13 Over-the-Top Holiday-Themed Pop-Up Bars in NYC

Ditch the eggnog at home for these festive cocktail destinations.

Thanksgiving’s over, the Rockefeller Christmas tree has been lit, and there’s a distinct nip in the air. All of this means one thing: Over-the-top holiday themed bars and pop-ups are opening their doors to serve you body-warming cocktails amid glitzy decorations.

From the return of yearly favorites to luxe rooftop snow globes and anti-holiday holiday bars, NYC has plenty of festive spots to toast the merry season. After the ups and downs of the past year, we’re all deserving of a kitschy and fun holiday experience—here are 13 must-visit pop-up bars to check out this season.

Thief
Miracle pop-up | Photo by Melissa Hom

This annual holiday pop-up is still in its original location on 9th Street in Alphabet City, in what’s now the Cabinet, as well as a new location in Brooklyn at Thief. Both spots are decked out with faux snow, tinsel, and ornaments and Thief has a candy cane-striped doorway manned by a giant, inflatable Grinch (so guests can “steal Christmas” at Thief). Each outpost serves cocktails like the Christmapolitan, Snowball Old-Fashioned, and Jingle Balls Nog. New this year is the Elfing Around and there are updated recipes for the Jolly Koala, On Dasher, and SanTaRex.

Bell Book & Candle
Photo courtesy of Bell Book & Candle

Bell Book & Candle

West Village
$$$$

At Bell Book & Candle, the cozy West Village basement bar and restaurant goes all out for Christmas, decorating the space with soft plaid flannel pillows and blankets and plenty of pine garlands and lights strung everywhere. Plus, the menu of cocktails is full-on winter holiday-themed, with concoctions like Coal for Christmas with coconut, charcoal, and mint-infused vodka; Kiss Me Santa with Aberfeldy, chocolate, peppermint, and Coco Lopez; and the Candy Cane Shot, with Rumplemintz, peppermint schnapps, and Coco Lopez.

The Garret
Feliz Coctelería | Photo courtesy of Front of House

Nolita bar and restaurant the Garret Coctelería is hosting this Latin-inspired holiday pop-up, complete with shiny ornaments, large palm trees with Christmas lights, snowflake paper chains, gift-wrapped tables, and a lifesize floating sleigh with a mariachi band (really). Seasonal beverages include A Lump of Coal with blackberry, mint, mango butter, black sesame, tequila, lime, egg white, Chilean red wine and a Latin spin on the hot toddy, the Epazote Hot Toddy with epazote hot tea, ginger, spiced apple cider, lemon, guajillo-infused bourbon.

The Musket Room
Photo courtesy of The Musket Room

For the first time ever, the Michelin-starred restaurant is hosting a winter-themed pop-up. It’s transforming its front outdoor dining area into The Lodge, with three nooks seating four to eight people in each. An electric fireplace in the style of an old iron stove, holiday lights and décor, plaid flannel pillows and blankets, and custom furniture fills each cozy cabin. While there, munch on addictive caramel-butter-cheddar popcorn in a custom-branded container; whole nuts you can crack with a nutcracker; deviled eggs with caviar; a mushroom pot pie with a black truffle add-on, and some of the best sticky toffee pudding this side of the Atlantic. Sip on holiday cocktails like Todd is a Hottie (a hot toddy riff served in a thermos), a hot spiked cider, and a blackstrap spruce Old Fashioned.

Naughty or Nice at The Skinny
Photo courtesy of Naughty or Nice

This Lower East Side bar has made a name for itself in winter by hosting anti-holiday pop-ups. This year’s Naughty or Nice at The Skinny features gaudy anti-Christmas décor like a “Crappy Holidays” sign and boarded up fireplace, and interactive games and “naughty” events like burlesque performances, live music, and a night with Naughty Santa. Mrs. Claus’ Pink Panties, Grandpa’s Secret Stash, and Santa’s Lap Is So Warm are a few of the drink options on the seasonal menu.

