When The Violet Hour opened way back in the summer of 2007, the idea of "craft cocktails" was a novelty.
Times have changed.
Cocktail-focused bars have sprung up everywhere since, some led by alums of that landmark Wicker Park bar.
The latest offspring, Analogue, is helmed by Violet Hour vets Robby Haynes and Henry Prendergast.
It's in Logan Square, on a section of Milwaukee Avenue just north of their old bar and already home to cocktail spots like The Whistler, Longman & Eagle and Billy Sunday.
More are on the way.
If you are familiar with any of these places, walking into Analogue may give you a sense of deja vu. Unmarked door? Check. Tea lights? Check. Exposed brick? Check.
But like the old rhyme, Analogue is taking something borrowed and mixing it with something new.
The debut menu that accompanied the bar's opening in December focused on locally produced ingredients and spirits. But spring has brought a new theme, and the current menu features unique twists on time-tested, traditional drinks. This new cocktail lineup, Haynes says, will help set the tone for the direction he wants the bar to head.
"Every drink on this menu you can look at it and say, 'This is a daisy' or 'This is a negroni,'" says Haynes. "But there's always one element that we've turned on it's head."
The spirit-forward Sensation Fix ($10) is an excellent example. This drink starts as what you might recognize to be a Boulevardier, made with Rittenhouse Rye whiskey, Italian vermouth and Campari. Bartenders then add a healthy dose of allspice dram, a style of liqueur that traces its roots to Jamaica. The spirit's strong spice flavors hit you upfront but then quickly mellow into what is a spicy, more complex version of the traditional drink, one of Haynes' favorites.
Another example, The Double Vision ($10), starts roughly as a gin gimlet but incorporates lemon juice and Ramazzotti amaro. Then, instead of plain sugar or a cordial, bartenders sweeten the drink with a syrup made with strawberries and black pepper. The combination takes what was a simple, two-ingredient classic and turns it into a rich evening sipper.
The bar has a few other new tricks up its sleeve, one of which is their selection of purls, a style of drink popular in London centuries ago. But again, Analogue's version doesn't worry too much about tradition.
"There's some historical context for them," says Haynes, "but we took a lot of liberties. I don't know that I've ever seen anything like them."
If you are a malort fan, these beer-based cocktails may be right up your alley. The Purl No. 1 ($7), with blackberry, anise and gentian, packs a bitter wallop that showcases the anise and gentian while the blackberries and the beer take a back seat. Like Chicago's intense wormwood liqueur, purls are an acquired taste.
If complex cocktails make you hungry, Analogue's chef, New Orleans native Alfredo Nogueira, has been earning rave reviews for his Cajun-inspired menu.
His chicken and andouille gumbo ($9) and po' boy sandwiches ($9-$12) make for an excellent quick dinner, while a basket of fresh-baked buttermilk biscuits slathered in pepper jelly ($5) are just the thing for those craving a late-night snack.
So, are there advantages to opening a new cocktail bar in a neighborhood already full of them? Absolutely, says Haynes.
"I love the idea that you might be able to go out on a Friday or Saturday and get the full spectrum of things that are available in the city. You can have great food, a nice glass of wine and a good cocktail, or go to a dive bar and get a PBR and see a band. And you can do all of this in a six- or seven-block radius."
"It's a culture that's really blooming, and it happens to be centered in Logan Square."
2523 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Price range for cocktails: $7-$10
Accepted payment: While originally cash only, the bar now takes credit cards.
Hours: 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Friday; 6 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday
Best bets: Sensation Fix, Double Vision
Good for: Small groups, after-dinner drinks