Our obsession with celebrating Christmas has gotten out of hand—but I support it. I want the colorful string lights, the purposefully ugly sweaters, the Mariah Carey anthems. But most of all, I want to drink spiked hot chocolate straight from Santa’s ceramic pants. I’m referring to the cheeky mug, obviously. If you’ve ever been to any of the holiday-themed pop-ups in NJ, you know what I’m talking about.
For the past few years, more and more local bars have started hosting these Christmassy pop-ups. Inside, their spaces undergo a dramatic transformation thanks to kitschy holiday decor, but that’s not even the best part. Although, it is admittedly very vibey and Instagram-friendly. It’s actually all about the craft cocktails—served in the aforementioned festive glassware and mugs. The drinks, much like the atmosphere (and their names), aren’t meant to be taken seriously. Just remember that when you’re on your second “Christmapolitan.”
If you’re looking for an extra dose of nostalgia or just someplace to put you in an über festive mood, we’ve rounded up 10 holiday-themed pop-ups in NJ.
Sleighs ‘n’ Leis at Cellar335 – Jersey City, NJ
The annual Sleighs ‘n’ Leis is back at Cellar 335 in Jersey City. The popular tiki bar has been fully decorated for the season. Specialty holiday cocktails include the famous Frozen Hot Choco with flavor variations that include classic, mojito or Mexican. Expect fun mugs, glistening string lights and even festive straws at this tropical oasis.
Miracle on Centre at Cowan’s Public – Nutley, NJ
This NJ pub has switched over to yet another festively-decorated cocktail bar. At Cowan’s Public, aka Miracle on Centre, try drinks with names such as “Elfing Around” and “Yippie Ki Yay Motherf****r.” The interior takes after a 1930s speakeasy so visitors will notice vintage Christmas decorations that pay homage to its Prohibition roots.
Mixtapes & Mistletoe at Laylow – Asbury Park, NJ
Now through Jan. 2, Laylow is hosting an R&B-inspired “Mixtapes & Mistletoe” pop-up at their Asbury Park cocktail lounge. The seasonal drink menu is divided into four sections: Kid’s Table, Everything Nice, Naughty List and Warm Your Tushy. The cocktails themselves have an equally jovial feel. Picture a large-format “Ludachristmas Punch” made with rum, hibiscus, mulling spices, citrus and ginger.
Miracle on George at Catherine Lombardi’s – New Brunswick, NJ
An Italian-American Christmas celebration awaits you at Catherine Lombardi’s in New Brunswick. As part of their Miracle on George pop-up, guests can have their eggplant parm and festively-formulated cocktail, too. Try the ever-popular SanTaRex which is a mix of tequila, mezcal, melon liqueur, almond orgeat, lime and tiki bitters. Inside, expect to see string lights dangling from the ceiling, colorful wreaths, sparkling trees and more.
You can take a virtual tour of last year’s space here.
Miracle on Valley at Gus’ Last Word – Wood-Ridge, NJ
Gus’ Last Word is the NJ restaurant scene’s newest kid on the block. As such, they’re currently hosting the bar’s first-ever Miracle on Valley pop-up. Inside, Gus’ already boasts a 1950s aesthetic and for the holidays, they’ve leaned into an old-school Christmas theme. Think of an iconic leg lamp via “A Christmas Story” and more. Before you leave, don’t forget to take a shot of something “naughty” or “nice.”
Miracle at Game Time Bar and Grill – Freehold, NJ
If you have plans to visit iPlay America, then we recommend stopping by Miracle at Game Time Bar and Grill while you’re there. At this holiday pop-up, expect Christmassy libations, ornate decorations, live music and glistening lights galore. Through Dec. 31, the bar will also be hosting a number of festive get-togethers such as an ugly sweater party, a boozy brunch with Santa and more.
Santa’s Secret Sips at Iron Bar – Morristown, NJ
Through the month of December, Iron Bar in Morristown is throwing a number of holiday events where the festive cocktails are sure to be flowing. Included in the “Santa’s Secret Sips” lineup is an ugly sweater party on Dec.4 and “The Night Before Christmas” event on Dec. 23. Visitors will notice that the bar has already been completely decked out with red and green lights and a ton of other seasonal decorations.
Sippin’ Santa at The Vanguard – Harrison, NJ
One trip to Sippin’ Santa at The Vanguard and you might think you’re on vacation in the South Pacific. The beach-themed pop-up has a tiki bar with a grass skirt, twinkling starfish—all as an ode to the bar’s origins as a factory during WWII. The Vanguard is no stranger to over-the-top cocktails but this time, they’re getting a holiday twist. A Kris Kringle Colada, Yule Log Grog and White Russian Christmas are among some of the drink options.
Miracle on Mercer at Franklin Social – Jersey City, NJ
The halls of Franklin Social have been fully decked for yet another Miracle on Mercer season. The bar has been adorned with holiday tablecloths, Christmas stockings, tinsel, trees, string lights and Santa hats on the back of every chair. Here you can sip on Jingle Balls Nog (and more) until your heart’s content—a delicious combination of cognac, cream sherry, almond milk, cream, egg, vanilla and nutmeg.
Miracle on George at Stage Left Steak – New Brunswick, NJ
Miracle on George continues at Catherine Lombardi’s sister restaurant, Stage Left Steak. The two venues conveniently share a space but Stage Left is located on the first floor while Catherine’s is upstairs. The restaurant specializes in seasonal cuisine and craft spirits, which means you can pair the eatery’s elaborate holiday decorations with a dry-aged porterhouse and handcrafted festive cocktail.
A Rab•bit Hole Christmas at Blue Steel Pizza Co. – Bloomfield, NJ
The speakeasy inside Blue Steel Pizza Co. is usually known for its “Alice in Wonderland” theme. For the holidays, however, it has been transformed into what they’re calling “A Rab•bit Hole Christmas.” Goers will find a festive cocktail menu on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. throughout the month of December.
Heading to any of the holiday pop-ups in NJ? Let us know in the comments.
Main image via @gametimebarandgrill