Once you check out the Santa Baby Bar, in Wrigleyville, most other Christmas-themed pop-up bars in Chicago feel like second-hand stores, by comparison. And that includes previous Chicago pop-up bars too!
In many ways, the team behind Santa Baby Bar got it all right – the decor is amazing (maybe a bit overdone, but who cares) and the Christmas-inspired drinks are guaranteed to get you quickly into a state of levitation. By the way, that’s the nicest way I referred to myself all day when I meant getting wasted in style.
We arrived at the Santa Baby Bar on Thursday night. Coming up on Clark, I was already sold on it the second I glanced through the windows. Everything looked sleek and cheery. People were smiling and having a good time.
I wanted all of that for myself – so my friend and I eagerly sat in line.
How you get to the good part – the bar itself, is staged – and not in the best ways (not like a house that’s staged to be sold).
You first have to go through a temporary structure – the official “check in” area, then follow the path past the big Santa sleigh and other decorations, before you head inside. If you’re a Facebook/ Instagram aficionado, you’ll be taking a LOT of pictures in this area.
The good thing about the Santa Baby Bar Bar is that the worst is upfront.
When you arrive at the main door entrance, if you haven’t “checked in” online, you’re in for a treat.
A nice attendant will hand you a smart tablet and ask you to check in. By check-in, I mean literally forcing you to create an online account for God knows what, with 15-20 pieces of information, including a username and password.
This is your price of admission – standing awkwardly in line, angrily typing so you don’t hold the line, giving your information away.
Of course – you can do what every reasonable Chicagoan concerned with privacy should do – put fake information in just to get past this ordeal.
Whatever nefarious purposes lie behind the masochistic attempt of the owners of the bar to collect and sell your data, make sure this doesn’t deter you from moving on to the main attraction.
It’s wrong. It’s embarrassing. It’s annoying. But just put in some dummy data and move on.
This tent is also decorated, and a small bar can be found at the end of the hallway. But it’s poorly lit, lacks any visual appeal and, frankly, it’s not the main attraction. So, move quickly through it, take your Instagram selfies outside, then proceed to the main attraction.
When you enter the main building, the Christmas spirit kicks right in.
Inside the Santa Baby Bar pop-up bar
As I said, the decorations are right on point, EVERYWHERE in the bar.
I particularly loved the TV screens in one of the back rooms playing a snow video on loop to get you into the Christmas spirit. Spot on & Well Done Santa Baby Bar!
Before you start indulging in the poison of your choice, check out the upstairs too. The second floor is also full adorned, with different sections depending on the party size. And, of course, a fully stacked bar.
After we looked around, we went and sat by the bar on the first floor.
We were assisted by an incredibly nice and super knowledgeable young man. I didn’t get his name. He was of South Asian heritage – and he was for sure one of the best bartenders I’ve ever met in Wrigleyville.
He took his time explaining each of the Christmas drinks, what other people love, what his personal favorite drink was and so on.
Everything was perfect, not rushed at all and special. This is exactly how every bartender in the world should be.
His demeanor and professionalism was so great that it made the blonde bartender attending to other patrons look bad (she kept interrupting everything with requests for more drinks, giving up the vibe of a factory line). But we were blessed with our own awesome bartender – and life was good.
If it weren’t for all the other people around (of which they were plenty!), everything felt like a fireside cocktail with a couple of friends and a LOT of amazing drinks.
Unfortunately, the drinks were so good, I didn’t take down the names. The first one definitely included tequila as the alcohol of choice and a bunch of other ingredients – including candy. See this image.
The second one I tried was very smooth and chocolatey. The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup add-on was a nice touch.
Third, I had a nice beer. Which could only be served in a very nice boot pint glass. It’s the law, so I gladly complied.
I genuinely enjoyed my time at the Santa Baby Bar.
I have no doubt I’ll return a few times before they close down and revert back to a regular bar in early January. I’ll probably go back as early as this week.
Outside of the inconvenience of figuring out what bogus information I need to give to the Gestapo wannabe agents upfront, I’m eagerly looking forward to my next joyful Christmas experience at Santa Baby Bar.