The Best Halloween Pop-Up in Texas Is Serving Blood-Red Cocktails in Skull Glassware

They're taking their creepy cocktails to a city near you

Black Lagoon Cocktail Menu

By Kevin Gray

Once you’ve aged out of trick-or-treating, Halloween loses some of its luster. Yeah, your calendar probably includes a few parties, but the thrill of filling a pillowcase with candy is replaced by costume-related stressors and sickly sweet punches. The best bet for a good time: Go to a bar. Specifically, Fort Worth bar Nickel City, because it’s hosting the Black Lagoon pop-up from Oct. 11 through Oct. 31. It’s your best chance to drink well-made cocktails and dabble in the occult. 

Black Lagoon comes from two industry veterans: Erin Hayes from Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles and Chicago’s Lost Lake, and Kelsey Ramage from Trash Collective and Toronto’s soon-to-open Supernova. The pop-up is an immersive, creepy-as-hell (but in a fun way) experience that pays homage to the macabre with a healthy dose of goth and metal.

This isn’t the first seasonal-specific pop-up. Each year, Miracle transforms dozens of cocktail bars around the country into over-the-top holiday destinations, and Sippin’ Santa is its tiki-themed offshoot. But Black Lagoon goes in a very different direction.

“We both have a love for Halloween and the macabre and had never seen something like Black Lagoon before,” Erin Hayes tells InsideHook. So, she and Ramage decided to create the pop-up they wanted to see. The duo ideated the concept inside New Orleans’ infamous Dungeon Bar and hosted the first installment of Black Lagoon in Toronto last October.

“We wanted to bring a unique space and fun environment that people would genuinely want to hang out at,” adds Hayes. “We also wanted to create interesting cocktails to fit the theme. A lot of Halloween-inspired events have the aesthetic, but don’t execute the cocktails to the same extent — the drinks not only need to look the part, but taste delicious, too.”

The touring pop-up descends upon nine cities this fall. In addition to Fort Worth, it will inhabit bars in Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, Denver, New York, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. The founders chose each market and bar for a reason.

“We looked for communities with strong counterculture, or vibrant alternative scenes, but also places with an amazing cocktail culture,” says Kelsey Ramage, noting they already had a good relationship with the Nickel City team. “It’s such a fun, buzzing bar that perfectly fits the theme, so we’re really thrilled to be collaborating with them.” 

Travis Tober, who runs Nickel City in Fort Worth and the original location in Austin, visited the Toronto launch last year and loved what he found. He cites the great drinks and music for helping to set the scene, and he’s embracing that same vibe in Fort Worth. “We’re going to make it spooky and scary, with a couple surprises,” he says.

The drinks menu is built around Halloween hues; some cocktails are blood-red, others are black or orange, and a few will be served in custom (including skull-shaped) glassware. Those drinks include the Screaming Banshee (gin, apricot liqueur, pineapple syrup and Greek yogurt), Lilith’s Cup (aged rum, Aperol, vermouth and passionfruit syrup), and the Closed Casket, with scotch, brandy, apricot, passionfruit syrup and miso falernum. Then there’s the Hellraiser, which features tequila, spiced rum, Cointreau and spiced oat orgeat. So these aren’t your typical Halloween cocktails.

The decor is also a departure from the kitschy orange pumpkins you find on doorsteps all over the country. The Black Lagoon founders took their inspiration from goth culture and cult horror, so think House of 1,000 Corpses, not the average network TV special. Bars will sport a dark, dungeon-like environment and feature skulls, life-size coffins and other elements paying homage to the occult and the bizarre.

The music won’t pull from the expected seasonal playlists, either. Instead, it will take a more hardcore turn, with punk and metal accented by a soundtrack of eerie noises. 

Overall, the founders say that Black Lagoon is about celebrating Halloween and its associated themes, but it’s also about creating a space for misfits, goths and others who might not feel comfortable at the typical cocktail bar.

“We just want to let people have fun and experience true freedom from judgment,” says Ramage.