When Portland bar maven Ezra Caraeff started thinking about the cocktail menu for his incoming Southeast Portland bar, Holy Ghost, he took inspiration from a plant across the street. A towering agave plant — nicknamed “Monte” — drew crowds and press coverage last year as it began to bloom, frustrating its owner. So Caraeff developed a long list of agave spirits to work with, whether it’s a house-infused tequila in a ranch water cocktail, a mezcal Old Fashioned riff with a boost of Cazadores Reposado, or an Altos Plata Aperol spritz.
Named after the banger from classic funk band the Bar-Kays, Holy Ghost opens this week on SE Gladstone, and is built around an ethos of fun: bubble tea machines named things like Shake Gyllenhaal shake gin fizzes, cocktails come with things like bubblegum-infused vodka, and certain booths have their own buttons that summon sparkling wine. Caraeff is no stranger to opening new bars — the co-owner of Portland mainstays like the Old Gold and Paydirt, he says he’s normally a nervous wreck before opening. But he’s feeling confident as he prepares to open his newest — and perhaps most freewheeling — bar.
Agave takes up a large portion of Holy Ghost’s impressive 400-odd bottle collection, and many of the cocktails — including two of the Old Fashioned selections — use tequila or mezcal. That being said, there are plenty of other drinks on the menu as well, including a list of non-alcoholic cocktails made with Seedlip, drinking vinegars, and syrups. While mostly focusing on spirits and cocktails, the bar will have draft beers and wines by the glass and bottle — certain booths in the bar will even have a “Champagne button” that diners can press to summon a server to take their sparkling wine order. But one of the drinks Caraeff is most excited about is the bar’s methodical gin fizz.
“We’re really into the idea of the gin fizz. It’s a great drink but no one wants to make it because it takes so long to shake,” Caraeff says, describing the five-minute shaking process it takes to mix a proper version of the New Orleans classic. So the team purchased a number of bubble tea shaking machines to do the work for them. It still takes a solid five minutes to make, a fact that is outlined on the menu, but that’s just part of the charm.
Holy Ghost opens in the space formerly home to the Pub at the End of the Universe. However, those who remember the dark and labyrinthine dive with its mismatched floors will likely have a difficult time recognizing the space now. Holy Ghost will stay in one room, now with a taller ceiling and a lot more natural light thanks to some windows the team found that had been covered by a lowered ceiling. A patio seats around 35 under its cover and around a fire pit, but in summer will be expanded to seat around 120.
The bar shares the building with two other restaurants: the newly opened pizzeria Electric Pizza Company and the upcoming noodle-and-dumpling spot 28 Tigers. Like Paydirt at the Zipper, Holy Ghost will rely on its neighbors to cover the food, focusing entirely on drinks instead.
Holy Ghost will open any day now at 4107 SE 28th Avenue. The bar will open from 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays, noon to 1 a.m. Saturdays, and noon to midnight each Sunday. Take a look at the full menu below:
- Holy Ghost [Official]