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The Violet Hour

The Violet Hour
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  • Post #31 - August 23rd, 2007, 12:47 pm
    Post #31 - August 23rd, 2007, 12:47 pm Post #31 - August 23rd, 2007, 12:47 pm
    danimalarkey wrote:I visited this place for the first time this week, and it was great. Excellent atmosphere as I just wanted to go out and talk to some of my friends, and the drinks were among the best I've ever had (between us, we had the Southside, Blue Ridge Manhattan and the Dark 'n Stormy).

    But I saw someone getting a drink that was finished with the ignited mist from an orange peel. Does anyone know which drink that is? Will it be on the fall menu, or will I have to head back soon to try it (and a shame that would be)?



    That drink is the Daisy17... Rye based. Very tasty.

    not sure about how long it'll be on the menu
  • Post #32 - August 23rd, 2007, 1:07 pm
    Post #32 - August 23rd, 2007, 1:07 pm Post #32 - August 23rd, 2007, 1:07 pm
    ab wrote:
    danimalarkey wrote:But I saw someone getting a drink that was finished with the ignited mist from an orange peel.


    That drink is the Daisy17... Rye based. Very tasty.

    not sure about how long it'll be on the menu


    I believe the Corpse Reviver #2 benefits from similar treatment. May be others as well.
  • Post #33 - August 23rd, 2007, 1:27 pm
    Post #33 - August 23rd, 2007, 1:27 pm Post #33 - August 23rd, 2007, 1:27 pm
    Aaron Deacon wrote:
    ab wrote:
    danimalarkey wrote:But I saw someone getting a drink that was finished with the ignited mist from an orange peel.


    That drink is the Daisy17... Rye based. Very tasty.

    not sure about how long it'll be on the menu


    I believe the Corpse Reviver #2 benefits from similar treatment. May be others as well.


    And the Maloney Negroni. If I may pimp, you can watch Toby Maloney make it here tomorrow. The Southside and Dark & Stormy are already posted.
  • Post #34 - September 8th, 2007, 3:33 pm
    Post #34 - September 8th, 2007, 3:33 pm Post #34 - September 8th, 2007, 3:33 pm
    Went to Violet Hour last Wednesday night. Got there at 8pm, just opening. I know there have been a lot of raves about the place, and I love good cocktails: Manhattan's, Gin Martini's, Old Fashion's, Sazerac's etc. I did order the Manhattan there and the cocktail was tasty and complex. But I had trouble with the whole experience. I felt that the bartender was a little confused getting all of the ingredients together, and it seemed a little like a lab experiment, with the stoppered bottles, etc. I felt that the bartender didn't really get what a good "drinking establishment, house of worship" is about. There has to be a true caring about the making of the cocktail, with good technique, etc. , but with the unconscious competence and laid backness with a Master bartender who has made (and imbibed) 1000's of drinks.

    The staff was well trained but at least at 8pm Wednesday, a little green behind the ears. I also didn't like the arm flourishes as the ingredients went in the glass. It was too precious. I do appreciate that they care about doing expert cocktails.


    Wonder who people would identify as their favorite bartenders: maturity, masterful technique, interest, with just the correct amount of "whatever"

    psychchef
  • Post #35 - September 8th, 2007, 3:50 pm
    Post #35 - September 8th, 2007, 3:50 pm Post #35 - September 8th, 2007, 3:50 pm
    Just wanted to add that as a lover of places that really care about producing wonderful cocktails, I do appreciate what the Violet Hour is doing. I also intend to go back at other times, and with other tenders, to get more of a sample of the experience.

    psychchef
  • Post #36 - September 9th, 2007, 7:57 am
    Post #36 - September 9th, 2007, 7:57 am Post #36 - September 9th, 2007, 7:57 am
    m'th'su wrote:And the Maloney Negroni. If I may pimp, you can watch Toby Maloney make it here tomorrow. The Southside and Dark & Stormy are already posted.

    LTH,

    After reading the thread, watching Mike Sula's Fan Boy videos on the Reader site, I thought I had a general idea of what the Violet Hour was about, hip, swank, mostly sizzle, some steak, I was wrong. Don't misinterpret, Violet Hour is the most consciously hip place I've been in years, with the exception of a recent stop at the style over substance Swig in San Francisco, but the Violet Hour delivers as promised.

