We might not be seeing a white Christmas, but that doesn’t mean Texas is lacking in yuletide spirit(s). The trend of pop-up holiday-themed bars—in which venues revamp themselves with themed holiday decor, a new menu of seasonal drinks, and, in some cases, a temporary name—has taken off across the state. Here are eleven pop-ups—plus one year-round holiday wonder—that are so festive, you’re likely to find yourself posing with Santa before caroling your way home. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Daiquiri Time Out
This rum-focused cocktail bar, just a stone’s throw from the shores of Galveston, is hosting Miracle On the Island through December 31. Normally a tropical paradise, the place has been wrapped in plaid and hung with ornaments and even features a flickering fireplace beside the tree. There’s no better spot on the Gulf Coast to cozy up with a Santa pants mug full of Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r (sweet potato, cachaça, Trinidad overproof rum, dry curaçao, marshmallow orgeat, lime) or a Christmas Carol Barrel (aged rum, aquavit, amaro, pumpkin pie, lemon, angostura bitters) … especially on Miracle Monday, when happy hour prices run all night long. 2701 Market St., Galveston.
Conceived at New York’s Mace in 2014 by Cocktail Kingdom founder Greg Boehm, holiday pop-up bar Miracle has now expanded to over eighty locations across the globe. The team behind the Roosevelt Room has decked the halls in full force next door at the Eleanor for Miracle on 5th for the second year in a row. The front lounge is set up like a living room on Christmas morning, the dance floor has been transformed into a ski lodge, and the mezzanine is now a frosty mountain summit. You have until the last Saturday of the year (December 29) to enjoy cocktails like the Snowball Old Fashioned (Butterscotch George Dickel Rye Whiskey, spiced brown sugar, wormwood bitters, orange zest) or round up a few friends for a shot-ski experience. Donation boxes are set up at the entrance to collect money for the Austin Children’s Shelter and Caritas of Austin. This is a popular one, so expect to wait in line unless you purchase a Dasher Pass to skip it. 307 W. Fifth St. Unit A, Austin.
Ever wonder what it would be like to step inside a life-sized snow globe? Pay a visit to the restaurant at the Hotel Van Zandt in the Rainey Street district and find out. The hot spot is launching a Holiday Disco Bar & Lounge on its tented rooftop December 19 through 22, complete with snow machines, sparkles aplenty, and (naturally) disco balls. Sip on holiday-themed drinks like Hail Santa (Banks 5, Allspice Dram, Branca Menta, red wine, lime, coconut rim) and the Frostbite (Hangar One, Chareau Aloe, Crème de Menthe, lemon) while you roast marshmallows and make your own s’mores using elevated ingredients from their pastry chef-curated s’mores bar. Each night will run from 7 to 10 and be followed by live music on Geraldine’s indoor stage. 605 Davis St., Austin TX 78701
Gibson Street Bar
The lights are strung, and the mistletoe is hung at Gibson Bar, which has become Gibson Wonderland for the season. Rock around the (red and gold) Christmas tree when the Misfit Toys play from 7:30-10:30 p.m. December 19, and be sure to don your holiday best for a photo in the Gibson’s sleigh. Hot and cold drink specials include Loco Cocoa (360 Double Chocolate vodka, Ancho Reyes chili liqueur, Mexican hot cocoa, whipped cream, chocolate, cayenne, cinnamon) and the Rum-Pa-Pa-Pum (Sailor Jerry spiced rum, cinnamon-brown sugar butter, clove, honey)—and of course everything goes well with snacks from Luke’s Inside Out, the adjacent food trailer. 1109 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin.
This innovative cocktail lounge in Deep Ellum is all lit up in twinkling lights for the Dallas Miracle pop-up through December 30. Wrapped presents adorn the walls and ceilings while scenes from vintage Christmas movies are projected on large screens. Pull up a Santa hat-topped seat and order a cocktail like the Bad Santa, a hot milk made with Barbados rum, Trinidad overproof rum, Batavia arrack, pineapple juice, lemon juice, almond milk, 8 spices, coconut water and coconut oil, served warm in a Kris Kringle mug. 2816 Elm St., Dallas.
Houston is experiencing its first Miracle pop-up at Julep, where the talented bar team will be shaking up Cocktail Kingdom’s signature menu through December 31. The bar is trimmed to the nines with a sparkling Christmas tree, a bartop snow scene, red velvet bows, poinsettias, and bells. But most impressive of all is the ceiling, which is covered with a tangle of lights, presents, and ornaments, much like a Christmas morning scene turned upside-down. It’s the perfect setting to enjoy a Gingerbread Flip (bourbon, gingerbread syrup, Elemakule tiki bitters, egg, nutmeg, gingersnap cookie crumbs). 1919 Washington Ave., Houston.
