Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Violets are Blue

My favorite bar in the city now is Violet Hour.  It is located at 1520 N. Damen and its website is  The address, while seemingly similar to every other address you have ever seen, will do you absolutely no good because Violet Hour is a speakeasy.  Not only is there no address, but there is also no signage of any sort.  Beyond the lack of signage, there is also not even a visible door.  There is simply a white wall with a door handle on it.  If you pull the handle, you end up in a dark, completely nondescript room that gives no hint as to what lies beyond the curtain (literally).  I was a little surprised there wasn't a secret word needed to enter or a sliding vent on the door as in the Wizard of Oz.  I guess its locale is secretive enough that it does not need any additional obsucring elements.

However, what lies beyond the curtain is the best bar in the entire city.  There are tall violet velvet curtains all around the place and freakishly tall high-backed violet leather chairs strewn throughout the room.  I would love to have chairs like these in my house, but only if my house was a spooky castle.  The entire room is lit almost soley by a few candles, which makes reading the menu somewhat difficult.

They have a dizzying array of liquor, and they hand-make every element that goes into each drink (syrups, flavored liquors, etc.).  I had a Moscow Mule in honor of my mom (she loves these, even though she doesn't really know what it is) and a mojito.  The Moscow Mule (vodka, lime, ginger syrup) was very refreshing, but a bit heavy-handed on the ginger side.  If you like crystallized ginger, then you will love this.  I think I would have enjoyed it more if it were about half the size that it was.

I next decided to have a mojito since 1) I love mojitos and 2) I wanted to compare it to a drink that I have had many times before.  The best mojito that I have previously had was at a Cuban bar in Madrid, but miraculously,  Violet Hour blew it away.  The rum was clearly aged for a while and had a distinctive oaky (buttery) taste.  The lime and the mint were perfectly in balance even though it did not appear as if the mint had been muddled.  In short, it was amazing.  I felt a little bad drinking it in the middle of January when it is rightly a summer drink, but a mojito this good transcends the season.

Violet Hour is not a place to be loud or obnoxious.  In fact, they do not let you use your cell phone or get up and walk around, so be prepared for that.  It is a place to have fantastically made drinks and talk in a cool looking bar.  The drinks are on the expensive side.  That being said, they are very strong and likely the best version of that drink you will ever have, so suck it up, have a couple drinks and enjoy the night.

As a word of advice, Violet Hour gets very very crowded on weekend nights (think 2 hour waits, remember they don't let people stand around in the bar), so you may want to show up early or on a weeknight (we showed up around 11 on a Tuesday and there was no wait).  Have fun and let me know what you think!

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