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Close Encounters of the Southern Kind: The Violet Hour guys hit Louisville

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Amalie Drury

It's my job to write about Chicago and all of its people, places and things. If it's new and it's cool, I'm checking it out.

You heard it here first: The Violet Hour cocktail whiz Mike Ryan will bartend his last shift at the Wicker Park lounge this Saturday night. Ryan has accepted a job as head bartender at Sable, an upscale gastro-lounge concept slated to open in the space adjacent to new Kimpton property Hotel Palomar (505 N. State St.) this spring.  

Oddly enough, Ryan, his Violet Hour comrades and I are all in Louisville, Kentucky, this week (in case I haven't mentioned it at least a thousand times, that's where I'm from), so last night we met up for--what else--cocktails.

These guys love Louisville, a sentiment I can totally respect. They make dozens of pilgrimages here each year to taste and buy bourbon for Violet Hour and now Big Star (1531 N. Damen Ave.), and they were hitting their favorite Derby City nightspots before making the rounds at the state's many distilleries today and Friday. 

"We're heading to Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey tomorrow," Ryan told me over (gasp) PBRs at Seidenfaden's, a historic, low-key dive in Louisville's Germantown neighborhood. He pulled off a sweater to reveal a Buffalo Trace T-shirt underneath. "I'm a fan," he said. 

Ryan and The Violet Hour's Michael Rubel and Stephen Cole would spend the next day cruising the Kentucky countryside, smelling, sipping and selecting barrels of bourbon to be served at hotshot Chicago bars. "We'll also take a hard hat tour of Blue Grass Cooperage," Ryan explained. "That's where they make the barrels. It's fascinating." 

I asked Rubel how he feels about Ryan fleeing The Violet Hour craft cocktail coop. "It absolutely sucks," he said. "We'll miss him. But if he's running Sable, we'll be there, sitting at the bar." 

Soon, we all decided to transfer to Nachbar, my personal pick for best bar in Louisville. It's the land of hillbilly hipsters, epic beards, expertly strummed banjos and packed summer patios. "That place is awesome," said Rubel, who should know. He goes there every time he's in town. "I really believe it's one of the top 10 bars in the U.S." 

My Kentucky crew and I beat the Chicago guys to our next destination, and when we mentioned to the Nachbar bartender that the Violet Hour contingent was on its way, his eyes widened. "They're coming here? Now?" He shook his head and chuckled. "Those dudes know how to drink." 

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1 Comment

eheneghan said:

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Sorry to see him leaving, but now I have another excuse for long weekend's in Louisville. Check in to Museum 21 C, dinner at Jack Frys and now on to Sable for cocktails. I can't wait.

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