Lala’s Little Nugget
Frances Lala opened this candy-striped dive bar in Crestview back in 1972, stringing the space with ornaments aplenty to create a shimmering wonderland effect all year round. An animatronic Mr.and Mrs. Claus perch at the end of the bar and elves on a string dance when the bathroom door opens. Walk toward the jukebox to find a cactus-shaped evergreen and a fringed leg lamp straight out of A Christmas Story and order festive drinks like the Reindeer Water (tequila, triple sec lime, sparkling water) or the Snow Ball (Rumplemintz, Kahlúa, Rumchata). Best of all, this winter wonderland is open all year long, so you can revive the spirit during the dog days of summer. 2207 Justin Lane, Austin.
Houston’s tiki paradise in the Heights is one of just twelve bars around the world selected to host the Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack, Miracle’s tropical Christmas concept in collaboration with tiki godfather Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, through December 22. The already-impressive treasure trove of tiki relics now includes a collection of holiday kitsch, making it the perfect environment for sipping a Kana Kaloka Swizzle (Plantation OFTD rum, lime juice, swizzle syrup) or a Kris Kringle Colada (dark Jamaican rum, Cynar, allspice liqueur, lime juice, pineapple juice, cream of coconut). 6412 N. Main St., Houston.
Sippin Santa’s Surf Shack has been heating things up at East Side cocktail dive Nickel City. The bar’s normal string lights are now joined by garland and tinsel, a twinkling tree, and a thatched roof for major tiki vibes. Enjoy tropical takes on Christmas cocktails in festive glassware, like the Mele Kalikimaka (London Dry Gin, Grand Marnier, lime juice, cranberry syrup, allspice liqueur, Herbsaint), Hawaiian Milk Punch (bourbon, cream, chai syrup, sarsaparilla, tobacco bitters, nutmeg) and the Rudolph Shoots the Curl shot (Fernet Branca Menta, Averna, dark chocolate liqueur). Ditch the ugly Christmas sweater for a Hawaiian shirt and snap photos with surfer Saint Nick himself each Saturday (from 12-2 p.m.) through the end of the year. 1133 E. Eleventh St., Austin.
Preamble Lounge and Craft House
This unassuming suburban speakeasy, located just southeast of Houston and halfway to Galveston, is also host to a Miracle pop-up this year. Miracle at Space City is running through December 24, featuring an oversized Christmas tree and over-the-top decorations they promise will warm even the Grinchiest of spirits. While you can’t go wrong with any of Miracle’s tried-and-true, Instagram-worthy cocktails, the Koala-La La La La La La La (gin, pine, dry vermouth, lime, eucalyptus syrup, orange bitters) is not only fun to order, but comes with a tiny clip-on koala in a Santa hat. 20801 Gulf Freeway No. 12, Webster.
Proper on Magnolia
Fort Worth cocktail haven Proper on Magnolia has become Miracle in Cowtown for the second year in a row. Fans of the bar’s popular summer-long tiki pop-up can attest that these cocktail shakers really know how to transform a space into a whole new world. This time, it’s just more North Pole than South Pacific. Follow the inflatable snowman on their rooftop and kick off the holiweekend under the ornament-strung “Let’s Get Lit” backdrop. Whether you’ve been Naughty or Nice, there’s a shot with your name on it. (The former is made with rum, peppermint and chocolate, while the latter is made with bourbon or cinnamon.) 409 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth.
W Hotel’s Secret Bar
Are you already itching to pack up Christmas until next year? Well, the W Hotel Austin is determined to make your heart grow three sizes with its Grinch takeover. The hotel’s Secret Bar has been transformed into the Who-tel Bar for the season, drenched with red light and filled with wrapped presents, a “chair of cheers” photo opp and Seuss-approved wall decor depicting silhouettes from the classic Christmas tale. Themed cocktails include a Who-tini (Ketel Orange and Peach Blossom Vodka, prickly pear, Jumex Plum Nectar, lemon juice and agave), Grinch Grog (Courvoisier VSOP cognac, house-made nitro eggnog and matcha powder), and a Mount Crumpit (shaved ice covered in Bulleit Bourbon and candy cane syrup), which will likely be the closest thing to snow you’ll see in Austin this year. Show up between 10 p.m. and midnight through December 28 and you may even be served complimentary snacks by the mean, green one himself. 200 Lavaca St., Austin.