Holy Water Blesses Bernal Heights With Approachable Cocktails

Pete Kane
Holy Water has chandeliers made from bottles that might have held holy water before lightbulbs.
The first thing you may notice upon walking into Holy Water (unless you are desperately sinful/thirsty and rush the bar right away) is a printed vinyl image of an early-twentieth-century mass baptism along an entire wall. The second thing you may notice is that the former pup-friendly Stray Bar has been gutted and replaced with a somewhat swankier cocktail establishment, but that there are still plenty of unleashed dogs milling about, a strong plus or minus depending on whom you ask.

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The team behind Churchill has brought their formula to Bernal Heights, with ten approachable, unpretentious cocktails, like a Moscow Mule, a Mexican Firing Squad, and a Jungle Bird (black rum, pineapple, Campari, and lime). If you know what Benedictine is, then there's not an ingredient on the menu that will stump you, and you can drink in the artfully geometric shade patterns cast by the rusty-pipe wall sconces. While Churchill went into a spot that formerly housed a series of deliciously seedy gay bars, Holy Water doesn't feel nearly such an obvious example of nightlife sanitization, in spite of the implicit blessing.

Pete Kane
Holy Water sort of lacks an outside sign

Neighborhood bars used to be no-frills kinds of places that might earn a zero in d├ęcor in Zagat's if it came to that, but now they all have $9 cocktails and design firms on retainer. If last Friday night was typical, Holy Water's bar staff are a beardy, masculine lot but the clientele is 100% Bernal Heights: a pleasantly diverse group that doesn't want to have to climb back up that giant mountain to get home after a drink, and now has a really great spot to do that in.

Holy Water, 309 Cortland Ave.

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