Sorry Elvis. The only thing that will be blue this Christmas is the curaçao. Santa’s got a brand new bag and it’s chock full o’ tiki. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack is back. And, the pop-up will be much, much bigger for 2019—think of it as a scorpion bowl of yule.
Now entering their fourth year, Sippin’ Santa Surf Shack is an immersive, mashup of tiki and Christmas. Over the next six weeks, 27 bars across the U.S., including Berry’s own Latitude 29, will transform themselves with a special Christmas menu; break out some seasonal barware; and remake their interiors into fever dreams of a tiki-color wonderland.
“Imagine Santa’s sleigh colliding with a Woody. That’s Sippin’ Santa,” the Bum told Neat Pour.
“You need a newness”
The heart of this Kalikimaka carnival is the drink list. The 2019 menu features nine seasonal specials conceived by Berry and Brad Smith, Head Bartender and GM of Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29. (The specs are then shared with each satellite location to faithfully reproduce.)
“It’s interesting how tiki and Christmas sort of intersect naturally,” commented Smith. “There’s something festive about tiki already. Typical holiday spices like cinnamon and clove are already there in staples like falernum. We’re just drawing them forward and accentuating them.”
Berry added that the true challenge is elevating the well-traveled holiday flavors into something unique. “The brief that we gave ourselves (and that Brad executed) was not just baking spices and flavors, but adding the next layer, the tiki layer. You need newness, a combination of ingredients that no one has seen before.” he explained.
The response to that challenge is on full display in the signature ‘Jingle Bowl’s’ fusion of maple and apple flavors with a classic rum raphsody. The large format drink arrives in a “tiki tub” featuring Santa and Rudolph lounging in the jacuzzi. Specifically, said layers are manifest in a delicious mix Jamaican & Demerara Rums, Apple Brandy, Amaro, Lemon Juice, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, Maple & Cinnamon Syrups, and Angostura Bitters. Also, there’s enough booze to sate two to four people if you’re into that type of thing.
For The Rest Of Us
However, riffs on classic rum creations are not the only offerings on the list. To the contrary, wide appeal is a key goal of the program. The menu also includes gin, tequila, and bourbon drinks. Smith noted that there was conscious effort to keep the menu accessible including a veto on gratuitously complex drink descriptions.
Mind you, the list is still populated by some pretty esoteric ingredients. Berry pointed to their use of cardamom. “It’s a balancing act to remain accessible to the curious but not necessarily cocktailian guest… But play to the coktailians as well,” he added.
The team also drew on their childhood for drink inspiration. For example, Smith was raised in Wisconsin, a bastion of Tom & Jerry’s. Accordingly, his homage to the Beachcomber and Trader Vic is a twist on the classic winter drink. The ‘Don & Victor’ is rich mug of goodness filled with Martinique & Jamaican Rums, Italian Bitter Apertif, Sweet Vermouth, Nutmeg, and a secret batter.
The Beachbum noted that the holidays of his youth were less Norman Rockwell than his Midwestern compatriot. “My childhood was filled with people yelling at each other. It’s hard to put that in a glass but the ‘Christmas Eve of Destruction’ comes pretty close!”
The aptly named drink is a bomb of Overproof Dark Rum, Lime Juice, Nutmeg Syrup, Bénédictine, and Angosture. Strong scents of clove and molasses hit the nose before the first sip and the ride only improves from there.
The Full Tiki Experience
Flavors are great and all, but tiki means outlandish barware. Berry’s liege in these matters is Greg Boehm of Cocktail Kingdom. (Yes, Sippin’ Santa is an offshoot of Boehm’s wildly popular Miracle pop-ups.)
In addition to the Tiki Tub, the Surf Shack will offer retro style Sippin’ Santa rocks glasses, coconut mugs, and a surfin’ Santa mug. Plus, the special red version of Danny “Tiki Diablo” Gallardo’s Beachbum Berry Bora Bora mug is back.
The other part of the tiki experience is the environment. Here, Sippin’ Santa delivers, taking bars known for their over-the-top decor and making it even more over-the-top. At the flagship Latitude 29 location, Berry’s partner and wife Annene Kaye delivers a virtually indescribable mix of surf and Christmas with a campy edge.
“She’s very, very hardcore about it and she has her own personal vision,” explained the Bum. “There’s just layer upon layer upon layer detail.”
Smith’s analysis was more succinct. “Imagine Christmas were to throw up inside of a bar. It’s really chaotic at first glance but in reality very ordered. It’s really astounding.”
Each location does their own decorating keeping to the theme. Berry said, “The most fun part for me is seeing how they interpret it. I love visiting and seeing the Instagram posts.”
The Surf Shacks are all set to open this week. Each one will have different hours and different decors. However, the drinks, baraware, and most of all the Yuletime Beachbum spirit will remain uniform until the end of December.
Check out the list of locations below… and Mele Kalikimaka!
Anaheim, CA — Sippin’ Santa at Strong Water
Asheville, NC — Sippin’ Santa at The Montford
Atlanta, GA – Sippin’ Santa at Bon Ton
Arlington Heights, IL – Sippin’ Santa at Cortland’s Garage
Austin, TX – Sippin’ Santa at Nickel City
Boston, MA – Sippin’ Santa at Shore Leave
Calgary, Canada – Sippin’ Santa at Ricardo’s Hideaway
Dallas, TX – Sippin’ Santa at Tiny Victories
Dallas, TX – Sippin’ Santa at Dibs On Victory
Denver, CO – Sippin’ Santa at The Arvada Tavern
Detroit, MI – Sippin’ Santa at The Skip
Fort Lauderdale, FL – Sippin’ Santa on Las Olas (at Flight 19)
Harrison, NJ – Sippin’ Santa at The Vanguard
Kansas City, MO – Sippin’ Santa at Julep
Miami, FL – Sippin’ Santa at Minnow Bar (at Kimpton Angler’s Hotel)
Nashville, TN – Sippin’ Santa on 2nd (The Hub at Bode Nashville)
New Orleans, LA – Sippin’ Santa at Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29
New York, NY–Sippin’ Santa at Boilermaker
Orlando, FL – Sippin’ Santa at Avanti Palms
Ottawa, ON Canada – Sippin’ Santa at The Standard
Phoenix, AZ – Sippin’ Santa at Bitter & Twisted
Sacramento, CA – Sippin’ Santa at The Jungle Bird
San Diego, CA – Sippin’ Santa at The Grass Skirt
Savannah, GA – Sippin’ Santa at The Alida Hotel
Seattle, WA – Sippin’ Santa at Vinnie’s
St. Louis, MO – Sippin’ Santa on Locust
Toronto, Canada – Sippin’ Santa at Gigglewater
Washington, D.C. – Sippin’ Santa at Archipelago