more fun with it.”
Miracle on Seventh Street, 1843 Seventh St. NW. miracleon7thst.com. Opens Nov. 25. All cocktails cost $13; RUM HAM! and egg nog shots are $6.