Miracle on Liberty Pops Up in Pittsburgh
The holiday themed cocktail bar is one of around 20 international Miracle popups.
photo by hal B. Klein
Last Saturday night, revelers lined up on the sidewalk of Liberty Avenue in hopes of imbibing a bit of holiday cheer at the newest Downtown bar. Called Miracle On Liberty, it was constructed from scratch inside the now-shuttered Dream Ice Cream space.
Shiny stripes of red and green streamers shimmy down the walls. The back bar is a bustle of tinsel, toys and dolls. Twinkle lights and wrapping paper cover the ceiling. A corner of the bar lined with blue and gold paper and a Mensch on a Bench is dubbed the “Hanukkah Hideaway.” Drinking in Miracle on Liberty is spending time in a fever dream where Bob’s Garage and your over-enthusiastic, holiday-obsessed relative collided into spirited bacchanalia.
The Miracle bar concept debuted three years ago at the apothecary-driven NYC cocktail bar Mace. “They did so well that year that they expanded to a few more bars last year. And this year they wanted to expand even further,” says Carrie Clayton, a fixture of the Pittsburgh bartending community and one of the organizers of Miracle on Liberty.
photos by Cory Baker
There’s one big difference between Pittsburgh’s Miracle On Liberty and the rest of the approximately 20 Miracle bars worldwide. “Every other place is ‘Miracle On ...’ and the name of an existing bar, with a concept that just got decorated and flipped for a month. We built ours from scratch,” says Clayton.
“We found a raw space eight days before we were supposed to open. [The buildout] was one of the most difficult and rewarding things I’ve ever done,” she adds.
Clayton says that she and co-organizer Spencer Warren (who recently designed the delightful cocktail menu at nearby Pirata Caribbean Cuisine x Rum Bar) “spent the first two days working by candlelight because we didn’t have power,” and then fellow service-industry professionals got into the spirit of things by volunteering a few hours of construction time whenever they could. Her family even got into it; they spent Thanksgiving on construction duty and had their holiday meal on a propped-up, overturned door. “It was the most thankful Thanksgiving I ever had,” Clayton says.
Now, there’s a team of Pittsburgh’s top-flight bartenders working in the space.
Every Miracle bar serves drinks made from a standardized cocktail menu, which was created by Mace’s Nico de Soto. Barware supply outfit Cocktail Kingdom is the brand's corporate partner; all glassware and printed material come from the New York company.
Aside from the saccharine Muletide, the cocktails are remarkably enjoyable. Mulled Wine Sour (Pedro Ximenez sherry, rye, sweet vermouth, Madeira, clove syrup, orange acid, egg white) is a nuanced yet tart-and-festive play on a whiskey sour. Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! (Barbados rum, cachaca, Trinidad overproof rum, pumpkin-almond orgeat, lime juice) is a holiday tiki delight. For those who prefer to stick closer to the classics, the Snowball Old Fashioned stays close to home, with triple-spiced syrup and Becherovka (an herbal bitter) adding a hint of seasonal flavor.
photo by Hal B. Klein
Look for some weekly specials to augment the standardized Miracle menu. Clayton says that a winter-style negroni (clove-infused Aperol, cranberry vodka), a drink made from Hop Farm's Cherry Bomb beer and a cocktail featuring Manischewitz, the syrupy Kosher wine, are in the works.
Miracle on Liberty is more than a bastion of holiday fun; it’s also there to serve a good cause. Clayton says that the organizers will donate a portion of the daily bar tab to 412 Food Rescue (and soon will feature Loaf, the collaboration beer between 412 Food Rescue and East End Brewing Company). There also will be a specialty cocktail served the week before Christmas to benefit Women in Whiskey. And Clayton’s daughter, Adeline, plans on setting up a non-alcoholic hot chocolate stand; she's going to donate her proceeds to the children’s charity Variety.
Miracle on Liberty runs through New Year’s Eve.
(539 Liberty Ave., facebook.com/miraclepgh)