Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Prolonged Absence Requires An Old-School Resurgence: Crushed Ice Cocktails

I owe you all an apology for my unexpected, prolonged absence. I wish that I could tell you that I have been traveling the world or that I watched the Singapore Grand Prix from a VIP box. While I did win the Woodford Reserve Home Mixologist Manhattan Contest (with a recipe featured in an earlier post), the truth is that I simply have been derelict in my duties of writing about the great cocktails I have been discovering. But during this respite, I have come to admire the simple fact that sometimes, doing something “old school” not only is more fun, but also makes life (and cocktails) better.

For example, shaving like your grandpa did—with a double edged safety razor—not only saves you a lot of money, but also results in a closer, more even shave (and is better for your skin). First, shaving with a safety razor can save you more than $300 a year, just on cartridges alone. The price of Fusion blades, for instance, is around $30+ for a pack of 8, or around $4.00 per blade. In comparison, a package of high quality double-edge blades is around $1.50 for a pack of 10, or 15¢ a blade (which will last you about a week per blade). And, once you invest in a quality razor—a Merkur or Edwin Jagger are both great choices for around $40—you will have it for life. Plus, you feel like a badass every morning taking part in a ritual that great men like your grandfather, John Wayne, and John F. Kennedy all took part in.

As the Art of Manliness put it, switching from a disposable razor to a double-edged safety razor “is like upgrading from a Pinto to a Mercedes.” A safety razor is a machine. Which means that you need to let the machine do the work for you.

The most common mistake in using a safety razor is applying too much pressure. A quality, well-made razor will have sufficient weight on its own to exert the proper amount of pressure. Thus, bearing down on the razor will not result in a closer shave, but it may remove the top layer of skin, at best, if it doesn’t gouge you first (remember, you are holding a very sharp blade directly on your skin). Therefore, to make sure that you don’t use too much pressure, grasp the razor at the bottom of the handle, which will force you to use less pressure on the blade.

Strive to maintain a 30° blade angle relative to the skin as much as possible. You can achieve this angle by raising or lowering the razor handle. This is particularly important when following contours such as around the chin or jaw line. Since most nicks or cuts happen when the blade first makes contact with the skin, make sure that the safety bar contacts the skin first, and then lift the razor handle until you achieve the desired angle before beginning your stroke. And use short, slow, strokes with a safety razor. Precision, not speed, is the name of the game when holding a sharp, metal object against your face.

The razor glides more easily over taut skin. You can often tighten the skin simply by flexing your facial muscles or using your free hand to pull the skin in the opposite direction of razor travel. Stretching your skin opens the hair follicle and exposes more of the hair, which allows it to be cut shorter. 

Finally, as I discussed in an earlier post, a proper pre-shave ritual is key, especially with this machine. So if you want to avoid skin irritation, use pre-shave oil, and lather on a good shaving cream or soap with a badger brush. Your face will thank you!

Old school also translates better with cocktails. Unless you have a Scottsman Nugget Ice Maker or a Snoopy Snow Cone Machine from the 80’s, the best crushed ice for highball and swizzle cocktails is made by hand in a Lewis Bag. A Lewis Bag is basically a canvas sack (even an old bank bag would work) in which you put ice cubes to crush them. After filling the bag with ice, fold over the open end and lay the bag flat on a hard surface. Use a wooden mallet (or other hard, flat object) to pound the ice, starting from the rolled side down toward the end of the bag and then back in the opposite direction. Continue until you achieve the desired consistency of crushed ice. (Hint: using a higher-volume of strikes of lower force gives a much finer consistency of ice.) When you are done, scoop out the crushed ice, and make some extremely potent drinks, including these five (I’m making up for my absence):

Queen’s Park Swizzle
2 oz. Zacappa 23 Rum (or if you are feeling adventurous, Smith & Cross Navy Strength)
1 oz. Lime juice
¾ oz. Simple Syrup (demerarra syrup made with a 2:1 ratio is my choice)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychauds bitters
Fresh Mint

***Muddle a few mint leaves with the simple syrup. Fill glass 2/3 with crushed ice and pour in remainder of ingredients, except bitters. Swizzle. Add bitters on top and fill remainder of glass to top with crushed iced. Garnish with mint.

Navy Grog 
1 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
1 oz. Appleton Reserve Rum
1 oz. El Dorado 15-year rum
.75 oz. Lime Juice
.75 oz Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz Honey Syrup

***Swizzle all ingredients over crushed ice. Fill glass with more crushed ice and garnish with a lime wedge and mint. Sip slowly!

St. Regis Julep
2 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
½ oz. Jamaican-style rum
1 barspoon Grenadine (anything but Rose’s)
1 sugar cube

***Muddle mint and sugar cube in a julep cup. Fill cup 2/3 with crushed ice and add remainder of ingredients. Swizzle and fill cup to the top with ice. Garnish with mint.

