Miracle Pop-up at The Haymaker
by Shelbi Polk | photography by Taylor McDonald
For most of the year, The Haymaker is a tastefully eclectic cocktail bar, decorated in oversize florals and nods to old-school hip hop, its carefully crafted drinks served in vintage glasses. But come December, it transforms into a veritable winter wonderland: bartenders and staff break out the ugly sweaters, the bar is wrapped in tinsel and lights, and dozens of rolls of wrapping paper lend a cheerful mix of patterns to the walls. Welcome to the Triangle’s only Miracle Pop-Up Bar. From November 29 to December 30, The Haymaker will host an annual pop-up that has appeared in bars across the world. Miracle Pop-Up Bar began in New York City in 2014 and has since taken over bars from Montreal to Paris.
The organization plans the cocktail menu and provides themed glassware, like this year’s dinosaur-shaped SantaRex mug.
But the wrapping paper? That’s all on The Haymaker, as it has complete control over decorations in the space. Manager Josh Gagne says the team enjoys the chance to be a little extra extra. “It is over-the-top in every single aspect,” Gagne says.
The pop-up isn’t just an excuse for the staff to wear ugly Christmas sweaters, Gagne says; it cements a connection between people all over the globe. “On social media, you can see all of these people sharing the same cocktail as you, but they’re in a different bar with different decor,” Gagne says. “You get to see what everybody’s take on an over-the-top Christmas is, around the whole world.”
Underneath all the delightful kitsch, Miracle requires participating bars to have high standards for their cocktails. The Haymaker will make their own pecan-infused whiskey and spiced cranberry syrup, and Gagne says the challenge is fun for the team. “We love talking about spirits and cocktails, so when you finally get a challenge that allows you to showcase your knowledge and your skill set—it’s your time to shine,” he says. Gagne says the crowd gets bigger and bigger each December—the typically low-key bar transforms into a holiday haven, buzzing with merriment. Every year, Gagne says the staff has been prepared to welcome swarms of people looking for holiday cheer, and even so, every year, they’ve underestimated the response. “It brings a lot of new faces into the bar, but it is a little crazy,” Gagne says.
This year will be the Haymaker’s third time to welcome the pop-up, and it’s been one of the most consistent places to find Miracle’s brand of seasonal joy. It’s also a nice little bump in business for the three-year-old cocktail bar, since construction on Fayetteville Street has nearly obscured them from view for half the bar’s existence. Gagne says he’s really looking forward to all the new people and businesses that will be moving in soon. “The construction definitely limited us over the last year-and-a-half, but we’ve adapted,” Gagne says.
During the regular season, The Haymaker hosts frequent events, like monthly DJ sets and live painting sessions with local artists, which have encouraged people to navigate the construction around the bar. Day to day, the bar offers a relaxed atmosphere, cozy enough for an after-work drink or cocktails with friends. But Gagne says he has fun with the challenge, and as he readies for this round of holiday cheer, he’s still focused on the core of The Haymaker’s mission.
“The folks at Miracle figured out what people enjoy around the holidays—photogenic cocktails that taste great, in a fun atmosphere,” he says. “But we understand that ultimately, people frequent a bar because they feel comfortable there. That’s really the priority for us to offer to the people coming into our place.”