The annual holiday pop-up with a tiki theme is back at 55 South in San Jose. This craft cocktail bar and restaurant did the decor even more elaborately this year, and staff was ready to serve us at opening on Sunday. Music was peppy and got everyone in the mood.
Sippin Santa comes from the our favorite cocktail historian, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, in partnership with Cocktail Kingdom that also runs the Miracle pop-ups (including two downtown San Jose locations within a 5 minute walk of 55 South, Paper Plane and Miniboss).
This year the Mersanta mug is available for sale after the cocktail debuted on the menu last year. Such a cute mug, and the cocktail with tequila, applejack, and maple-cranberry syrup is quite a delight. I went with the classic Sippin’ Santa cocktail that has Demerara rum, amaro, and gingerbread mix. Really great, and prices for both the cocktails and merch are pretty reasonable.
A new drink this year is Island of Misfit Toys, featuring Jamaican Rum, Chai Tea, cream, cinnamon, and pumpkin puree. If you like Pina Coladas and Pumpkin Spice, this will be your new all-time favorite. I like both, as does Mrs. Mai Tai, so this cocktail is right up there with Sippin Santa’s Kris Kringle Colada as something to go out of your way to try.
55 South has a pretty decent food menu. I enjoyed the Shrimp Roll and we all looooved the Cream Cheese Bread, a small loaf of Olive bread covered with cream cheese. Probably the best thing in the entire building.
Inspired by the Hot Mai Tai recipe developed years ago by Giuseppe González, this is something that I tried and liked more than I expected. The lack of Lime juice places additional focus on the Orgeat and Orange Curacao, and for this cocktail the ratio below seems to be optimal.
The whipped topping calls for the addition of Macadamia Nut Liqueur, though Amaretto isn’t a bad option. How much to add will be your choice, but I did at least half an ounce of liqueur to go into a ¼ cup of cream.
Some recipes of this type call for the use of an Irish Coffee glass, but I thought this iconic two-faced glass goblet would be more appropriate. This means that the volume of liquid is higher than in some recipes you might find.
Hot Mai Tai ⅔ oz Orgeat 1 oz Orange Curacao 2 oz Aged Jamaican Rum (Appleton Reserve) Dry shake and then pour into glass mug. Top with hot water. Top with whipped cream with Macadamia Nut Liqueur Add a few drops of Orange Bitters on top of the cream
After our visit to 55 South, we headed over across the street to Paper Plane, which is doing the Christmas Popup in conjunction with Miracle. Paper Plane has been doing this for a couple years, so their decor is OVER THE TOP. Amazing stuff, and so many lights! Even on a Sunday night this place was packed, though service at the bar did move quickly.
We found the cocktails at “Miracle on 1st” to be excellent, and we want to return to try more. There’s a little bit more of a varied selection than Sippin’ Santa, especially if you’re into Whiskeys and Amaros.
Mrs. Mai Tai had the Jolly Koala, a bright cocktail with Bourbon, Vermouth, Mulled Wine Reduction, and Cacao Nib Aperitif. Plus a cute little Koala to make friends with. This was really great.
I stuck to my wheelhouse and ordered the tropical cocktail named after the catch phrase from everyone’s favorite Christmas movie: Die Hard. The “Yippie Ki Yay, Mother F****r” is a delightful and sweet cocktail with several rums, Ube & Coconut Orgeat, and Pineapple Juice. This one is so easy to sip that I was soon taking off my shoes and feeling the carpet.
The meetup was for members of the “South SF Bay Area Tiki Ohana” group on Facebook. If you’re a local, please join the group for more meetups and local info.
The Christmas/Tiki themed pop-up has been gaining momentum over the past few years and is expanding to new locations. This year, downtown San Jose is in the mix thanks to 55 South who are hosting the pop-up for the first time (view menu). A cocktail bar and restaurant, 55 South had previously hosted monthly “tiki nights” that served as sort of gathering place for some South Bay locals who have been underserved for tiki for so long.
The 55 South team did a pretty good job with the decor. Quite festive and for sure plenty good for the first year to get everyone in the mood. Music was 70s-80s leaning Christmas music, so quite peppy.
Cocktails for Sippin’ Santa are developed in conjunction with Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (of Sippin’ Safari book fame). I had the Kris Kringle Colada, an excellent riff using Dark Jamaican Rum, Amaro, and Allspice, while Mrs. Mai Tai ventured away from her coconut sweet spot to try the Sippin’ Santa with Demerara rum and citrus. Unfortunately that one seemed to be lacking the “Gingerbread mix” that makes it a holiday favorite.
Nonetheless we had a great time and the bar was quite busy even at opening on a Sunday. I had the “Tiki Tacos” that were quite good, and Julie liked her Edamame Salad. The meetup was for members of the “South SF Bay Area Tiki Ohana” group on Facebook. If you’re a local, please join the group for more meetups and local info.