The moment you walk into the 49-seat Spirit House, a new cocktail bar in downtown Chandler, you’ll remember this — it used to be SanTan Brewing Company’s junk drawer. Well, not a drawer, clearly, but definitely a side room, where the neighboring and extremely successful brewery would store random items.
That fact will stick with you, because now this little lounge is a visual spectacle.
Bottles of SanTan’s whiskey and bourbon, as well as botanical spirits, are everywhere — and each bottle seems to have its own spotlight. There are also bottles of other area spirits, including Carreno Mezcal, plus mirrors, fresh herbs stashed in glass jars, and rocks glasses stored everywhere else. This is the china shop of the drinking world.
Last, a seven-foot fan is whirring away above the bar, surrounded by a circular, hanging metal shelf. The whole thing looks like some sort of Stargate, but it’s just there to keep things breezy.
Because that’s the atmosphere SanTan is going for with Spirit House — breezy: a place where knowledgeable drinkers can come to try something new, and a place where everyone else can ask questions. SanTan Brewing Company founder Anthony Canecchia (a hilarious man who’d remind any Italian-American of their favorite uncle) wants the Spirit House to be, above all, approachable.
But the story of how these bottles got here is even more interesting. The distilling process started in 2015, though it was something the team had wanted to do for years. So in 2019, with the opening of Spirit House on June 28, patrons will be enjoying that first batch.
About that batch. The team wanted to use French oak barrels for their spirits. Only thing is, French oak barrels are expensive. These brewers are frugal by nature, so they thought about the Scots, or people from Scotland, and how they often utilized used barrels for their spirits.
Canecchia started calling around California, looking for used French oak barrels kicking around wine country. There was only one stipulation: The SanTan team wanted just the once-used barrels, or first fill. Turns out, wineries are more than happy to get the barrels off the property for a small profit.
Then, it was decided the spirits needed their own tasting room, since people really weren’t going to the SanTan brewery to sip whiskey. The Spirit House, once the “typical American garage” of the neighboring brewery, was born.
For drinks, expect the flagship spirit, Sacred Stave American Single Malt Whiskey — Canecchia’s pride and joy. There are other whiskeys, gin, and Saint Anne’s Botanicals, like Sacred Stave Arizona Bourbon Whiskey, Saint Anne's London Dry Gin, and Saint Anne's Citrus Rosé.
Signature cocktails include the Last Word with Limeleaf botanical spirit, chartreuse, and cherry; the Bees Knees with gin, lemon, and honey' and a classic Manhattan.
For eats, there are charcuterie boards, salads, vegetables (dear, god, those whiskey bacon cheesy Brussels sprouts), and tartines — or open-faced sandwiches. If you’re actually hungry, do not sleep on the smoked turkey tartine, or the cornbread either. Then there’s the Chandler Chop — the Chandler version of the well-known Stetson Chop from Scottsdale’s closed Cowboy Ciao.
That nod toward local food lore is woven throughout this whole deal. As the team will tell you, priority is given to seasonal ingredients from area farmers and local producers. The two artisan pot stills are located right there in Chandler. The menu is stamped with “Proudly Serving Noble Bread.” Little details like this probably make Canecchia sleep better at night.
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Canecchia and the team behind Spirit House clearly have fun and spend a lot of time with each other. They love talking about what they’re doing. They want to make their world more approachable, more so every day. They want to take down the idea of saving that bottle of high-end liquor for Christmastime only.
They want to run a cocktail bar, not a bar with good drinks, not a neighborhood bar that happens to have good bartenders, but a cocktail bar.
Time will tell, as Spirit House is less than a week old, but they seem to be on their way.
8 South San Marcos Place, #106, Chandler
Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday; 4 to 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Monday and Tuesday