Death in the Gulf Stream
2 oz. Bols Genever
1 oz. Lime juice
½ oz. Simple Syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters

***To make this favorite of Hemingway, add all ingredients to glass. Fill 2/3 with crushed ice and swizzle. Fill remainder of glass with ice and garnish with mint and a lime twist.

Rye Swizzle
2 oz. Sazerac Rye
¾ oz. Lemon Juice
¾ oz. Curaçao
3 oz. of fresh berries (black, blue, or raspberries)
2 dashes Angostura

***Muddle the berries at the bottom of a glass and then remove leaving the juice). Add remainder of ingredients and fill 2/3 with crushed ice. Swizzle and fill to top with crushed ice. Garnish with some berries.

I hope that after you have sampled each of these drinks you can forgive my furlough and will keep reading. After all, my New Year’s resolution is to make up for lost time….

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cheers to the Freakin' Weekend: Two to Tide You Over

Here are two spirited drinks to get through the weekend. Sip these, whilst I finish up the next post. Cheers!

Rhymes With Orange
2 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
1 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
½ oz. Ramazzotti Amaro Liqueur
¼ oz. Laphroaig scotch

***Stir over ice until chilled. Strain into Old Fashioned glass on the rocks. Garnish with orange twist.

Chet Baker
2 oz. Zacappa 23 yr. rum
½ oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1 barspoon honey syrup
2 dashed Angostura

***Build drink in rocks glass filled with ice.  Stir and garnish with orange slice.

Look for a new post early next week.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Give Fall the Boot: Autumn Cocktails

Autumn is finally here. The leaves are changing, the air is crisp and brisk, and tailgating is now in full swing all weekend long. Now is the time for hiking the mountains, experiencing the countryside, and exploring previously unknown parts of cities. In other words, this is the season to get outside and be active and present in your surroundings.

A great way to ensure that you don’t spend your entire fall on the couch watching football (that’s why bowl season is in winter) is to invest in some good fall footwear that makes you want to walk around. Two styles that every well-heeled (pun intended) gentleman should have are sturdy boots and brown monk straps.

Autumn is the season for boots, and specifically a functional, yet sartorial, hiking boot. Now I am not talking about a highly technical pair of Vasque (although if you do spend a lot of time hiking, you should invest in a pair to save your ankles). I mean a sturdy pair of leather boots that will allow you walk on rocks, stomp through puddles, wade through leaves, wander down cobblestone streets, and still look sharp when you jump off the trail and into the local pub. Dark brown lace-ups are the perfect boot. And if you can find a sturdy pair with broguing, you will get even more wear from them (Grenson, Ferragamo, Brooklyn Bootworks, and Mark McNairy all make great pairs). These boots look sharp when paired with jeans, pants, or a tweed or heavy wool suit (and when worn to work, give the appearance of having to be at a better “adventure” than your desk).

The other perfect fall shoe is a monkstrap. The beauty of a monkstrap is that there are so many different styles—single strap, double strap, a buckle on each side, with or without brogue—that even though they are the “it” shoe of the moment, you can still find your own individual style. A perfect monkstrap, especially in a brown or oxblood, can go right from day into night, be worn with jeans and suits, and are equally at ease in a (less formal) client meeting as they are at cocktails with friends. Their versatility makes them the perfect travel companion when you can (and should) pack only one shoe. I recently wore mine on the plane (easy to slip on and off at security), then to a client meeting, a quick sightseeing tour of the city, out for drinks with friends, and finally to a refined restaurant, all in the same day. I challenge you to find a more adaptable pair of shoes. 

The other great thing about fall is the cocktails. To me, no drink screams “fall” like a Jack Rose:

2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. Grenadine

***Shake vigorously over ice. Strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with an apple slice.

Of course, you could always go with an Autumn in Manhattan:

1 oz. VSOP Cognac
1 oz. Sweet Vermouth (Carpano or Cochi are my favorites for this one)
1 oz. Bulleit Rye
1/4 oz. Bittermens Hiver Amer
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 drops Xocolatl Mole Bitters
6 drops Orange Cream Citrate

***Stir over ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with an orange twist

And you can never go wrong with an American Trilogy in hand:

1 oz. Redemption Rye
1 oz. Laird’s Applejack
2 Brown sugar cubes
2 dashes Orange bitters

***Muddle the sugar cubes and bitters together. Add remainder of ingredients. Add 1 large ice cube and stir 5-6 times. Garnish with an orange rind.

