A Lesson in Cocktail Magic With Renowned Bartender Toby Maloney

Learn the art of the perfect libation from the author of ”The Bartender’s Manifesto” on March 19 at Eagle Rock’s Little Beast

If the position is open, LAMag would like to nominate author and bartender extraordinaire Toby Maloney as Poet Laureate of Drinking. His new book, The Bartender’s Manifesto is a practical guide to conceiving, making, and serving cocktails. But perhaps more importantly, it is a poetic tribute to the alchemy that is a cocktail and the magicians who practice the art.

He begins Manifesto with a quote from T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:

At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk,
When the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting…
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea…

Maloney, 53, was born and raised in Jamestown, a tiny Colorado mountain hamlet with a population he says was pretty evenly divided between NRA members and hippies. The only option to earn cash after school was at the local diner. Starting at 11 years old, Maloney worked every job it had—waiting tables, busing, washing dishes. He left the mountains for culinary school in San Francisco, dropped out, heading for New York but ended up in Chicago in the early 90s, dead broke. He then worked at what he knew in the restaurants of the Windy City until his return to the five boroughs. 

Upon that move to New York, he lucked into the beginning of the cocktail game, including the temple of artisanal drinks, the Lower East Side’s Milk & Honey. It was his first sip of a daiquiri there that set off his cocktail journey; it was “like nothing I’ve ever tasted” and made him realize imbibing can be taken to another level. Having earned his stripes behind the counter and studied the science of mixology, he returned to Chicago in 2007, opening with partners the cocktail bar, Violet Hour, thus igniting a hip cocktail culture in Chicago.

Describing bartending, he writes, “On the nights it goes well there is nothing else like it. Patrons sit gob-smacked and the air is afire with adulation, adrenaline, and Angostura. When someone sips from that frosty glass and shivers or closes their eyes or curls their toes, I feel it, too.” It’s his love of the profession and the materials he works with that inform the book, written for publisher Clarkson Potter with journalist Emma Janzen during the pandemic years.

Despite its weighty title, Maloney says the Manifesto is not just for professional bartenders and restaurateurs, but also the cocktail curious. The three-hour seminar he will be teaching on Sunday, March 19 at Little Beast in Eagle Rock will cover the analysis and construction of cocktails, methods, and tenets to create individual concoctions.

Maloney created the Sage Advice Cocktail specifically for Little Beast. He was inspired after eating 1 million fried sage leaves. (Krista Lally)

“I’m a chef,” says Maloney, “so I know I can look in a random pantry and create a meal. A well-educated bartender can look at various bottles and come up with a cocktail as well. Students may find their inspiration in Maloney, his book, and in the class, then they can invent their own favorite tipple. 

Class details: 
Sunday, March 19, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The Little Beast, 1496 Colorado Blvd, Eagle Rock
$150 (including book and workbook)
323-341-5899; [email protected]

After the class, Little Beast will be open for happy hour and a book signing with Maloney and well-known bartender Eric Alperin, who will be signing his own book, The Varnish. Both are available for sale at Little Beast that afternoon.

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