    Dark and Stormy, a gingery jolt to the senses, Poor Liza seductive in pear, Blue Ridge Manhattan pure sophistication, Hotel Nacional make me check my toes for beach sand. Each sip an extension of talented over the top obsessiveness, easily the best cocktails I've had, with, possibly, the exception of RevrendAndy's margaritas.

    No Slim Jim's or pickled pigs feet at the Violet Hour, small plate menu by Avec, and I enjoyed the couple of items we tried. Deviled eggs, sharp with dry mustard offset by candied bacon and an order of fried pickles which took me back to the Magnolia Inn in Southern Georgia, though I found Violet Hour's cut a bit thick.

    Efficient, pleasant and interactive staff, comfortable bar stools, once you get situated, along with clear flavored well balanced drinks have me looking forward to my next Violet Hour.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #37 - September 12th, 2007, 8:18 am
    Post #37 - September 12th, 2007, 8:18 am Post #37 - September 12th, 2007, 8:18 am
    Went last night as my birthday treat, accompanied by my lovely wife, my brother, and his lovely wife.

    All around a fantastic experience and one I'm very eager to do again. I didn't find anything to be overly hipsterish and great appreciated the atmosphere of "grown-up-ness". The music volume was just right, the general noise level was quite low, the service was friendly without being obtrusive, the seating comfortable. Our only complaint was the lack of enough light to read the menus. We struggled by though.

    I started with the Blue Ridge Manhattan which had an absolutely wonderful nose, with all the elements combined beautifully into something familiar but new at the same time. In the mouth I got less rye taste than I was expecting but maybe that's because I'm unfamiliar with Rittenhouse. However, an expertly blended cocktail, everything balanced just right.

    My companions had the Fresh Fruit Gimlet, the Diablo, and the Corpse Reviver #2 and all were marked by the same qualities that made my cocktail stand out. Remarkably fresh tasting ingredients, intriguing alterations to the classic mixes that elevated them without changing their character, and everything mixed to perfection so that they really were cocktails not just liquor with extra stuff thrown in.

    My second drink was the Iron Cross, a variation on the Pisco Sour. Since most of my cocktail drinking has been at home or with friends this was my first experience with an egg white drink and what an eye-opening revelation it was! Again, I can't say enough about the care and skill with which this drink was made; dangerously smooth, the sweet and sour balanced to perfection, the kick of the pisco wrapped up in padding of that egg white (shaken by hand not blender I might add: our waitress explained that the name came from the feeling of the mixer's arms after finishing the drink). My brother had the Daisy 17, a remarkably easy-drinking concoction especially given the Wild Turkey 101 as it's base.

    All in all a wonderful place to have truly exceptional drinks. We can't wait to go back.
  • Post #38 - September 20th, 2007, 2:51 pm
    Post #38 - September 20th, 2007, 2:51 pm Post #38 - September 20th, 2007, 2:51 pm
    I stopped by the Violet Hour this week and for anyone interested, they can accomodate large groups -- there were a number of chairs, stools and tables arranged along the southern wall in the first room.

    Also, if they're going to ban cell phones and smoking, they should extend the ban to flash photography. I'm sure the big group was excited to memorialize their evening, but all those flashes were not appreciated by my friend and I. I'm jsst saying... ^_^
  • Post #39 - September 22nd, 2007, 10:50 pm
    Post #39 - September 22nd, 2007, 10:50 pm Post #39 - September 22nd, 2007, 10:50 pm
    danimalarkey wrote:Also, if they're going to ban cell phones and smoking, they should extend the ban to flash photography. I'm sure the big group was excited to memorialize their evening, but all those flashes were not appreciated by my friend and I. I'm jsst saying... ^_^


    As a sometimes flash photographer, I feel relatively innured to the blast of light, but I must say, as I sat with The Wife savoring a Sazerac and Maloney's ballet, the bright glares sporadically emanating from the bar area did seem, indeed, unseemly. Normally, I'd hardly notice; in that environment, the flash seemed blasphemous.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #40 - September 24th, 2007, 4:41 pm
    Post #40 - September 24th, 2007, 4:41 pm Post #40 - September 24th, 2007, 4:41 pm
    By the way, if the owner or any of the bartenders are reading this, the reason you see me order a perfect manhattan with every single bartender as my first drink (and 2 of your bartenders have asked this) is that I think it's one of the best measures of how well a bartender understands the concept of balance. It's generally how I know how well a bartender understands his mixing abilities.


