Miracle pop-up on Queen West spreads cheer to even the grinchiest
Having trouble getting into the spirit this year? Between endless shopping trips and packed calendars, it can happen to the best of us.
Beginning Nov. 23, though, there’ll be a fix for this at 251 Queen St. W. — a pop-up Christmas bar, with enough tinsel, twinkle lights and holiday decor to fill a small stadium, staffed by Santa’s helpers, shaking up cocktails and selling delicious brown butter-Cognac eggnog for charity. Its name? Appropriately enough, “Miracle.” And it just might be enough to inject a little holiday spirit into the grinchiest among us.
Especially since Miracle is located a mere 10 minutes west of the Eaton Centre and opens every day at noon through the entire shopping season — perfect for those looking to take a quick breather from the crowds and recharge with a little holiday cheer. All the while, you’ll be raising money for Nellie’s, an east-end non-profit that provides shelter, education and advocacy to women and children. A quick visit to the pop-up, then, is at least as heartwarming as that famous Miracle on 34th, but way more Instagram-able, thanks to its maximalist holiday decor.
“We bought a mile and a half of wrapping paper to cover the walls, we have more than 5,000 light bulbs, and the staff are all wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, Christmas onesies or dressed like Santa,” says Nick Kennedy, owner of Civil Liberties, the west-end bar that’s putting on the Toronto Miracle event with his partner Lauren McKenna, who works at Bar Isabel. “Basically, we took the esthetic of a tiki bar, you know, crammed with tacky statues and Polynesian decor, but with holiday kitsch instead.”
Toronto’s month-long Miracle pop-up isn’t Kennedy’s brainchild, nor is it unique to our city. There are actually over 80 “Miracle” pop-ups opening up across the United Kingdom, Panama, and North America. This wildly popular, fast-growing international movement was born four years ago in New York’s East Village, when New York cocktail personality Greg Boehm decided to take a timeout from construction on his own bricks-and-mortar bar, Mace, and host a charitable Christmas pop-up instead. It was a hit, obviously.
This year, Toronto’s Miracle is one of three happening in Canada — Calgary’s Proof Cocktail Bar and The Cold Room in Montreal are both running pop-ups in their respective cities for different local charities. Although all Miracle pop-ups offer a traditional, house-made, decadently rich eggnog, each pop-up puts its own spin on a few signature holiday cocktails — a welcome alternative, given the creamy eggnog. More is more at Miracle, but one eggnog is probably all your arteries can handle. Then, it’s time to break it up with a Snowball Old Fashioned (rye, sugar, bitters, and orange), Partridge in a Pear Tree (tequila, mezcal, pear brandy, and lime) or a Koala La La, La La La La (a piney-gin martini variant with eucalyptus syrup).
One dollar from every cocktail sold — not just the Jingle Ball Nog — goes to Nellie’s, and, in addition, fundraising will take place through the sale of holiday-themed eggnog cups and donation boxes. For Kennedy and McKenna, part of the motivation is to do something good as we approach the holidays, but it’s also about raising holiday spirits. The pair first discovered the Miracle program when they were visiting McKenna’s family in Colorado for the holidays and happened upon a pop-up in Denver.
“It was just one of the most magical bar experiences we ever had,” recalls Kennedy. “It was just so much fun, and it was just such a perfect Christmas memory that we want to just make sure people in Toronto could experience the same thing we did.”
Miracle by Civil Liberties is at 251 Queen St. W., Nov. 23-Dec. 27. Opens every weekday at 5 p.m., noon on weekends, serving till last call every day. Opening times vary slightly, since there are some private office parties that will shutter the space some weekdays. Check for late openings or book your office party on Instagram: @miracletoronto
Toronto-based Christine Sismondo writes about spirits