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December is here and that means the clock is ticking when it comes to Christmas shopping, holiday dinner preparations and the First State’s slate of pop-up Christmas bars, which have gained in popularity in recent years.
The limited-time-only bars have been opening in recent weeks, marked by sweet concoctions, over-the-top decorations and plenty of spots for the coveted holiday selfie.
From Wilmington to the beaches, you can get into the festive spirit with likeminded revelers looking to get a jump start on the season.
If Santa Claus can drink sherry to warm up, why can’t we festively partake? So grab a Santa hat and a fistful of candy canes ― it’s time to get jolly at these 13 Delaware pop-ups.
Blitzen (220 W. Ninth St., Wilmington)
In its fifth year, the close quarters of Blitzen remains a hit judging by the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds you can find there Wednesday through Saturday (open 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.).
With a snow machine out front turning Ninth Street in to a winter wonderland, the popular pop-up remains largely unchanged from last year.
You’ll find many of the same fanciful decorations, selfie spots and fun cocktails with cheeky names such as Resting Blitz Face, All the Jingle Ladies and Big Elf Energy.
Don’t miss their shotskis, allowing four or eight people to take simultaneous seasonal shots, or their hot drinks, including hot apple cider with bourbon or hot chocolate with Rumple Minze.
But there is one major change at Blitzen for 2023: a food menu for the first time.
Even though they are located in the former home of Chilean restaurant Pochi and nightclub Bottlecaps from years before that, they still had to build out a kitchen for their new bar bites.
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The small menu offerings include Visions of Sugar Plums (five-spice popcorn chicken in barbecue sauce), Claus Balls (meatballs in cranberry-tomato sauce on a club roll), Snow Day Snacks (mixture of candy, pretzels and rice cereal), O’Christmas Cheese (fried Nashville cheese curd with a dipping sauce), Ding! Fries Are Done (crispy shoestring fries) and Rudolph Takes Flight (a flight of desserts from Desserts by Dana).
Blitzen owner Michael Day has this advice for those looking to either avoid the crowds or want to experience the spectacle at full power: slower times are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 6 or 7 p.m. It’s pretty busy on Fridays and Saturdays from the moment they open, but the crowds dissipate a bit after 10 p.m.
The Sleigh Bar at Klondike Kate’s Restaurant & Saloon (158 E. Main St., Newark)
Also first popping up in 2019 , The Sleigh Bar takes over Kate’s each winter and draws major crowds just like Blitzen.
Expect a lot of the same: spectacular decorations paired with Christmas-y drinks and snacks. There’s even a large, luxurious sled for you and your friends to pile into for photos.
It’s such a transformation that the restaurant had to close for two days just to get the job done.
Their specialty Sleigh Bar menu has plenty of fun snacks that may cause you to loosen that belt, Santa-style.
They include holiday egg rolls (turkey, gravy, stuffing and cranberry relish), Candy Cane Caprese (grape tomatoes and marinated mozzarella bocconcini balls skewered and served with a basil and balsamic glaze), Brown Sugar Bourbon Pork Belly Bites (deep-fried smoked pork belly bites in house-made brown sugar bourbon sauce), Cheesy Christmas Tree Bites (deep-fried cheese cubes in garlic and white cheddar flavors served with San Marzano marinara and fra diavolo sauces), a Charcuterie Sleigh and Winter Berry Brie Crostinis (freshly toasted crostinis topped with brie cheese & raspberry jam.)
And when it comes to drinks, holiday-style beers and holiday shots share bar space with a specialty cocktail menu with drinks named Cocoa Peppermint Martini, Boozy Pecan Pie, Crème Brûlée Martini, Gingerbread White Russian, Rudolph’s Red-Nosed Mule, Feliz Navidad, Naughty Elf and Frosty the Snowman.
The big man himself, Santa Claus, will be there Dec. 6, 13 and 20 for a meet and greet from 6 to 8 p.m.
Schellville: Enchanted Winter Celebration (36470 Seaside Outlet Drive, near Rehoboth Beach)
In its sixth year, Schellville gets into the holiday spirit once again and is just as popular as Blitzen and The Sleigh Bar.
In fact, it welcomes many more merry-seekers due to its sheer size.
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Schell Brothers, a dominant homebuilding company at Delaware’s beaches, operates the 5½-acre Christmas village, which is free to enter.
Its features include a skating rink, playground, fake snow and “sledding” slide, miniature Christmas village, mini-golf, ride-on miniature train, maze, beer garden, fire pits and more than 1,000 Christmas trees.
Got all that?
Throw in Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, live music, multiple bars and more than 30 vendors and food trucks, and you can understand why its a magnet for families and couples alike.
Yuletide Cantina at Big Chill Cantina (19406 Coastal Highway, near Rehoboth Beach)
New to the pop-up Christmas bar world, Big Chill Cantina has been transfigured into the 21-and-older Yuletide Cantina.
The Baja, Mexico-inspired spot now has a holiday theme with heavy decorations and cocktails such as the Sugar Cookie Martini, Cranberry Mule and their White Christmas Margarita.
The holiday event calendar includes holiday-themed trivia on Wednesday nights, local artisan Thursdays and local music on Friday and Saturdays with Lower Case Blues on Tuesdays, as always.