    Interesting. I used to be a bartender, and you're not the first person I've ever heard say that before. Of course, in my case, my fellow bartender had to ask me what a "perfect" Manhattan was. Heh. (I made the drink for the customer.)

    I'm curious if they have any good non-alcoholic offerings. I know that sounds like sacrilege, but I can't really drink at the moment. I'd love to check out this place and bring some of my drinking friends with me. Could anyone vouch for that? Would I be looked at strangely if I asked for a non-alcoholic cocktail?
    -- Nora --
    "Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want." ~Gael Greene
  • Post #41 - September 24th, 2007, 5:26 pm
    Post #41 - September 24th, 2007, 5:26 pm Post #41 - September 24th, 2007, 5:26 pm
    with all the various mixers and juices (such as the homemade ginger syrup used for the dark and stormy), i'm sure any bartender could have fun creating an interesting drink for you. and i sure hope you wont have to pay $11 for it....... but why not give them a call, and ask directly? justjoan

    the violet hour
    (773)252-1500
  • Post #42 - September 25th, 2007, 9:44 pm
    Post #42 - September 25th, 2007, 9:44 pm Post #42 - September 25th, 2007, 9:44 pm
    justjoan wrote:with all the various mixers and juices (such as the homemade ginger syrup used for the dark and stormy), i'm sure any bartender could have fun creating an interesting drink for you. and i sure hope you wont have to pay $11 for it....... but why not give them a call, and ask directly? justjoan

    the violet hour
    (773)252-1500
    Do you realize the quantity of effort it takes to make homemade ginger srup? Also, $11 is pretty cheap considering the quality level of drinks made at The Violet Hour. That said, if you can't understand this level of effort, Goldstar might be better suited for you.
    is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
  • Post #43 - September 25th, 2007, 9:45 pm
    Post #43 - September 25th, 2007, 9:45 pm Post #43 - September 25th, 2007, 9:45 pm
    GreenFish wrote:
    By the way, if the owner or any of the bartenders are reading this, the reason you see me order a perfect manhattan with every single bartender as my first drink (and 2 of your bartenders have asked this) is that I think it's one of the best measures of how well a bartender understands the concept of balance. It's generally how I know how well a bartender understands his mixing abilities.


    Interesting. I used to be a bartender, and you're not the first person I've ever heard say that before. Of course, in my case, my fellow bartender had to ask me what a "perfect" Manhattan was. Heh. (I made the drink for the customer.)

    I'm curious if they have any good non-alcoholic offerings. I know that sounds like sacrilege, but I can't really drink at the moment. I'd love to check out this place and bring some of my drinking friends with me. Could anyone vouch for that? Would I be looked at strangely if I asked for a non-alcoholic cocktail?
    I don't know, but I have a meeting with someone there tomorrow night- I'll ask.
    is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
  • Post #44 - September 25th, 2007, 10:51 pm
    Post #44 - September 25th, 2007, 10:51 pm Post #44 - September 25th, 2007, 10:51 pm
    jpschust wrote:
    justjoan wrote:with all the various mixers and juices (such as the homemade ginger syrup used for the dark and stormy), i'm sure any bartender could have fun creating an interesting drink for you. and i sure hope you wont have to pay $11 for it....... but why not give them a call, and ask directly? justjoan

    the violet hour
    (773)252-1500
    Do you realize the quantity of effort it takes to make homemade ginger srup? Also, $11 is pretty cheap considering the quality level of drinks made at The Violet Hour. That said, if you can't understand this level of effort, Goldstar might be better suited for you.


