Wretched excess is barely enough, so goes the personal motto of Toby Maloney, "chief intoxologist" and owner of Wicker Park cocktail lounge the Violet Hour
. Serving eight different kinds of ice (from hand-cracked versions to five-and-a-half-inch-tall shards), double-filtered water, seven home-brewed cocktail bitters with an eighth winter version on the way, real egg whites, fresh squeezed juices and house-made limoncello, Maloney puts his cocktail shaker where his mouth is. And, speaking of shakers, he even eschews the typical Boston shaker in favor of a two-piece stainless steel contraption of his own invention.
One of the original oyster shuckers at Chicago's now-defunct Soul Kitchen, Maloney brings a culinary sensibility to the world of bartending, concocting balanced, full-flavored cocktails replete with fresh ingredients. He spent the last few years bartending at New York City drink meccas like Pegu Club and Milk and Honey. Now that he's back, he faces a bit of a challenge: Despite our discriminating foodie culture, Chicagoans have yet to polish their booze palates. We're fairly content to sip on margaritas made with store-bought mix and slam vodka and Red Bull. Maloney's not intimidated, though. "Foodies become drinkies real quick," he says.
What do you wish you could change or pickle and preserve about the Chicago restaurant/drink scene?
I would preserve the way that so many people in the restaurant and bar industry are willing to experiment, take chances and really push the envelope.
What would your last drink be?
A glass of Rittenhouse rye with a Miller High Life chaser.
Where do you eat/drink before/after a shift?
It's almost always Arturo's Tacos. The tacos al pastor are out of this world. I have dreamed of them for the last ten years after every shift. New York is without quality late-night Mexican food.
What's the can't-miss drink at Violet Hour?
The Sazerac if you like whiskey. The Southside, otherwise (recipe below).
What should we know about Violet Hour that we probably don't?
Although the emphasis of the space is cocktails, because of the quality of our ice and our extensive selection of rums, ryes, whiskies and gins, The Violet Hour is a great bar to simply have a drink on the rocks.
Toby Maloney's recipe: The Southside
This drink originated in the South Side of 1920s Chicago. Gangsters concocted it as a means of masking the poor flavor of bootleg gin. Today, it's the quintessential summer drink of the Hamptons.
2 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
3/4 ounce of fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
5 mint sprigs
3 drops Angostura bitters
Muddle the mint in a shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients. Shake, strain and serve up. Float one mint leaf on top.