I finally made it to The Violet Hour last Saturday night after arriving in Chicago. I called Toby to let him know I’d made it to town and he graciously called in a reservation for me at the bar. I didn’t want to sit anywhere else – otherwise I wouldn’t get to see one of my favorite crafts done right in front of me. After eating the mushroom pasta at Francesca’s Forno (which Toby highly recommended), I arrived just moments before the doors opened. Making my way through the inconspicuous entry, I was led right to the bar where I was introduced to Troy, who would be my bartender for the evening. He was very cordial and had no problem walking me through some ideas for a first cocktail. Lit only by numerous candles and beautiful chandeliers, TVH felt like more like an opium den than a bar. Everything was meticulously placed, wonderfully laid out, and the bar was loaded with various bottles, shakers, and bitters. I’d also like to point out that they had some really great music playing: Bill Callahan, Radiohead, and several others I’ve since forgotten. It was at this point I knew I was in a place I’d love. AND I was in Chicago – so it doesn’t get any better than that. It was time to get some drinking done. Have you ever geeked out so much in a place like this that you didn’t even know where to begin when it came to ordering? Well I did. I wanted to say “just start at the top and make one of everything.” Troy, knowing that I was having some trouble deciding on a cocktail, poured me a small amount of Carpano Antica to whet my palate while I perused the amazing menu. That stuff alone is enough to make a person smile. After about five minutes of pondering I went with the Juliet & Romeo. I had read about this one previously and the components really interested me. At this point I was able to close the menu and just absorb everything around me. Of course, being the booze/cocktail geek I am I vigilantly inspected just about every bottle on display. Finding bottles of Chartreuse VEP, various high-end Amaros, and an almost endless amount of house-made bitters, it wasn’t very hard to get excited about this visit. Soon my Juliet & Romeo was placed in front of me. As quickly as it was placed on the napkin in front of me I could smell the mint and rose water. It was heavenly. But then I took a sip and it got even better. What a fantastic cocktail! After only twenty minutes I had pretty much inhaled the Juliet & Romeo and it was time to go for something a bit more strong and manly. With my mind on indecisive geeky overload, I decided on a simple old-fashioned cocktail with a big twist of orange. I lamented over this decision afterwards because I really should have gone with something I can’t make at home, but it was a very good cocktail nonetheless. It was a bit strong, which is good because it really made me slow down my drinking. And after spending eight hours in the car, I just wanted something to numb my body and put me in a tranquil state. By the time I was done with my old-fashioned I was pretty exhausted and it pushed me to the point of envisioning my nice hotel bed that awaited me. It was time to settle up and head out the door. I guess in retrospect I should have stayed a bit longer, but I truly enjoyed myself a lot and have the utmost respect for what this crew does on a daily basis. The next time I am in Chicago I will most definitely go back and do it all over again. Thank you Toby and Troy for a great experience. It was a very inspiring visit.