The Instagrammable Holiday Bar

Indianapolis gets in on the Christmas pop-up bar craze with Miracle on South Street—the instantly Instagrammable holiday bar is now open through Christmas Eve.

The first thing you’ll probably notice when you step into Miracle on South Street, the holiday-themed pop-up bar located at the Alexander hotel’s Plat 99 bar (or more accurately, inside a heated tent adjacent to the bar), is the enormous network of twinkling Christmas lights that cover the entire ceiling. Giant Santa hats are draped over chairs. Stockings, wrapping paper, candy canes, and Christmas trees abound.

“A customer told me that it looked like Christmas threw up on the walls, and I took that as a compliment,” Plat 99 manager Leal Ransone says. Event management group Accent Indy helped create the kitschy winter wonderland, which also features several photo op–worthy areas inspired by Will Ferrell’s 2003 holiday classic Elf. Visitors can pose with the cheerful narwhal who sees Buddy the Elf off on his journey to find his dad or take a seat upon the department store Santa’s “Throne of Lies.” There’s even a VCR jammed with chocolate chip cookies.

“We wrapped everything we could in wrapping paper and garland and lights, as excessive as we could possibly make it,” Ransone says.

Thanks to same Instagrammable culture that has made art installations such as Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s dazzling Infinity Mirrors exhibition and San Francisco’s Museum of Ice Cream into smash hits, holiday-themed pop-up bars are swiftly becoming big business—and the Miracle-branded bars are the undisputed king. Chicago magazine recently ran a headline noting its city’s Christmas bars are “out of control,” and in Atlanta, which hosted its first Miracle pop-up in 2016, there are now no fewer than eight Christmas pop-ups, with the Miracle locations continuing to draw lines out the door.

The Plat 99 pop-up, which opened on November 23 and runs through December 24, is Indianapolis’s first Miracle location, a brand that has exploded in popularity since the original location, New York City’s Miracle on 9th Street, was launched by bar owner Greg Boehm in 2014. The concept has since expanded into 70 locations across the United States and even internationally into Canada, England, New Zealand, and Panama. No two Miracle pop-up locations are alike: While the bars generally share the same “as-extra-as-can-be” attitude when it comes to decor and host the same menu of cocktails served in charmingly tacky glassware—the “Bad Santa,” for example, is a hot apple cider spiked with sherry, cinnamon syrup, and baked apple bitters, served in a winking Claus mug—local proprietors like Ransone are allowed to put their own spin on the Christmas vision. At Miracle on South, this includes things like incorporating Bloomington-based Cardinal Spirits into the cocktails.

Ransone says the most popular drink on the menu by far is the “Snowball Old Fashioned,”—butterscotch-infused rye whiskey on the rocks, but the “rocks” in this case is a ball of refrozen shaved ice. For an even quirkier drink, you and your buddies can continue arguing over whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie with the “Yippie Ki Yay Mother F***er!”—a sweet-potato rum-based concoction served in a Santa-pants mug.

Equally fun is the menu, which Ransone describes as “what would have been served at your grandma’s Christmas party”—think a cheeseball with nuts and raisins, shrimp cocktail, “leftover sliders” that feature house-smoked turkey and cranberry sauce on a Hawaiian roll, pineapple upside-down cake, even those barbecue Crock-Pot meatballs you’ll find at any good Midwestern potluck.

Ransone and his team were tapped to create Indy’s first Miracle outpost back in July, and came up with the idea to erect the heated tent—“a literal pop-up”—so that they could shape and decorate the space however they wanted, without the limitations of Platt 99’s exiting artwork and light fixtures. They also host holiday-themed trivia on Wednesday evenings and karaoke nights on Thursdays. (Ransone learned on the first karaoke night that having a purely holiday-themed song list gets repetitive fast, so feel free to belt out “Don’t Stop Believin’” alongside “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”)

And while crowds for now haven’t been too intense, Ransone says not to worry about standing in line in the cold—should the bar reach capacity, visitors can wait comfortably inside the Plat 99 lounge. “It’s been really fun to see it come to life,” he says, and the team is already planning Miracle on South Street 2019.

333 Delaware Street; opens at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and at noon on Saturday and Sunday now through December 24.