“First things first – I hate the word ‘mixologist’ – let’s call me a ‘proprietor’ or ‘saloon keeper.’”
With a background working in politics in Washington D.C., Will Hollingsworth may not have been the most likely candidate to open a bar in Cleveland; but with a passion for craft cocktails and an understanding of the sense of belonging fostered by a bar, he knew the site that would become “The Spotted Owl” was home as soon as he saw the underground space with stained glass windows.
After reading “Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work” by Matthew Crawford, Hollingsworth felt an overwhelming sense to change career paths to something that was more “earthy work” – something where he could use his hands. He wanted his work to feel useful, and to have a job that fed his spirit. Upon moving to Cleveland, Hollingsworth worked at local restaurants until he decided he wanted to manage his own business. In 2011, he devised a business plan for The Spotted Owl that would open doors in 2014.
“A bar is a consistent thing you can count on when you have a bad day at work or a fight at home,” said Hollingsworth. “You can walk into your favorite bar and know that you can get the same beer or get the cocktail you love.”
“ Ingredient prep is a cocktail in and of itself. ”
With this in mind, he understands that customers expect that same experience every time they step into The Spotted Owl. With a drink menu that offers both predetermined cocktails and a “roulette” of sorts to create the perfect cocktail for your mood and flavor profile, The Spotted Owl offers a unique experience for newcomers and a sense of home for “regulars,” who get the same drink each time.
The Spotted Owl started on a shoestring budget, and used the equipment they could to create the ingredients for their cocktails. When Hollingsworth determined that his blender at the time wouldn’t cut it for the depth of flavor profiles he desired, he formed a relationship with Vitamix® and never looked back. “Vitamix was like a candle in the sun,” said Hollingsworth. He uses both the Vitamix The Quiet One® and the Vita-Prep 3® every day for juicing, and all juices go through the Aerating Container® – resulting in 75% of cocktails touching a Vitamix blender at some point in their preparation.
“Ingredient prep is a cocktail in and of itself, " said Hollingsworth. "It should have that elevation and concentration of purity. That’s what we need here: consistency, concentrated elegance, elevation and purity, and we get it with Vitamix equipment.”
“ Bartending is about storytelling, and here we just want to create bigger, more complicated stories through our drinks. ”
In 2016, Hollingsworth introduced a new menu option for his customers, “Bangs,” which is focused on fresh ingredients and three expressions of the same flavor to create depth in the beverage. This may consist of an oil, the juice and the rind of a fruit to create various, symbiotic flavor profiles within the cocktail.
In order to achieve these goals of precision, purity and a fully spiritual experience, Hollingsworth knows he can rely on his Vitamix equipment to do the job. With applications from nitro-muddling to infusions, Vitamix blenders allow The Spotted Owl staff to express their creativity and innovate while stressing efficiency and precision. The staff utilizes The Quiet One’s optimized programs and settings to ensure a consistent product each time, down to the drop.
“Bartending is about storytelling, and here we just want to create bigger, more complicated stories through our drinks." said Hollingsworth. "It’s a game of emotional intuition, and we set the tone through our drinks to allow customers to tell their stories.”
Hollingsworth and right-hand partner, Kathleen “Sully” Sullivan, played a key role in two customers’ greatest stories – their marriage. When a pair of Spotted Owl “regulars” broke up, Sully provided each of them with tips to get back together over their craft cocktails. As time passed, Sully received an inquiry to host a wedding at The Spotted Owl on New Years’ Eve, and was even requested to officiate it. Little did she know that the couple was the pair of regulars who lives she touched through the spiritual experience of the bar. The pair wedded in a private ceremony among surprised friends and family at The Spotted Owl.
“That’s the purpose – that’s why we do what we do,” said Hollingsworth.