If you’ve lived here for a reasonable amount of time, you’ll know that Belltown’s Rob Roy is one of the most reliable craft cocktail bars in the city. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and unpretentious, genuinely happy to talk about, say, the science behind perfectly clear ice cubes. The drinks here are refined and balanced, and lounge vibes abide, all low light and leather and stone.
All of which makes it a wonky spot for a Christmas-themed popup. Nevertheless, from November 25 to December 24, Miracle on 2nd—a popup started by Mace in New York, which has now spread to over 50 locations—has taken over Rob Roy. Pictures are wrapped on the walls to look like big presents. Staff walk around in Santa hats. The stereo blares yuletide cheer. Frosted windows, glittering tree, Santa mugs on the backbar, sweater-clad patrons—the whole damn holiday deal.
Greeting cardlike menus sit on the bar, with a list thematic cocktails inside. You could get the Run Run Rudolf (blanco tequila, coffee liqueur, iced hot chocolate, Mexican spices) or the ode to everybody’s favorite blood-soaked Christmas movie, Die Hard: the Yippe Ki Yay Mother F****r! (rum, cachaça, purple-yam-and-coconut orgeat, pineapple). A Snowball Old Fashioned (gingerbread bourbon, wormwood bitters, lemon zest) has a big snowball as its ice cube…. You get it. Goofy puns, pop-culture references, and riffs on holiday flavors abound.
There’s even—for the eighth year running—Rob Roy’s “Cocktail Advent Calendar”: one cocktail a day for the 24 days leading to Christmas.
I went with the Fa La La La La, La La La La (gin, aquavit, hazelnut liqueur, cardamom, vanilla, lemon, egg white, club soda). It arrived in a reindeer-encircled highball, a little cloud of shaken egg white on top, and tasted as complicated as it sounds: too sweet at first sip, then a citrus wave hits, then lots of aromatic layers. It’s nutty, in every sense, and balanced, and just damn good.
Whether all this amounts to a heavy dose of kitschy irony or genuine holiday cheer probably has to do with your disposition. But it’s hard to deny the bartenders singing along with the soundtrack, or the very jovial office staffers that flooded the place at 5pm on a Wednesday. There’s nothing ironic about a solid cocktail.
Editor's Note: This story was updated December 19, 2018 at 1:30pm to reflect 2018 dates.