If you’re itching for a tropical vacay but can’t leave town, lucky for you, this funky rooftop bar atop the Moxy East Village is converting into the Palm Holiday for the season, complete with colorful tropical plants, plenty of beach and lounge chairs, holiday lights with lit up palm trees, and decked out festive trees with flamingos. Located at The Ready Rooftop, sip on drinks like the Tropical Holiday Frozen Hot Chocolate (vodka, chocolate liqueur, rumchata, whipped cream) and the Spice Spice Baby (Rhum Clement French Barrel Caribbean Rum, apple cider, L'Orgeat, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, Tropical Red Bull).

Pink Winter Lodge at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge
Pink Winter Lodge at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge | Photo courtesy of Tao Group Hospitality

Guests at this rooftop spot in Times Square will be transported to a ski-style chalet…that’s all pink. Expect plenty of selfie moments, like floor-to-ceiling pink log walls, a frosted flower arch glowing with custom pink faux antler chandeliers, and a carousel adorned with pink flowers and 25,000 crystals. Snack on Pink Bling Donut Rings and The Pink S’Mores Stack, complemented by cocktails like 24K Magic (spiked eggnog sprinkled with gold leaf flakes), Bubbles & Bling (Moet Champagne with rock candy) and The Double Pink Diamond (Milagro Reposado, lime, agave, and Red Bull Blueberry, served in a diamond-shaped glass with a pink sugar rim).

Rolf's German Restaurant

Gramercy Park
$$$$

While you can go to this Christmas-themed restaurant year-round, a seasonally-appropriate visit is hard to resist (just peep the lines of people waiting to get in). At Rolf’s, the German restaurant has decorations like lights, ornaments, and garlands overtaking the entire space, including the particularly shiny ceiling. Menu items include classically made schnitzel, mulled wine, and vanilla spiced eggnog.
How to book: For reservations, call 212-477-4750 or 212-473-8718 between 10 am-4 pm.

Sippin’ Santa at Boilermaker
Sippin’ Santa at Boilermaker | Photo by Randy Schmidt

For a tropical Tiki twist on the holiday season, Sippin’ Santa (by the same creators behind Miracle) takes over Boilermaker. Tropical-Christmas themed cocktails, created by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, like the White Russian Christmas, Yule Log Grog, The Regifter, and Kris Kringle Kolada, populate the menu to help you forget how cold it really is outside.

Sleyenda at Leyenda

Carroll Gardens
$$$$

An annual tradition for the last five years, Sleyenda at Leyenda brings cocktails like Nutcracker Old Fashioneds, Coquito, and spiked cider to the Carroll Gardens Mexican spot by Julie Reiner and Ivy Mix. Ornaments, garlands, lights, and ugly sweaters take over the bar for the month of December.

Give your holiday season a touch of glamour with a visit to the 26th floor of the Art Deco Beekman Tower. Ophelia, already a gorgeous spot to have a drink, outdoes itself with thousands of crystals, lights, and sparkling snowflakes dripping from the ceiling, fur covered benches and barstools, and its always-epic skyline and river views.

Mr. Purple
Photo courtesy of Mr. Purple

No, the cozy cabin trend is not over—so says these heated clear plastic bubbles that return to the rooftop bar Mr. Purple again. Veuve Clicquot creates a luxe après ski atmosphere with fur-lined seating, purple deer heads, electric fireplaces, and of course a custom Veuve Clicquot Champagne bar.
 

Winter Wonderland at Loreley Beer Garden
Photo courtesy of Loreley Beer Garden

This German beer garden has been holding strong on the Lower East Side since 2003 and this year it’s converting its heated outdoor space into a holiday wonderland with plenty of pine, twinkling lights, ornaments, and poinsettias. In addition to its always-solid imported beer list, there is also bourbon-spiked hot chocolate with torched marshmallows, eggnog and Gluhwein, and Loreley’s signature mulled wine.

Devorah Lev-Tov is a contributor for Thrillist.