    I believe the point is that it would likely be under $11 for a non-alcoholic drink. I would certainly hope so, even with the ginger syrup.
  • Post #45 - September 26th, 2007, 6:49 am
    Post #45 - September 26th, 2007, 6:49 am Post #45 - September 26th, 2007, 6:49 am
    I don't know, but I have a meeting with someone there tomorrow night- I'll ask.


    I would appreciate it. I'm mainly concerned, given the "serious" cocktail atmosphere, how a request like that would go. I was going to call them, but if you're stopping in...

    And honestly, I'm not concerned about price.

    On a general note, considering the amount of care that goes into these drinks, $11 doesn't seem all that unreasonable for a cocktail, I agree. It's not going to be a cheap night, but, hell, I've paid $11 for a mixed drink at a Maggiano's in the suburbs. It at least gives you a realm of expectation before going in.
    -- Nora --
    "Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want." ~Gael Greene
  • Post #46 - October 8th, 2007, 10:31 pm
    Post #46 - October 8th, 2007, 10:31 pm Post #46 - October 8th, 2007, 10:31 pm
    First trip to Violet Hour was in the best company imaginable (FigMolly, FigJustin, Jazzfood, happy_stomach). The drinks were expertly mixed and presented, including a Negroni with orange flambe and the strongest Manhattan I've ever imbibed, complete with a supplementary decanter. The server catalogued the items they make in house (fruit juices and select bitters), and the items they don't (tomato juice for Bloody Marys), and highlighted the new offerings on the autumn menu. The food was nicely presented if undemanding - crisp but relatively bland chorizo croquettes with aioli, tasty deviled eggs spiked with candied bacon bark and the ghost of brown butter. Two tacos de carne asada and one of barbacoa at La Pasadita fixed that balance and helped to reabsorb la fee verte. I'd happily be party fo other LTH gatherings there, especially if any yields as good of a story as the final journey of Jazzfood's father.
    Last edited by Santander on October 10th, 2007, 8:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #47 - October 9th, 2007, 8:08 am
    Post #47 - October 9th, 2007, 8:08 am Post #47 - October 9th, 2007, 8:08 am
    G Wiv wrote:
    m'th'su wrote:And the Maloney Negroni. If I may pimp, you can watch Toby Maloney make it here tomorrow. The Southside and Dark & Stormy are already posted.

    LTH,

    After reading the thread, watching Mike Sula's Fan Boy videos on the Reader site, I thought I had a general idea of what the Violet Hour was about, hip, swank, mostly sizzle, some steak, I was wrong. Don't misinterpret, Violet Hour is the most consciously hip place I've been in years, with the exception of a recent stop at the style over substance Swig in San Francisco, but the Violet Hour delivers as promised.


    I shared Gary's initial skepticism before my first visit to the Violet Hour last night with Santander, the Figs and jazzfood. I love this place! Because I thought at first the whole thing might be just too hip for me, I decided on an autumn sidecar. (That's what I tend to do--if I feel a little intimidated by a place, rather than jump head first, I'll go with something very classic.) The sidecar was perfect, made me think I could get used to a regular Monday evening cocktail.

    Side note: Being of shorter stature, I tend to pay special attention to the chairs in restaurants & bars since most tend to be ill-fitted for people my size. (If I could travel around with my size A Aeron chair, I would.) I really enjoyed the high-backed blue chairs opposite the bar area at the Violet Hour. The Stonehenge-like configurations struck me as somewhat funny at first, but it made for intimate conversation, which I always appreciate.
  • Post #48 - October 9th, 2007, 10:36 am
    Post #48 - October 9th, 2007, 10:36 am Post #48 - October 9th, 2007, 10:36 am
    GreenFish wrote:
    I don't know, but I have a meeting with someone there tomorrow night- I'll ask.


    I would appreciate it. I'm mainly concerned, given the "serious" cocktail atmosphere, how a request like that would go. I was going to call them, but if you're stopping in...


