Santa hats over barstool backs are among the over-the-top holiday decorations Vena’s put together for Miracle on Fore Street. Photos by Angie Bryan

Since 2014, Christmas-themed bars have been popping up around the world as part of Miracle, a movement started by a New York City bar owner in which bars transform into winter cocktail wonderlands in celebration of the holidays. This year, Vena’s Fizz House in Portland is among more than 100 bars participating– but the only one in Maine – temporarily rebranding as Vena’s Miracle on Fore Street.

Given my love of specialty cocktails, Christmas decorations and day drinking, I showed up approximately 19 minutes after Vena’s opened on the first day of Miracle, which started Nov. 25 and runs through Dec. 24, before vanishing faster than your New Year’s resolutions.

My drinking companion and I immediately loved Miracle’s cocktail menu. The drinks have some great names, like the $13.50 Christmapolitan (vodka, elderflower, dry vermouth, spiced cranberry sauce, lime, rosemary,and absinthe mist) and the $14 Yippie Ki Yaya Mother (expletive)! (Barbados rum, Cachaca, Trinidad overproof rum, purple yam and coconut orgeat, and pineapple), a drink which proves once and for all that Diehard is, in fact, a Christmas movie.

Themed cocktails include the Snowball Old Fashioned with caramelized pecan bourbon, spiced molasses syrup, Wormwood bitters and orange essence, and the Christmas Carol Barrel, which is Blanco tequila, coffee liqueur, cocoa nib-infused orange and cognac liqueur, iced hot chocolate and Mexican spices, both for $13.

After much deliberation, I went with the $13 Snowball Old Fashioned (caramelized pecan bourbon, spiced molasses syrup, Wormwood bitters and orange essence). My friend ordered the $13 Christmas Carol Barrel (Blanco tequila, coffee liqueur, cocoa nib-infused orange and cognac liqueur, iced hot chocolate and Mexican spices).

While the bartenders mixed our drinks, my friend and I enjoyed absorbing the fabulous holiday décor, especially the vintage Christmas cookie tins lining the walls and the oversized Santa hats on the backs of the barstools. The drink recipes came from the national Miracle network, but the decorations came from Vena’s owners and staff, who knocked it out of the park.

My drink arrived in a festive glass featuring an over-served Santa; my friend’s arrived, as advertised, in a miniature barrel. True to its snowball name, mine had a single large sphere of ice. The flavors were so smooth and perfectly layered that I actually liked it more than a regular Old Fashioned.

Eventually, I pried my friend’s drink out of her hands and took a sip, at which point all I could think was “liquid Christmas!” It somehow managed to combine all the flavors in exactly the right amounts, resulting in being able to taste, first, one element, then another, then another, never forgetting that Santa had just delivered you a stocking full of tequila. I tried to claim that I needed to keep sipping for research purposes, but my friend caught on to my game and wrestled her drink out from under my claws. So much for the Christmas spirit.

In an extra touch perfect for Vena’s, which originally made its name selling mocktails, Miracle on Fore Street also offers five Christmas-themed mocktails ranging from $8-$12, including alcohol-free versions of the drinks my friend and I had. On the other end of the spectrum, there were three holiday shots for $7-$8.

Miracle on Fore Street is the perfect way to jump-start the holiday season or to add a bit of festivity to your holiday shopping, especially since Vena’s also features an in-store mixology shop.

Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.

Vena’s Fizz House in Portland will be decked out for the holidays through Dec. 24 as part of the worldwide Miracle celebration.


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