From making pilgrimages to the A Christmas Story House to downing 30,000 barrels of Great Lakes Christmas Ale, Clevelanders take holiday celebrations very seriously. This year offers a significant addition for The Land’s yuletide revelers: a bar dedicated entirely, for just over a month, to Christmas cheer.
That bar happens to be The Spotted Owl, widely acknowledged as one of the best drinking establishments in the city. From the day after Thanksgiving until New Years Eve, it will become a Miracle pop-up cocktail bar.
The Miracle pop-up concept began in New York in 2014, when craft cocktail aficionado Greg Boehm took some advice from his mother and turned his unfinished Manhattan bar space into a holiday-themed drinking destination. In the three years since, the concept has expanded to just over 50 bars all over the world.
Photo: Nathan DreimillerThe Spotted Owl is also a three-year-old endeavor, though it remains open all year (and, as of this spring, seven days a week). Founded in 2014 by Will Hollingsworth—who scouted the location in the ground floor of the old Gospel Union Press building—the Tremont bar is known for its creative cocktail menus and unparalleled wood-and-stone aesthetic.
Hollingsworth is honored Boehm chose the Owl to be a Miracle partner. “Guys like [Boehm] go to hundreds of bars a year,” he says. “It feels good to be on the same list as some of these other bars, to be considered Cleveland’s cocktail bar.”
Highlights of the holiday-themed menu include “How the Gimlet Stole Christmas” and the appropriate-for-Tremont “You’ll Shoot Your Rye Out.” The menu comes from Boehm, but Hollingsworth describes the drinks as the type of “high-octane” beverages customers have come to expect from the Owl. The flavors draw on traditional Yuletide recipes with a craft cocktail twist. The "Jingle Ball Eggnog," for example, will feature a housemade eggnog mixed with amontillado sherry, cognac, and, intriguingly, peanut butter.
It wouldn’t be a Christmas cocktail endeavor without a little philanthropic spirit. All Miracle bars, including the Owl, will be selling holiday-themed glassware from Boehm’s Cocktail Kingdom glassware, and 10 percent of those proceeds will go to Action Against Hunger.
In addition to the charity aspect, Hollingsworth sees an opportunity to expand the Owl’s customer base. He hopes to "introduce the bar to a group of people who aren’t going to cocktail bars all the time, but love Christmas.”
Bar manager Katherine “Sully” Sullivan is in charge of the bar’s Christmas décor. Because the bar is open on Thanksgiving, she will go in Friday morning to decorate and will work until close that night. Despite the long shift ahead, she is very excited for patrons to see the finished product.
“It’s gonna look like Christmas exploded in here,” she says.