A machine named “Shake Gyllenhaal” goes to town behind the bar shaking up a proper gin fizz. Above the semi-autonomous bartender is a gorgeous mural of some kind of holy priestess looking into the eyes of her skeleton doppelgänger. The entire tableau should be enough to trigger an existential crisis about the unstoppable growth of automation and our inevitable demise, but a descent into darkness is nearly impossible at Holy Ghost. The bar is just too delightful.
Holy Ghost is the fifth entry in Ezra Caraeff’s bar portfolio, which includes long-standing favorites like Hi-Top Tavern, Paydirt and the Old Gold. But the business has its own personality, which can be found in everything from the drink menu to the décor.
For starters, the place is bright and open, even when the lights are dimmed. A blue-and-gold color scheme, honeycomb bar tiles, and pillars wound in rope create an airy, almost goddesslike atmosphere. And although the space is quite expansive, it doesn’t feel as though you’ve gotten swallowed by a cavern. Holy Ghost offers an easy vibe. There’s even a hand-lettered mural along one of the roof beams that promises “Everything is gonna be OK.” All it takes is another sip from that gin fizz and you’ll become a believer in that mantra.
Since this is an Ezra Caraeff property, the drink program is no afterthought. In fact, that’s why you’ll find the special machine behind the bar agitating your gin fizz ($14). In order to make the cocktail the right way, it needs to be vigorously shaken for at least five minutes—a manual task that keeps it off of many menus. But with mechanical assistance, Holy Ghost can churn out the New Orleans classic with little effort—all it takes is a bit of patience for the jiggling to end (and drinkers are fairly warned since the five-minute process is in the concoction’s name on the menu).
Cocktails here sit in a reasonable $10 to $14 price range. All of them are fun, most are quirky, but their construction is considered. For instance, the rum and Coke daquiri ($10) might sound like a too-sweet slushie that’s been spinning all day inside a 7-Eleven, but it’s surprisingly restrained and well balanced.
A collection of four ranch waters ($8-$11) were light and refreshing, while the tequila old fashioned ($11) lets you feel like you’re doing some “real” drinking without performing a Don Draper impersonation.
And if you have a proclivity for agave spirits, then Holy Ghost has the perfect challenge for you. Drink 20 tequilas, 20 mezcals and 10 of your choice—either as a straight pour or in a cocktail—and you can begin earning prizes and bragging rights as a member of the Agave Social Club.
Holy Ghost can afford to put this much focus on its drink program because the bar isn’t responsible for food. That job has been outsourced to the neighboring Electric Pizza Company, which sells both slices and whole pies. Coming soon to the same complex is 28 Tigers, promising a menu of dumplings, noodles and barbecue.
Though only open a few months, Holy Ghost is already a neighborhood gem. And during a two-year period that’s seen a shocking number of bars turn into apparitions—their run ending too soon because of the pandemic—we’re just thankful Caraeff can keep expanding and finding new ways to create joyful concoctions.
DRINK: Holy Ghost, 4101 SE 28th Ave., holyghostbar.com. 3 pm-late daily.