Christmas time is here, and so are all the holiday pop-up bars. There are snowflakes in the air, themed drinks everywhere, boozy times and hashtagged rhymes of love and dreams to share (on Instagram).
Overwhelmed by all your options? Here’s what we saw when we stopped by six festive spots. Find the one that best suits you, or ho-ho-hop your way through them all.
You can’t miss the hubbub of this jolly pop-up on the ground floor of the Chicago Athletic Association. Mingle beneath neat lines of lights and, depending on the programming of the evening, play bingo, sing karaoke, or get crafty. Yes, Cindy’s has the views — but where else can you drink Schlitz out of a plastic Santa boot beneath a technicolor ceiling while someone sings “Santa Baby” in the corner amid the crackle of a faux fireplace?
12 S. Michigan Ave., Loop
Given that the Thalia Hall bar is equestrian-themed, it’s no surprise that for Christmas, it’s become an ode to Santa’s fabled caribou. You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen — and here, you can sip on cocktails named after them (yes, the red-nosed reindeer, too). Love carols? On Friday nights, settle in and enjoy some piano singalongs by local composer S. Joel Norman.
1227 W. 18th St., Pilsen
If you lean more Grinch than elf, more lump of coal than candy cane, this "Christmas Sucks” pop-up is for you. Don’t make merry amid the collection of creepy Santa sculptures, masks, and vintage family photos, and look forward to projections of old home videos instead of A Christmas Carol or Love Actually. The bar is also proudly serving anti-festive drinks like Not Buttered Rum (no butter, plenty of rum) to get you in the scroogiest of spirits. To quote Weezer, “I’d rather eat some mace ‘cause the eggnog always makes me sick.”
2959 N. California Ave., Avondale
Looking for a festive place to drink that still feels like a neighborhood watering hole? Stop by the Country Club, which has transformed, through January 1, into its cozy, Christmas-y twin. Sip on eggnog served in a reindeer mug beneath a coil of lights, and you’ll feel like you’re right at home for the holidays.
3462 N. Clark St., Wrigleyville
From papier-mache figures to the seemingly endless string of lights, the ceiling decorations here are as legendary as Krampus. This is the godfather of Christmas pop-ups: The dive has been redecorating for the holidays for three decades to resemble a manic Santa’s workshop of sorts. You’re unlikely to find a craft cocktail at the bar, but throw back some red and green “Christmas in Your Mouth” shots that taste like a blend of Thin Mints and toothpaste. Hey, Christmas comes but once a year.
20 W. Division St., Gold Coast
A worldwide pop-up bar, Miracle has found its Chicago home at Sable Kitchen & Bar. This is one classy Christmas lounge, with baubles galore and a digital fireplace crowned with dozens of stockings. Sink into a leather chair and sip on drinks like the prosecco-based Run Run Rudolph or a warm milk punch, fittingly named “Bad Santa.” You gotta wash down those cookies somehow.
505 N. State St., River North