Liqour selections

Holy Spirits bets on premium booze in downtown Sacramento, CA

Holy Spirits owner Michael Hargis is on the third reincarnation of the bar/restaurant space at 1050 20th Street in downtown Sacramento.

This time around, premium spirits are on offer – a shot can cost $20 – or the whole bottle of liquor is on sale for up to $2,500.

Hargis said the wide variety of branded bottles is key to the concept: gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon and tequila are some of the standards.

Homemade charcuterie and artisan cheeses are also available and next door is LowBrau, the German brewery and sausage restaurant also owned by Hargis.

The concept of Holy Spirits, which opened earlier this month, is not that different from Block Butcher. It opened in early 2014 in the same location as Holy Spirits.

A crucial difference, however, is that Block Butcher has focused on dozens of whiskey selections while Holy Spirits offers a variety of libations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sounded the death knell for Butcher Block. Hargis closed the establishment, looking for a concept with wider appeal.

“The pandemic gave us time to experiment with what we wanted to do,” he said.

In the fall of 2020, Hargis decided he wanted to reinvent the small 1,100 square foot space connected to LowBrau. Love Child, which offered plant-based cuisine, opened as a pop-up restaurant.

The rise and fall of Love Child

Hargis thought the concept would be a sure winner in a community like Sacramento where eating plant-based foods is a given to many.

A vegan version of In-N-Out’s double-double burger, a grain-based bowl of elote and what was billed as a vegan chicken-fried mushroom sandwich were staples on Love Child’s menu.

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The Holy Spirits cocktail bar specializes in rare and allocated spirits as well as charcuterie plates. Renee C. Byer [email protected]

Love Child was only open six hours a week, for lunch on Wednesdays and Thursdays, while Hargis planned longer hours, including evening dinners

Then reality set in. There was no place in Love Child for a kitchen. Hargis said with only one kitchen hood at LowBrau, it was unrealistic to produce food for both locations.

It certainly didn’t help that the competition was also close. Nexter Juice Bar, with its own health bowls, was next to Love Child.

By the end of 2021, Love Child had closed its doors.

Holy Spirit is born

Holy Spirits solves this kitchen space problem. Spirits are in the spotlight and artisanal charcuterie and cheeses are available again and do not need an oven for their preparation.

“I really want it to be unique to Sacramento,” Holy Spirits’ Hargis said, “but not an overly complicated menu.”

Hargis said COVID-19 has had a big impact on restaurants, forcing him and other owners to rethink their concepts.

“Now many of us are starting over with clean slates.” he said, “and we’re rethinking what we want our spaces to look like, how we want them to feel, and moreover, what we offer.”

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Michael Hargis, owner of Holy Spirits, relaxes in the cocktail bar at his new business in downtown Sacramento on August 16. At the entrance is a bottle shop where rare and allocated spirits can be purchased to take away. Renee C. Byer [email protected]

Hargis said Holy Spirits’ redesigned interior is a combination of Japanese and Dutch minimalism. One thing that stands out is the vertical rows of premium liquor bottles.

The bottles are the work of art and portray a high-end exclusive that could play well in Sacramento’s increasingly hip downtown.

Holy Spirits regional manager Matteo Sargentini said many of the spirits available in the new concept are hard to find in Sacramento.

Featured Special Spirits

He cited as examples: Yamazaki, a 12-year-old Japanese whiskey, and Weller Antique, a wheaten bourbon with a full-bodied taste and a balanced palette bottled at 107 degrees.

Sargentini said he expects 80% of Holy Spirits’ business to be shots by the glass or cocktails, but says customers buying bottles will find the prices very competitive.

He said a bottle of Jack Daniels Single Barrel Coy Hill bourbon that can be purchased at Holy Spirits for $450 often sells for several hundred more. Then there’s the Colonel EH Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving Bourbon, which will set you back $2,500 for a bottle. But this rare spirit is not offered by the shot.

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Michael Hargis, owner of Holy Spirits, said you can buy bottles of rare and allocated spirits for a good price at his new downtown bottle shop and cocktail bar. Renee C. Byer [email protected]

Hargis said Holy Spirits was aiming for a 20% markup on bottles, enough to make a good profit, but not the over 100% markup that may be charged by other establishments. (An online search of Colonel EH Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving Bourbon shows there are thousands more).

Similar to many downtown restaurants and bars, Holy Spirits will have its own cocktail program. Drinks developed by bartender Buddy Newby include an old-fashioned rum with spices and banana with Demerara rum and Jamaican rum and a vodka-based Appletini with apple liqueur, apple brandy and lemon, with an egg white to give it viscosity.

As well as Holy Spirits and LowBrau, Hargis also owns the Beast & Bounty restaurant on R Street in the town center and Milk Money, an adjacent donut and ice cream shop.

This story was originally published August 25, 2022 5:00 a.m.

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Randy Diamond is a business reporter for The Sacramento Bee.