How Mace started an American holiday tradition

Feb 25, 2019


Mace bar
Before the East Village cocktail bar known as Mace was Mace, it was Miracle, but that wasn’t always the plan.

Owner Greg Boehm and partner Nico de Soto had intended to open a serious, spice-forward cocktail bar in late 2014 but a call from Boehm’s mother, who was travelling in Tibet, put a grinding halt to the construction plans. She wanted Boehm to go all out that Christmas, using his to-be-renovated bar (it was previously jazz bar Louis 649 when Boehm purchased it) to create a holiday wonderland.

“She was just thinking it would be fun,” Boehm says of his mom’s concept which, since 2014, has expanded to 82 bars across America, to date. Memories of spending Christmas at his maternal grandparents’ house in White Plains, New York inspired Boehm when creating Miracle, originally envisioned as a one-time pop-up before Mace’s official opening, which had been pushed to the following March. Retro holiday decorations from the 1950s and 1960s adorned the space and a playlist full of vintage Christmas songs added cheer. Nico de Soto created holiday-inspired cocktails and the “all-encompassing experience” known as Miracle started to take shape.

“We worked really hard and had fun doing it, but realised it’s a little more difficult than decorating and putting on a playlist,” Boehm said of Miracle’s origins. “The biggest challenge was creating high quality drinks, using recipes that resonated with people and reminded them of Christmas from childhood.” Of course, most kids weren’t drinking spiked egg nog on Christmas Eve, so Miracle played on nostalgic flavours, like cinnamon and nutmeg on the menu.

When Miracle opened, the response was huge. Crowds would wait outside to earn a seat at the bar to sip on holiday-themed warm and cold drinks and just soak up some extra holiday spirit. “I definitely didn’t expect it to get so big,” Boehm laughs. He notes that because the team he was working with was eager to open a bar and please guests, the enthusiasm (and holiday season tips) helped everything run smoothly.

The following year, the Miracle concept expanded to Boehm’s two other bars in New York, plus a friend’s bar in Connecticut and an acquaintance’s bar in Washington D.C. Each location was enviably popular and crowded, intriguing more bars outside of the city to join in. Sippin’ Santa, a tiki-themed spin-off of Miracle became part of the pop-up phenomenon and 2017 brought 50 Miracle holiday bars across America, with 2018 ushering in almost 90 locations. “Over the years it’s gotten easier, tweaking the systems to create high quality cocktails quickly and flavours that resonate and finding the balance between being gimmicky and staying true to our nerdy cocktail roots,” Boehm says.

To replicate the Miracle experience across the nation (and make Miracle a more profitable venture), Cocktail Kingdom started manufacturing barware, glassware and decorative items to have at each location, inspired by the random but “not sustainable” collection of vintage eggnog mugs Miracle used in its first year. Consumers can also buy ceramic Santa mugs and reindeer-printed Collins classes online, though nothing competes with the immersive Miracle experience.

Though launching a pop-up with a completely different concept than his new bar was a risk, Boehm calls it a “huge success.” Because not only will Miracle be sweeping the states come Thanksgiving, but the buzzy pop-up extends Mace’s customer base each year, with neighbours eager to see Miracle and learning more about the bar that sits in its place 11 other months of the year. “A lot of regulars originally find our location from the pop-up,” Boehm says. Better yet, when January rolls around, and people tend to stop drinking thanks to resolutions and lighter pockets post-holiday shopping, people are eager to see Mace in its natural state.

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