Pittsburgh restaurants and bars

8 things to expect at Miracle on Liberty, Pittsburgh’s 2018 holiday pop-up bar

This year’s proceeds benefit Tree of Life and 412 Food Rescue.

MIRACLE – Gingerbread Flip – Melissa Hom
Melissa Hom / Courtesy of Miracle
Rossilynne Culgan

Much like Santa and his elves in the North Pole, Spencer Warren and his crew in Pittsburgh prepare for Christmas all year long.

This merry squad, though, doesn’t toil away making toys in a workshop. Instead, they scour Pittsburgh’s second-hand stores for every shred of Christmas decor they can find.

And much like the North Pole team, they’re working toward one very special date: Opening day on Friday, Nov. 23 when they unveil their holiday-themed pop-up bar to the public. It’s like Christmas morning — except at 4 p.m. Black Friday.

After that, the bar will be open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. until New Year’s Eve, except for the first weekend when it will close at midnight.

It’s the third year for Pittsburgh’s mega-popular holiday bar, which is one of 92 Miracle pop-ups across the world. But this year it will operate in a new space, and plenty of new surprises await. Here’s what to expect at Miracle on Liberty this holiday season.

A new location

Find Miracle at 705 Liberty Ave., Downtown, in the ground-floor of the Clark Building in what used to be Katie’s Kandy, said Warren, owner and head elf at Miracle on Liberty. It’s just around the corner from Warren’s day job as owner of The Warren Bar and Burrow.

The location provides double the amount of wall space over its former location in Market Square and much more space than its first location a few blocks away on Liberty.

“It definitely has more space as we found out while decorating. We ran out,” Warren said, sending staff to every antique mall, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Red, White, & Blue Thrift Store around the region.

Decorations galore

Expect tinsel, stockings, ornaments, strings of lights, animatronic Santas, themed chair covers, vintage decor, picture frames wrapped like gifts, a giant wooden Santa, and Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes.

“Anything that can hang that’s Christmasy or Hanukkah or holiday-based, it’s hung on the wall,” he said. In the off-season, Warren stores the decorations in the basement of his apartment.

Last year, he described the vibe as, “It looks like Christmas threw up everywhere.”

What about this year? “Christmas has been pregnant; basically, it hasn’t stopped throwing up,” he said.

A Hannukkah Hideaway

The bar’s Hanukkah Hideaway, decorated with Stars of David and menorahs, will be bigger this year and will feature banners with the names of the 11 Tree of Life victims.

“You’ll always see it,” Warren said. “It’s amazing how much Pittsburgh has come together for this. We’re hoping people don’t forget now that’s it a month or two later.”

Important causes

A portion of the proceeds will benefit two local charities: The Tree of Life synagogue and 412 Food Rescue, which strives to end food waste. Last year, the bar raised $15,000 for 412 Food Rescue, and Warren hopes to double that amount this year.

On Sunday, Dec. 2 — the first day of Hanukkah — all sales will be donated to Tree of Life. In addition to buying drinks, guests can also offer additional donations to the charities if they wish, Warren said. Continuing the spirit of giving, many bartenders donate their time to Miracle.

MIRACLE – Koala-La, La, La, La, La, La, La – Melissa Hom (2)
Melissa Hom / Courtesy of Miracle

Craft cocktails

Drinks are the hallmark at Miracle, which offers 10 cocktails plus two shots (one naughty, one nice). Look for some tweaks in ingredients from last year’s menu. Drinks include:

  • Koala-La La La, La La La La: Gin, pine, dry vermouth, lime, eucalyptus syrup, and orange bitters
  • Jingle Balls Nog: Cognac, Pedro Ximenez sherry, brown butter, cinnamon, cherry, vanilla, almond milk, cream, sugar, egg, and nutmeg
  • Christmas Carol Barrel: Aged rum, aquavit, amaro, pumpkin pie, demerara syrup, lime, vanilla, and angostura bitters

Barware is available for purchase this year, so you can take home a festive Santa mug without having to steal it like the Grinch.

Everybody’s favorite holiday meal: Sushi

Forget ham and scalloped potatoes.

Sushi is the meal of choice at Miracle on Liberty, given the Warren’s partnership with Penn Cove Eatery, also Downtown, and will even don a festive look with themed colors and designs.

A festive soundtrack

Christmas classics, of course, will play on the stereo, along with some upbeat ’50s music.

“When you’re sitting there in a Christmas bar and listening to the Beach Boys and drinking a really well-made cocktail, it’s an experience,” Warren said.

Sing loud for all to hear.

Loads of holiday cheer

For Warren, it’s all about the moment people walk in.

“Seeing people’s faces when they walk in there is amazing,” he said.

Even though people will likely have to wait in line, guests often end up making friends with their neighbors.

“It creates friendships. It creates relationships,” Warren said. “It’s a whole experience.”