    I'm guessing Mr. Maloney doesn't follow this thread, but he answered the same question directly on eGullet:

    Alchemist wrote:I would have her have a mint/ginger virgin rickey. But all of the bartenders can whip something up for your wife. just explain and then tell them flavors you like.


    http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?sho ... &p=1476459
  • Post #49 - October 10th, 2007, 11:27 am
    Post #49 - October 10th, 2007, 11:27 am Post #49 - October 10th, 2007, 11:27 am
    More notes (and drinks) on the evening with the small LTH group:

    I tried the Spanish Margarita because I'm a sucker for a good margarita. I know it's not that unique, but I was intrigued by the use of their Hell Fire bitters, so I decided to try it. The large block of ice made it impossible to drink from the glass, it wasn't really necessary to do so because there was no salt rim. The flavor was good, but the bitters didn't add a whole lot of complexity to the drink. Justin started with the Lady Gray that was Bombay, egg whites, and tea - it was very light, refreshing and a new addition to the menu.

    For round two I had the Daisy 17 which was recommended by the server. It included their housemade marachino cherry juice, bourbon, bitters and possibly one other ingredient (it was nearly impossible to read the menus comfortably). It was a little sweet for my liking, but very complex and well constructed (although I hoped to try an actual cherry it wasn't garnished with one). Just had the Dark and Stormy, which as previously posted, was delicious - very spicy with ginger.

    Forgoing our drinks, the best part of the evening was our company. Just to hear Jazzfood's stories was worth eating the boring croquettes.
    FIG Catering, For Intimate Gatherings
    Our website
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    molly@FIGcatering.com
  • Post #50 - October 11th, 2007, 9:26 am
    Post #50 - October 11th, 2007, 9:26 am Post #50 - October 11th, 2007, 9:26 am
    Did we figure out the origin of the name "The Violet Hour"? A friend suggested it might be this 1948 article by Bernard DeVoto:

    Bernard DeVoto wrote:The cocktail hour: Do's and don'ts

    THERE ARE ONLY TWO COCKTAILS. ONE CAN BE described straightforwardly. It is a slug of whiskey and it is an honest drink. Those who hold by it at 6:00 p.m. offend no canon of our fellowship. Scotch, Irish, rye, bourbon at your will - but of itself alone. Whiskey and vermouth cannot meet as friends and the Manhattan is an offense against piety. With dry vermouth it is disreputable, with sweet vermouth disgusting. It signifies that the drinker, if male, has no spiritual dignity and would really prefer white mule; if female, a banana split.

    read the rest here...
    Joe G.

    "Whatever may be wrong with the world, at least it has some good things to eat." -- Cowboy Jack Clement
  • Post #51 - October 11th, 2007, 10:20 am
    Post #51 - October 11th, 2007, 10:20 am Post #51 - October 11th, 2007, 10:20 am
    germuska wrote:Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 9:26 am Post subject:

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Did we figure out the origin of the name "The Violet Hour"? A friend suggested it might be this 1948 article by Bernard DeVoto:

    Bernard DeVoto wrote:
    The cocktail hour: Do's and don'ts

    THERE ARE ONLY TWO COCKTAILS. ONE CAN BE described straightforwardly. It is a slug of whiskey and it is an honest drink. Those who hold by it at 6:00 p.m. offend no canon of our fellowship. Scotch, Irish, rye, bourbon at your will - but of itself alone. Whiskey and vermouth cannot meet as friends and the Manhattan is an offense against piety. With dry vermouth it is disreputable, with sweet vermouth disgusting. It signifies that the drinker, if male, has no spiritual dignity and would really prefer white mule; if female, a banana split.

    read the rest here...


    According to Toby Maloney, it is an homage to both DeVoto and T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land.
  • Post #52 - October 11th, 2007, 10:53 am
    Post #52 - October 11th, 2007, 10:53 am Post #52 - October 11th, 2007, 10:53 am
    Much as I admire Bernard DeVoto on the subject of antebellum America (a far too neglected period), and recognizing that doctrinaire pronouncements on cocktail propriety are mostly tongue in cheek, still... this is giving the back of the hand to one of America's richest and noblest fields of invention. The science of mixology is artful and subtle and at its pre-Prohibition peak in America was surely as refined a field as Austrian dessert-making or French pate-making or any of the other glories of cuisine. Indeed, it was quite possibly the first culinary area in which Americans notably distinguished themselves on the international scene.

