The Consumption of Style: The Violet Hour

Hidden behind a constant changing mural, The Violet Hour remains almost undetectable in the heart of Wicker Park. The James Beard Outstanding Bar Program nominee has been serving up handcrafted artisanal cocktails since 2007. It is home to some of the most creative and innovative bar staff in Chicago who methodically curate and construct a new cocktail menu each season. Peter Field had the pleasure of meeting up with one of The Violet Hour’s talented bartenders and getting a one-on-one cocktail construction lesson. Tyler Fry showed us the essentials for serving up the Paragon Cocktail to pair with our Rigby Necktie and Solution Pocket Square.

Name: Tyler Fry
Hometown: Chicago
Drink Name: The ‘Paragon’ Cocktail

2.0       oz        St. George Botanivore Gin
1.0       oz        Carpano Bianco Vermouth
+.25     oz        Génépi Guillaumette
17        drops    Orange Bitters

Stir. Strain. Serve Up in a coupe.
Garnish with a Maraschino cherry and the oils of a lemon peel expressed over the glass and discarded.

The Paragon cocktail is a take-off the classic Bijou (Fr.: “jewel”) cocktail.
The Bijou is named for the colors of it’s three ingredients: Gin (diamond), Sweet Vermouth (ruby), and Green Chartreuse (emerald). Following the White Negroni and the White Manhattan, we chose to make a White Bijou. The term ‘Paragon’ refers to a flawless diamond.

What’s unique about this drink and why did you choose to pair it with The Rigby and The Solution?
I wanted to present a cocktail that strikes a clever balance between elegance and a casual attitude. The Paragon is simple, sharp, and sophisticated. It’s a crisp, clean, cocktail that looks like a beautiful Martini. It strikes me as a sexy pairing for a Half-Windsor knot and a One-Point fold. Classic Violet Hour.

What makes the Violet Hour such a special experience in Chicago?
So much of what Chicago has to offer in terms of a thriving booze culture is owed to TVH. Now, 7 years later, when Chicago is teeming with high-end bars, culinary bars, throw-back bars, and endless cocktail culture, you can still recognize the Violet Hour imprint. Still, with the myriad cocktail bars that Chicago now has, there is no space, no creative think-tank, like the program that Toby Maloney (our owner) has built.

How do you recommend people navigate The Violet Hour menu?
Our menu is painstakingly curated by the bar staff season after season in order to take the challenge of picking a drink (out of our 50-odd printed options) off of the guest’s shoulders. Exactly the right drink for exactly the right mood can suggest itself based on the guest’s spirit preference, level of accessibility, and the desired element of either comfort or surprise.

Being a craftsman of cocktails, what’s most important to you when you’re creating a drink?
I’ve had a lot of mind-blowing drinks, a lot of clever ones, and of course, a lot of simple, classic, pared-down ones. I’m happy to make a delicious drink with 7 ingredients, but if you can achieve nearly the same cocktail with only 3, the effect is doubly impressive. For me, a cocktail needs to be direct, concise, and have a clear concept behind it. The combination of ingredients can come to you a thousand different ways, but there needs to be a clear story behind it, a reason why you built it the way you did, why you gave it that name.

Why did you choose to become a mixologist and how did you end up at The Violet Hour?
It started with tea (like all good things in life). I was a tea specialist for years before I ever started mixing cocktails. I can tie a direct line between my time in the tea industry with ending up behind a bar shaking hundreds of drinks every night. This chapter in my career began with a tea-cocktail tasting in a small Omaha tea house. I had always been interested in the art of the bar, and so I inquired of our host how to best go about learning to make drinks. Soon I’m mixing my first cocktails in my parents’ basement, using their untouched assortment of crappy liquor bottles. That same liquor distributor later helped find me my first bar gig: me, a self-taught cocktail geek, with carte-blanche to build his own cocktail program. Then the bar decides it’d rather be a night-club and I move to Chicago to work at the Violet Hour. I had known all about Violet through my first bartending experience. I had been studying Toby’s recipes and methods (even serving some VH cocktails…) long before I ever set foot in Violet as a customer. In this industry which so many people “fall-into,” or wind up in during some troubled period of their life, I can say I explicitly chose to enter this career.