It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and I'm not just talking mescal and espresso-infused hot chocolate.
After visiting Miracle on Seventh Street — Washington's first ever Christmas bar pop-up — in 2015, I knew immediately I was seeing Richmond's Christmas future.
That was the first year that sherry-and-ham bar Mockingbird Hill transformed itself into what locals there were already dubbing the Christmas bar, complete with a doorman in leopard leggings perched on a stool, a bowl of holiday Hershey's Kisses between his spotted thighs.
Inside, holiday decor and punk-rock Christmas music rewarded patrons lining the block for eggnog shots or seasonal drinks like one called "I Don't Mind You Shooting Me, Frank, but Take It Easy on the Rum." It was so successful that last year's pop-up extended to the two bars next door, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich.
That's where the Richmond connection comes in. Travis Croxton of Rappahannock Oyster Co. co-owns Eat the Rich, so when his staff at local oyster bar Rapp Session was looking for something kitschy and nostalgic to help raise its profile, visions of a Christmas-themed pop-up danced in their heads.
As of Black Friday, Rapp Session became Christmas Session with colorful lights strung overhead, a bow-covered ceiling and a "Christmas Story" leg lamp in the front window. Paper snowflakes dot the wall and ribbon-bound Christmas cards hold menus. Hot drinks arrive in Santa mugs, while holiday movies play on TV.
Eggnog shots are so 2015 — instead, look for Yule mule shooters served in tiny copper mugs. Bar manager Madison Pere and executive chef Dylan Fultineer put their heads together to create menus that would contribute to an overall homey holiday vibe that might appeal to those who don't get to — or want to — go home to celebrate. Translation: It's already an industry favorite.
They also dug back into their own histories. "The naughty child reminds me of a drink I would've sneaked as a kid at Christmas party," Pere admits of the punchlike drink with notes of rosemary and plum. They both lay claim to grandma's glogg. "Glogg is huge in Chicago and Dylan's from Chicago. And my background's Swedish and it's a Swedish thing, too."
Fultineer's menu, full of family favorites like green bean casserole and a stuffin' muffin with gravy, also nods to new classics like hawt tamales of turkey with salsa verde. Already it's being updated to include Hanukkah — think latkes, rugelach and maybe borscht, if Pere has her way.
Christmas Session's good spirits extend to the community with the 12 Days of Christmas, a holiday raffle benefiting FeedMore. It's pretty simple: Until Dec. 23, patrons enter by purchasing a raffle ticket for $5 or five cans of food. Drawings take place daily for prizes such as a bag of oysters, Rappahannock swag and restaurant gift cards.
Richmond's Christmas bar runs until New Year's Eve, but the staff already is planning how to make next year's bigger and flashier. Can a doorman be far behind?
For now, you'll find Hershey's Kisses on the coffee counter up front, in what looks like Santa's workshop.
Christmas Session, Mondays – Fridays 3 p.m. – 2 a.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 a.m., Sundays 10 a.m. – midnight, 318 E. Grace St.