If there’s something we all could use in 2020, it’s a miracle – and a great cocktail.
You can find both at the festive holiday pop-up bar, Miracle at the Freight House, 421 W. River Drive, Suite 2, Davenport. Part of a worldwide franchise, the first Miracle location in Iowa is in the 2,400-square-foot space next to the Front Street Taproom, formerly occupied by Fresh Deli, which closed in late October 2019.
Miracle at the Freight House is a new partnership between Lars Rehnberg of Rock Island, with his wife Karah, and Ethan Bailey of Davenport, national sales director for Cocktail Kingdom, which is the Miracle parent company. Based in New York City, Cocktail Kingdom makes high-end barware for bartenders and mixologists. Lars Rehnberg says Miracle is their holiday pop-up project, and Bailey has been wanting to do it in Davenport.
“He knows it’s a proven model. It’s a lot of fun to do; the cocktails are delicious. You decorate the heck out of the space. You just go crazy with the decorations. It’s a really fun process.”
The concept was born in 2014 in New York City, with an East Village pop-up bar serving holiday-themed drinks among over-the-top Christmas decorations. As crowds swarmed the NYC location, friends throughout the bar industry asked how they could recreate the holiday magic on their own turf and expansion became inevitable. The following year, Miracle expanded to four locations and in 2016, it went worldwide with pop-ups in Greece, Montreal, and Paris.
There are now 118 Miracles in 35 states and seven countries – the closest to the Quad-Cities is in Madison, Wisconsin.
Rehnberg says Ethan Bailey is originally from Fairfield, Iowa, and married a woman from Davenport. He’s an experienced mixologist and is very well-versed in cocktails.
“The cool thing that Cocktail Kingdom does is, they find historical cocktail manuals and reset the type and reprint a modern edition. They’ve done a ton of research of the history of American cocktails. And when they come up with these recipes for the Miracle franchise, it’s based on a ton of historical perspective on cocktails.”
He says the 10 Miracle-branded recipes take a lot of work to get the cocktails right. One is the Christmapolitan -- Vodka, Elderflower, Dry Vermouth, Spiced Cranberry Sauce, Rosemary, Lime, and Absinthe Mist.
“There are 10 cocktails and we wanted all 10 to just be devastatingly good. There can’t be any decent cocktails; they all have to be great cocktails. So that was a really fun process.”
The Q-C partners considered working under an existing bar, common for most Miracle franchises, but Rehnberg says it was simpler for them to run it themselves. They looked at the former Shenanigan’s building downtown, but chose the vacant Freight House space, which formerly housed Fresh Deli.
They worked with the city and the Freight House Farmers Market, and were able to get a two-month lease. Other downtown spaces would have required a minimum two-year lease, but the city was flexible and supportive to work with.
The city (which owns the building) replaced the air filter and the business also added more air filtration systems, and does regular sanitizing, among increased cleaning protocols. Rehnberg says customers are required to wear masks unless they’re seated at their table. All staff wear masks, have strict hand-washing requirements, and cannot work if they have any symptoms; temperature is taken at the start of every shift. The bar is limited to 50 percent capacity, with tables spaced six feet apart.
“We started with limited capacity from the beginning. The only things the recent proclamation changed for us are, we had to change our hours. So we’re closing at 10 p.m. instead of midnight, and we’re now limited in terms of how many people we can seat at the same table and how many we can have for private parties.”
There’s a maximum of eight per table, a cap of 40 total, and maximum of 15 for private parties. When they planned the business over the summer, the trend for COVID cases was decreasing.
“The curve was looking really good on COVID in August. It looked like we were going to have a kind of COVID-free holiday season, and recover as a country and be ready to party.”
It was challenging to open in mid-November, amid the surge of virus cases in the Q-C, but they had to stick with the plan. For people not comfortable drinking in the bar, they have all their cocktails available as to-go orders, which include an instruction manual for each, for customers to mix the cocktails at home. Each sells for $13 or $14. Miracle at the Freight House also sells a custom mug or glass that goes with each drink.
“What we’re really hoping for with the Miracle experience is to have people come in and see the space and feel the nostalgia. And be surrounded by Christmas and see all the crazy decorations. But it’s 2020 – so if what we have to do is send people home with these cocktails, then that’s great, it’s fine.”
Miracle is open seven days a week through Dec. 30, weeknights 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. It will be closed Dec. 25, Christmas Day. It can open a few hours earlier for private parties or special events. For more information and reservations, visit www.miracleqc.com.