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 kinds of ice (from hand-cracked versions to 5œ-inch shards), seven home-brewed cocktail bitters with an eighth winter version on the way, fresh-squeezed juices and house-made limoncello, Maloney puts his cocktail shaker where his mouth is.
One of the original oyster shuckers at Chicago’s now-defunct Soul Kitchen, Maloney spent the last few years tending bar in New York City. Now that he’s back, he faces a bit of a challenge: Chicagoans are fairly content to sip on margaritas made with store-bought mix and slam vodka and Red Bull. Maloney’s not intimidated: “Foodies become drinkies real quick,” he says.
Q. What do you wish you could change or pickle and preserve about the Chicago restaurant/drink scene?
A. 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.
Q. What would your last drink be?
A. A glass of Rittenhouse rye with a Miller High Life chaser.
Q. Where do you eat/drink before/after a shift?
A. It’s almost always Arturo’s Tacos (2001 N. Western). The tacos al pastor are out of this world. I have dreamed of them for the last 10 years after every shift.
Q. What’s the can’t-miss drink at Violet Hour?
A. The Sazerac if you like whiskey. The Southside, otherwise.
Q. What should we know about Violet Hour that we probably don’t?
A. 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.
Violet Hour; 1520 N. Damen Ave., Chicago (773) 252-1500