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Bars We Love: The Violet Hour, Chicago

Bars We Love: The Violet Hour, Chicago: Joni Kat Anderson

Joni Kat Anderson

Drinking is easy. Finding the right bar, not so easy. We’re here to help. As a public service to all of you thirsty explorers, every week we highlight the best bars in America and tell you what makes them so damn great. This week we’ve got a lounge that’s house rules include: “No O-Bombs. No Jager-Bombs. No bombs of any kind.”

NAME: The Violet Hour
EST: 2007
MUSIC: Rolling Stones, Kendrick Lamar, Liars

WHAT TO ORDER (NEWBIES): Dealer’s Choice (tell the bartender what type of spirit you like and what kind of mood you’re in)
WHAT TO ORDER (REGULARS): Juliet and Romeo cocktail: gin, cucumber, rosewater, mint, lime and salt

Chloe List

Chloe List

WHY WE LOVE IT: Partner and head mixologist Toby Maloney says the Violet Hour—which won the James Beard Foundation’s 2015 award for Outstanding Bar Program—is otherworldy. “You walk through these heavy velvet curtains and you step into this space with soaring ceilings and candlelight,” he says. “The room is just stately and beautiful. Then you sit down and are treated like royalty.”

Like most hardcore cocktail bars, the crowds come in three waves: First, the older, more sophisticated drinker. This also includes young people who bring their parents in to show off their cocktail knowledge. Second is the pre- and post-dinner crowd. And third is the service industry. “Wicker Park has always been on the cutting edge of the food and drink scene,” Maloney says. “A cocktail bar here goes over very well.”

One of the Violet Hour’s specialties is drinks made with Besk Malört, a version of the popular local bitter Jeppson’s Malört. Maloney compares it to Fernet-Branca, the cult-like bitter preferred by industry people. “Malört is a hometown wormwood liqueur that is like drinking tire fire,” he says. “It is so insanely bitter and just madness. You’ve had to have truly beat your tastebuds into submission to be able to down this stuff with any regularity.” Two cocktails on the Violet Hour menu include Malört.

Cassandra Stadnicki

Cassandra Stadnicki

“We are constantly working to balance seriousness and a good time,” he says. “While we do take what we do seriously, we don’t take ourselves seriously. It’s something that we love and there’s a great amount of humor in what we do. Ask about the cocktail names; oftentimes theres a really good story behind it.”

WHERE’D THE VIOLET HOUR GET THAT NAME? “The Waste Land” (1922), by T.S. Eliot:
“At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting…
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea”

Alyson Sheppard is the resident hangover specialist at Follow her on Twitter: @amshep

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