The pandemic has halted many things—international travel, parties of seven—but, knock on a wooden sleigh, DC’s wildly popular annual Christmas bar isn’t one of them. Of course things will look different this holiday season, and not just because of Covid. Over the past five years, Drink Company’s Pop Up Pub in Shaw was home to Miracle on Seventh Street (and its insane lines). Since the venue closed last February, Miracle—the NYC-based company that collaborates with a national roster of bars for the festive pop-ups—has found a new partner in the District. And it’s quite fitting for 2020: Miracle at Death Punch Bar. The pop-up will open in restaurateur Darren Lee Norris’ Adams Morgan cocktail haunt on (what else?) Black Friday.
“It’s the right place at the right time,” says Norris, who’s also behind Logan Circle hangout Black Whiskey. “We’re going to design a really cool Christmas experience with a little bit of an edge—which feels appropriate for this year.”
Death Punch Bar, the moody cocktail lounge crowning Norris’ three-level Japanese dining and drinking complex, opened in the former Bourbon space in August (the name nods to potent drinks). A lot is up in the air for the holiday takeover, depending on whether DC remains in Phase Two for the next month. As of now, Norris says the 1500 square-foot space can accommodate around 42 seated Santas and elves. He plans to take advance bookings for hour-ish-long segments on Resy, as well as some walk-ins (cue the socially distanced line). There may also be outdoor seating and some winter wonderland merriment in the rear patio.
Regardless of the layout, revelers can expect Miracle staples like “naughty” and “nice” shots, hot Bad Santa mulled wine, cognac-spiked Jingle Bells nog, and tons of cheery swag. Death Punch barman Kit Yarber (formerly of the Passenger and witchy bar Hex) will put his own spin on a lineup of festive drinks. Norris, who typically offers Japanese street fare at the bar, is planning for a limited dessert menu of holiday-style wagashi (Japanese confections) and booze-infused sweets such as spiked butterscotch over homemade ice cream.
One of the bigger challenges in the pandemic—and its economic impact—is the project’s usually elaborate decor, which can get costly. “They [Miracle] really stress full immersion—people are coming for that experience,” says Norris. Past themes from Drink Co. ranged from festive pandas to a “candy cane baseball wonderland.”
But on a Covid-era budget? “It requires us to get creative. Thankfully I’ve always been a DIY person,” says Norris. Though he isn’t ready to reveal the look just yet, here’s a hint: “Let’s just say it’s going to be Nightmare Before Christmas in the feel.”
A festive nightmare—perfect for 2020.
The same company that puts on Miracle also coordinates the Sippin’ Santa tiki pop-up series, which will return this year to Archipelago on U Street. Check back for more details soon.
Miracle at Death Punch Bar. 2321 18th St., NW Open Black Friday (November 27) through January 1, 2021.