    As it happens I went to The Violet Hour last night. My reaction was very much like others' here-- it is very hard not to laugh at first, the seriousness with which you are greeted by young people in suits and neckties (a trend endorsed by the Times today) would make a funeral parlor seem pixieish (I very nearly snorted when the second room was described as "Salon B"). Actually, you know what the whole secret entrance, no signage, guy who greets you and tells you the rules thing reminded me of? That silly Spy Bar in Milwaukee. I about expected to enter through a revolving bookcase and see a light go on whenever someone went in the bathroom. And considering that the space has previously held two of the most enjoyably overdesigned restaurant environments in Chicago-- Mod and Del Toro-- the austerely square rooms and highback chairs seem a little randomly placed, almost temporary; it takes keeping the rooms at a level of lighting just above "underwater cave" to give these simple rooms a mood worthy of the evocative name.

    The first thing that began to turn my attitude around was when the bartender opened one of his little refrigerators and I saw an assortment of herbs growing in little cartons inside. I suppose that's not unique to them, but it opened my eyes to how much stuff there was around the bar. A bar full of unusual bottles is not that unusual, but a bar stocked with four dozen spices and a couple of dozen tinctures in eye-dropper bottles is. And this is where you start to see that, despite the uberhip atmosphere, despite the menu (which you can't read in this light) of cutely named house creations... you've been drinking stuff all poured together in a glass until now. Really, you read people using words like "balance" and "counterpoint" in regards to cocktails and it's like "structure" in regards to wine, bullshit words thrown out there because there just aren't that many ways to talk about liquids. Except, whoops, you just tasted it for real, so it wasn't bullshit after all. It was just hard to deliver on.

    What I had:

    "Autumn Sazerac"-- rendered autumnal by Apfel Korn, an apple-ish liqueur. I thought a version of the original cocktail would be a good place to start, but it seemed a bit tame next to some of what followed.

    "Golden Age"-- Brugal Anejo rum, cherry Heering, and egg white (I think, although Sula says yolk)-- I ordered this after a taste of someone's Dark and Stormy and was impressed by the balance of rum, lime and aromatically fresh-tasting ginger syrup, and wanted something similarly concocted and multidimensional.

    Chartreuse drink invented by Kyle, our bartender-- after two rounds from the menu (which between three of us meant we'd tasted close to half of it) we asked Kyle, with whom we'd chatted extensively by that point, if he had drinks of his own that he would like to make. He did, and matched them to us based on the preferences we'd shown to that point. I got one consisting of chartreuse, simple syrup, Peychaud bitters, a gin and tonic on top of that, and Angostura bitters on top. It was terrific, and I was more impressed with it after he poured us samples of three different chartreuses, all of which, even the very expensive one, were just too lighter-fluidy sipped straight for my drinking preference. But subsumed into the cocktail he'd made, it was sublime. (We also had a tasting of cherry-flavored liqueurs-- the cherry Heering was syrupy, too sweet to drink on its own, but two Italian maraschino liqueurs were quite interesting.)

    We also ordered a couple of things off the small menu to help soak up our $11 cocktails-- the deep-fried pickles are really, really good, in the best scarfable bar snack way, as a deviled egg non-fan I was impressed that I liked the deviled egg (curried yolk, bit of porkbelly, ie., bacon), and although the sliced bread was noncanonical and the price would buy you a feast at any good Cuban joint in town, the Cuban sandwich was pretty tasty too. The Violet Hour isn't even a restaurant and it's a better restaurant than the last place in this space.

    In short, The Violet Hour is a wow, an impressive addition to the local drinking and dining scene, a serious place that will raise the standards locally for other places that want to be taken seriously-- and yet for all that it seems from the outside like the kind of place that would want nothing to do with you, a small amount of knowledge and effort put into talking to your bartender will, at least in Kyle's case, richly repay you with an introduction to the wonders behind the bar and the skills displayed by its staff of young but highly learned and artful mixologists.
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  • Post #53 - October 11th, 2007, 2:30 pm
    Post #53 - October 11th, 2007, 2:30 pm Post #53 - October 11th, 2007, 2:30 pm
    Mike G wrote:...As it happens I went to The Violet Hour last night. My reaction was very much like others' here-- it is very hard not to laugh at first, the seriousness with which you are greeted by young people in suits and neckties (a trend endorsed by the Times today) would make a funeral parlor seem pixieish...

