Miracle on Liberty pops up in time for the holiday

Festooned in glittering green and garnet garland and ribbons, under a galaxy of shiny bulbs and twinkly lights and before the beckoning arms of some hilariously campy animatronic Santa Clauses, Pittsburgh’s hottest new cocktail lounge has a design that would make Clark Griswold proud.

Or as creator Spencer Warren said of the aesthetic: “We wanted to make it look like Christmas threw up on this place.”

And although its been christened as Miracle on Liberty, for the spirits-swilling set it’s more of a miracle on ice — or, more accurately, a miracle on the rocks. 

If it’s over the top, it’s supposed to be — the “bar” is a limited-run pop-up establishment at 539 Liberty Ave., Downtown. It will remain open daily until New Year’s Eve and feature 11 Christmas-themed cocktails prepared by Mr. Warren and colleagues Carrie Clayton, Elliott Sussman and Hannah Morris.

Started in 2014 by Greg Boehm and his Manhattan cocktail bar MACE, the Miracle pop-up holiday bar concept has spread to 16 locations in the U.S., Canada and Europe, but only Miracle on Liberty was built completely from scratch. The others exist as bars-within-bars in prominent cocktail spots. Pittsburgh’s location is also the only to partner with a charity, 412 Food Rescue, a nonprofit that reallocates food to the hungry.

“It’s really impressive for Pittsburgh to be included in this,” Mr. Warren said.

He had five days to transform a vacant former ice cream parlor into a Kitsch-mas shrine to the Dec. 25 holiday (and to the Festival of Lights as well, with one blue and silver wall dubbed the “Hanukkah Hideaway”).

“We had to work by candlelight at times until power was put on,” he said.

The bar top was fashioned out of an old door that was in a supply closet, and some of the classically cheesy decorations had been in storage at the Carrick Lit Club for decades and were offered up by its owner Sean Enright. Obtaining a liquor license in Pennsylvania is a notoriously red tape-laden process, but Miracle is able to operate via a catering liquor license furnished by the Round Corner Cantina in Lawrenceville.

The 11 holiday-inspired drinks were created by MACE bartender Nico de Soto and are presented on a Christmas card menu. They include offerings such as the Muletide (aquavit, oloroso sherry, ginger, lime, pumpkin) and the Christmapolitan (vodka, elderflower, fig, spiced cranberry sauce, lime), a spiked egg nog and a rum drink named after the most famous (and unprintable) line from “Die Hard.” Cocktails are $12 and “naughty” and “nice” shots of flavored whiskeys are $5. Mr. Warren and the Miracle on Liberty staff will add their own special concoctions throughout the pop-up’s run.

Mr. Warren has routinely done themed pop-ups at other bars around the city that have generated a loyal following among his bartending brethren and cocktail connoisseurs, but the universal appeal of a Christmas theme in a central location has generated a response that has both surprised and humbled him. Downtown Pittsburgh is hardly lacking for spots to get a good tipple, so it’s telling that there was a line to get into Miracle when the doors opened Tuesday at 4 p.m.

“The service industry in Pittsburgh is a tight-knit community that supports each other viciously,” Mr. Warren said. “But, this is the first time the general public has supported us in such an amazing way. This business amazes me every day. Part of what drew me to this lifestyle, and make no mistake — this is a lifestyle — was and is the fact that every day is totally different and dynamic. It is a great feeling knowing that you have a city behind you.”

Little bites

• A few years in the making, the cleverly named Mexican restaurant Tres Rios has opened at 1719 E. Carson St. on the South Side. Billed as a Mexican kitchen and tequila bar, it is a sister establishment of the local Emiliano’s chain, which has three locations in the area. Tres Rios will feature a slate of tequila cocktails and a menu of tacos, tortas and burritos.

• The Urban Tap has opened a second location at 216 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside, in the longtime home of the former Buffalo Blues. True to its name, it’ll have 100 beers available on draft and a gastropub menu similar to its original location on the South Side, which opened in 2013.

Dan Gigler: dgigler@post-gazette.com; Twitter @gigs412.


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