The main event for Yueltide Cantina is Cantina Claus on Dec. 16 starting at 8 p.m. Patrons are encouraged to dress up for this SantaCon-inspired party.
The Jingle Bar at Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen (1709 Delaware Ave., Wilmington)
Grain’s Jingle Bar is back, bringing its “Christmas oasis” to the Trolley Square area in Wilmington.
The Jingle Bar lives indoors this year with personalized stockings hanging for all of their staff, who will be making cold (and hot) specialty drinks all month.
The chilly cocktails include The Glittery Grinch, Rudolph’s Night Cap and Santa’s Margarita. And, yes, their Boozy Butter Beer is back made with vanilla vodka, caramel vodka, cream soda and butterscotch schnapps. The hot ones include Mr. Heat Miser (spiced chai tea with cinnamon, honey and cloves spiked with Captain Morgan spiced rum), Spiked Cider (spiced apple cider with Bacardi spiced rum) and Spiked Hot Chocolate (hot chocolate and Bailey’s topped with a vanilla vodka infused marshmallow.)
A build-your-own-gingerbread house night is in the works with a Santa Brunch Santa Brunch set for Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. And on that same night, Grain is one of the stops on the multi-bar Ugly Sweater Crawl starting at 8 p.m.
LIT Holiday Bar at Delaware Park Casino (777 Delaware Park Blvd., Stanton)
Opened on Black Friday, Delaware Park Casino is also in the pop-up game this year with LIT Holiday Bar, gussied up in so many Christmas lights that you may need to wear sunglasses.
In fact, if Christmas had a prom, it might be held at LIT Holiday Bar, which is decorated floor to ceiling with green, red and white.
Specialty drinks include Peppermint Bark Mimosa (champagne and peppermint schnapps with a chocolate rim garnished with crushed candy cane), Heat Mizer’s Fire Cider (Fireball whisky, apple cider with a cinnamon rim garnished with an apple slice and cinnamon stick), Yule Mule (Stateside vodka, ginger beer, lime juice and cranberry juice garnished with fresh cranberries) and Snowball Fight (Tito’s vodka and chocolate liqueur garnished with vanilla syrup and cream.)
It’s the only Christmas bar in the state where you just might win money to help pay for all those holiday gifts you’ve been buying.
The Sorcery Lounge at Hamilton’s on Main (102 E. Main St., Newark)
If you’re looking for candy canes, garland and Santa Claus at Hamilton On Main’s December pop-up bar named The Sorcery Lounge, you’ll be left scratching your head.
The holiday theme will be understated as they revamp their “Harry Potter”-inspired November upstairs pop-up to give it a slight holiday twist. (The downstairs restaurant, however, will have plenty of traditional Christmas decorations to get you in the holiday spirit.)
For this month’s Sorcery Lounge, the vibe will resemble spending the holidays at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
There will be a Christmas tree in The Sorcery Lounge, but it will have a Muggles-theme, for example.
The immersive pop-up will also include a Redemption Room of Requirement dining experience in the mezzanine dining room.
The lounge’s exclusive drink menu includes Dobby Is A Free Elf (Chocolate Bailey’s, amaretto and Johnnie Walker Red) along with Butter Beer (Redemption bourbon, butterscotch, apple cider, cream soda and whippedcream.)
And if you have a sweet tooth, indulge in the s’mores parfait returning to the menu: homemade marshmallows, walnut fudge, graham cracker crumble, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
The lounge is open Wednesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to close.
A few other pop-ups to check out…
‘Elf’ takeover at Crooked Hammock Brewery, Middletown. For the 20th anniversary of the comedy classic starring Will Ferrell, you’ll find Buddy the Elf everywhere. “Elf” themed decorations, Buddy’s Spaghetti Breakfast Beer brewed with Pop Tarts, maple syrup and spaghetti and a funnel cake called Buddy’s Spaghetti Dessert. facebook.com/CrookedHammockMiddletown
Holiday Magic at Riverbright, Wilmington Riverfront. Holiday lights along the river, hot chocolate nights, Santa Claus visits, petting zoos and face-painting. riverfrontwilm.com/holiday-magic
The Naughty List at Makers Alley, Wilmington. The downtown beer garden is back with its Christmas theme with decorations that will reference everyone from The Grinch to Buddy the Elf. Fanciful holiday cocktails such as the Sugar Cookie Martini, Mule-tide and Sweater Weather will be on the menu. facebook.com/makersalleyde
The Reindeer Room at Volunteer Brewing Co., Middletown. The brewery’s second-floor will host the month-long Christmas party with themed beers and cocktails. facebook.com/VolunteerBrewing
Winter WonderFest at Above the Dunes, Rehoboth Beach. The decorations are up and the events are coming: Santa Bar Crawl (Dec. 2), Ugly Sweater Contest (Dec. 9), dinner with Santa Claus and and beer trivia (Dec. 16). facebook.com/AboveTheDunes
Downtown Winterfest at DE.CO, Wilmington. Every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in December, local vendors will be selling gift-worthy items with face-painting and character visits for the little ones and build-your-own Bloody Marys and mimosas for the adults. facebook.com/decowilmington