    ...and yet for all that it seems from the outside like the kind of place that would want nothing to do with you, a small amount of knowledge and effort put into talking to your bartender will, at least in Kyle's case, richly repay you with an introduction to the wonders behind the bar and the skills displayed by its staff of young but highly learned and artful mixologists.


    I'm curious--if the staff had been, say, on average 15 years older, would you have been less skeptical initially? It's not as if they were in period costume. They staff a contemporary speakeasy in the heart of Wicker Park. I'm just curious because I sometimes feel like I detect an ageism in commentary about bartenders, or mixologists, as you say, in their late 20s/early 30s that I don't notice in conversations about food, e.g. with young chefs.
  • Post #54 - October 11th, 2007, 2:36 pm
    Post #54 - October 11th, 2007, 2:36 pm Post #54 - October 11th, 2007, 2:36 pm
    happy_stomach wrote:They staff a contemporary speakeasy


    That says it all, right there. There's no such thing. It's completely contrived and has kind of a Disneyland feel to it. It has nothing to do with age. It has everything to do with pretension.

    But I think most everybody here recognizes, myself included, that they put out some damn fine cocktails and are incredibly enthusiastic about what they're doing, which is what sets them apart from places that put style over substance.

    I loved my evening of cocktails this past weekend, and I'm anxious to go back. But that doesn't keep me from feeling that the the pseudo-speakeasy facade, floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains and seven-foot tall chairs scream that they're trying really really really hard to be cool.

    And I'm 31... that doesn't make me an old fart yet, does it? :-)
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #55 - October 11th, 2007, 2:40 pm
    Post #55 - October 11th, 2007, 2:40 pm Post #55 - October 11th, 2007, 2:40 pm
    Mike G wrote:(We also had a tasting of cherry-flavored liqueurs-- the cherry Heering was syrupy, too sweet to drink on its own, but two Italian maraschino liqueurs were quite interesting.)


    Those two liqueurs were Maraska Maraschino and Luxardo, and they almost seemed to be of a different species of beverage than the Cherry Herring (a noxious name, come to think of it), which came on as unbearably sweet and heavy next to these two much finer bottles.

    Image
    Image

    Either of these would make fine additions to a liquor cabinet.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #56 - October 11th, 2007, 2:45 pm
    Post #56 - October 11th, 2007, 2:45 pm Post #56 - October 11th, 2007, 2:45 pm
    Yes, I'd agree, they're trying really hard to be cool. Their serious passion about what they're doing borders on pretension. But I can get past all of that because they put out a mean drink and the bartender who's waited on me on both of my visits was attentive and interested in chatting with up about not only what they were making but sort of the overall philosophy of the place. That being said Michael (our bartender there) was somewhat older than a majority of the staff and maybe he just conveyed things better.

    I really really enjoy cocktails at Violet Hour and will return. That being said, am I the only one that finds all of the drinks there just a tad sweet?
  • Post #57 - October 11th, 2007, 3:02 pm
    Post #57 - October 11th, 2007, 3:02 pm Post #57 - October 11th, 2007, 3:02 pm
    Dmnkly wrote:
    happy_stomach wrote:They staff a contemporary speakeasy


    That says it all, right there. There's no such thing. It's completely contrived and has kind of a Disneyland feel to it. It has nothing to do with age. It has everything to do with pretension.


    I don't understand how there couldn't be a contemporary speakeasy. Obviously, the historical conditions aren't there, but conventions can be borrowed and adapted. There are contemporary gentlemen's clubs, smoking clubs, etc, none of which are their forbears, which is why they're CONTEMPORARY. Besides, every lounge and restaurant experience is contrived. That's why designers are hired.

    Yes, it's not age, it's attitude. One can say that they're trying really hard to be cool, or one can actually admit that they are cool, without qualifications.
  • Post #58 - October 11th, 2007, 3:10 pm
    Post #58 - October 11th, 2007, 3:10 pm Post #58 - October 11th, 2007, 3:10 pm
    if the staff had been, say, on average 15 years older, would you have been less skeptical initially?


