Perhaps the buzziest bar last December was Miracle on Ninth Street, a holiday-themed pop-up inside the East Village space that was destined to become Mace.
So who better than the host of a month-long holiday party to share advice on how to throw a holiday party of your own? We talked with Mace co-owner and head bartender, Nicolas de Soto, about the spirit of Christmas parties past, and hosting those yet to come.
If you popped into Miracle last year, you may remember the abundant Christmas lights, bartenders decked out in Santa hats, the silver-foiled “Hanukkah hideaway,” or perhaps the colorful holiday cards that enclosed cocktail menus within, outlining The 12 Drinks of Christmas like The Bad Santa, a clarified milk punch served hot in ceramic Santa mugs.
“Every day was like Saturday night,” de Soto recalls. “We were batching 30 liters of Eggnog every day. People were lining up before we opened the door. We didn’t expect that.”
If you missed it last year, don’t fret—the holiday pop-up returns to Mace this year, albeit in a more polished form.
Creating a holiday space within a bar taught de Soto valuable lessons about hosting holiday festivities. His tip is to focus on three basic components: the décor, the music and the drinks.
“We went to a warehouse and bought decorations in bulk,” says de Soto. And while minimalist strings of lights might work well for a larger space, the secret to decorating a small space like Mace, he confides, is piling it on. “Get as much decoration as you can,” he urges. It creates a “cozy” feel, and the kitsch factor helps to draw guests in and make them smile.
One hallmark of the pop-up: all holiday music, all the time. “A nice playlist is important,” advises de Soto. It’s easy to assemble a collection of seasonal music, from classics to new hits with a holiday theme. Expect—and initiate—spontaneous sing-alongs.
Though de Soto created a dozen drinks to correspond with the 12 days of Christmas for the pop-up, at home you should opt for fewer. Find three or four holiday hits online, de Soto suggests, and if possible, make them ahead of time. “Get a good recipe and keep it simple,” he says, and recommends classics like a Flip, Toddy, Eggnog, or a batch of Hot Mulled Wine.
If you follow de Soto’s holiday party guidelines—over-the-top decorating, a great holiday playlist and killer seasonal drinks—you’ll be well on your way to an unforgettable occasion that might, like the pop-up in Mace, become an annual tradition.