    Well, if they were on average 15 years older, it'd be a whole different place. If the hostess was a middle-aged lady named Pearl and was chewing gum as she sat you, well, that'd definitely be a different place. :P

    I don't think it's ageism to note that The Violet Hour, and a few other establishments in a place like Wicker Park, give off a young and beautiful vibe, not least by being in a space whose Y.A.B.V. has been consistent through three tenants in a row. What's nice is that, unlike in other major metropolitan areas, Chicago places that give off a Y.A.B.V. mostly don't discriminate and, as The Violet Hour proved, are even downright welcoming to those of us who give off an unmistakable M.A.R.U. (Middle-Aged Rumpled Unhipness).

    I will admit to a certain skepticism when confronted with young people claiming to be mixology experts, partly because they can't have had that many years to study the art (at least legally), partly because when I was that age, beer had established near-total dominion over youthful drinking save for a few mixed drinks best not talked about at all (Pina Coladas, Fuzzy Navels, etc.), so I pretty much associate knowledge of Sidecars and Rob Roys and such with silver-haired guys in white shirts and black vests named Gus. But as I hope was made clear, these guys know their stuff like they've been mixing martinis and Manhattans since grade school.

    It's not as if they were in period costume


    Well... as the New York Times today said:

    especially the slender wool 1950s-style ties created by the Los Angeles label Band of Outsiders...
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  • Post #59 - October 11th, 2007, 3:27 pm
    Post #59 - October 11th, 2007, 3:27 pm Post #59 - October 11th, 2007, 3:27 pm
    happy_stomach wrote:
    Dmnkly wrote:
    happy_stomach wrote:They staff a contemporary speakeasy


    That says it all, right there. There's no such thing. It's completely contrived and has kind of a Disneyland feel to it. It has nothing to do with age. It has everything to do with pretension.


    I don't understand how there couldn't be a contemporary speakeasy. Obviously, the historical conditions aren't there, but conventions can be borrowed and adapted.


    By definition! Don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting for a moment that there's anything wrong with trying to evoke old speakeasy conventions, but that doesn't change the fact that it is, by definition, a contrivance. Speakeasys had boarded up windows, no signage and secret light signals because they had to. Those conventions serve no purpose today other than to be cool. It is, by definition, a contrivance. A contemporary smoking club is still a smoking club, no matter how the decor changes. But unless they're illegally selling bathtub gin on the sly, a "contemporary speakeasy" is just a bar.

    But there's nothing wrong with that! I hope I've made it clear that I think the Violet Hour is an outstanding bar! My point was simply that this concept of a "contemporary speakeasy" is a completely artificial contrivance. If you use some Italian tile and have a brick oven but cook with frozen, internationally-procured product, eschew simple dishes and charge astronomical prices, you can call yourself a "contemporary" trattoria all you like, but that doesn't make it so. There's nothing wrong with such a place, but such an apellation is just silly when the only thing you have in common is window dressing. The Violet Hour has less in common with '20s speakeasys than Ed Debevic's has with '50s diners. And It's a very carefully calculated act meant to evoke an era of cool. The drinks and enthusiasm of the staff at the Violet Hour stand on their own. They don't need high concept cool to sell the place.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #60 - October 11th, 2007, 3:50 pm
    Post #60 - October 11th, 2007, 3:50 pm Post #60 - October 11th, 2007, 3:50 pm
    They don't need high concept cool to sell the place.


    See, I think they're selling a lot more than good cocktails, though, and I like the showmanship and concept involved even as I (obviously) was kind of amused by it at first. I don't think it would be the same if the same guys were mixing at [insert name of generic faux-Irish sports bar] or even a pretty knowledgable and serious place like the Matchbox. To put the focus on the cocktail-- and not on plasma screen TVs, yelling at your friends over the music, etc.-- they create a whole atmosphere around it, which evokes a lot of period detail without crossing the line into actually being costumed and decorated like a particular period. Yeah, it put me off at first as being a bit too much, but ultimately I was won over-- as it proved that the set dressing had substance behind it.
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