Around Halloween, order up a Corpse Reviver #1:

2 oz. brandy or cognac
1 oz. Laird’s Applejack
1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Angostura

***Stir over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

And finally, end your late autumn nights with a Lazy Man Flip:
1 oz. Laird’s Applejack
3/4 oz. Port
1/4 oz. Simple syrup
1/2 oz. cream
Egg Yolk

***Add all ingredients to a shaker and dry shake (without ice) to emulsify the egg for one minute. Add ice and continue shaking for another 30 seconds.  Strain into glass. Optional: garnish with shaved nutmeg.

It has been said that you can tell a lot about a man from his shoes. Make sure that your shoes tell the world that you are a man of style, adventure, taste, and sophistication. And if all else fails, they can at least walk you home after you finish your Flip.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

An Interview With The Rakish Bon Vivant

I am honored to have been interviewed and featured in Cigar City Magazine's Libation Lounge.
For a great read, check out: or listen online at Iheartradio: www.cigarcitylive/com/line-up.

But in the meantime, check out the behind-the-scene's scoop on your favorite blog below (note: the last paragraph is a printer's error, it is not part of my interview):

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Don’t Be Cocky In Your Khaki: The Blood Orange French 75

It only feels like yesterday that I was putting away my ski boots for the start of Summer, and now Labor Day is only one week away, signaling the end of Summer. Labor Day: the weekend where there are several “end-of-Summer” parties, final polo matches in the Hamptons, yacht parties in Cannes, guys’ weekends at Marquee in Vegas, and, of course, at least one wedding where the bride and groom (wrongly) assume that you want to spend your final long weekend of the year with them and their family. This all begs the question, “What does a rakish bon vivant wear to these season-ending bashes that is appropriate for the occasion while still making a statement?”

A stylish summer party calls for a stylish summer suit. And that suit is a well-tailored khaki one (whether you opt for a solid khaki or a patterned one is your call). The goal is to keep the suit dressy but casual. Opt for flat-front pants with tab sides (not belt loops), which make for a cleaner look. Keep the lapels notched and thin (but not too narrow—you are not going for the Williamsburg hipster look). Pair the suit with a white linen shirt (per my earlier posts, either buy a slim fit or get the shirt tailored), and wear it with the top button undone (just make sure that you trim, not wax, the chest fur, so that you don’t look like an extra from Saturday Night Fever). Since this is the summer, go sans tie. Instead, opt for a colorful silk pocket square in purple, yellow, or orange, worn in a “flower” or “stuff” fold.  Bonus points if you can pull off a small carnation in your lapel.

As for footwear, embrace the end of Summer and go sockless (if your feet sweat, sprinkle talcum powder directly into your shoe, or snag a pair of Falke invisible socks).  Although brown slip-ons are fine, show some élan with a pair of off-white, blue, or red driving moccasins (Tods is the classic for this purchase). But if your event is on the beach, feel free to go barefoot.  After all, it is the summer!

Finally, if your event is during the day, you need some shades. As I have stated before, do not wear your Oakleys, croakies, or southern frat-boy sunglass apparatus. Instead, pull out your tortoise shell Persols or Ray-Ban aviators with tinted lenses. Remember, your sunspecs are as much a part of your rakish outfit as the rest of it. Your clothes should make every woman look at you, turn to her date, and secretly think that he should take his cues from you. Trust me, by the end of the night, he (and she) will.

A rakish Summer look calls for an elegant Summer cocktail. Let me suggest a Blood Orange French 75.

The original French 75 was first created at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in 1915. The drink was said to pack such a kick that it felt like being shot with a French 75mm howitzer artillery gun.  The drink later appeared in the original Savoy cocktail book and made its debut in America at the Stork Club, in New York. Try this summery version:

2 oz. Tanqueray Ten gin
1 small blood orange
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup

***Muddle the blood orange in a shaker and add the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake vigorously with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Top with at least 3 ounces of champagne (add more if your glass will hold it). Garnish with a blood orange twist.

If the bar is out of blood oranges, order an Airmail:

1 1/2oz. añejo rum
3/4 oz. lime juice
1 oz. honey syrup

***Shake rum, lime juice, and honey syrup in a shaker over ice.  Strain into coupe glass and fill the remainder with champagne.  Garnish with mint leaf with a dash of bitters on top.

Finally, for a touch of the Old Country, instead of a Negroni, order a Famiglia Reale:

1 oz. Plymouth gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth (preferably Dolin)
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Champagne

***Add all ingredients to an Old Fashioned glass.  Add ice and stir 5-6 times.  Garnish with a twist of grapefruit.

Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone. But don’t fret; Fall is right around the corner with a whole slew of new cocktails to keep us warm.  Stay tuned….

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Family Traditions: Cocktails With History

A gentleman knows, and is proud, of his heritage. He recognizes himself as one in a long line of paterfamilias, and views himself as a keeper and pedagogue of family traditions, stories, and heirlooms. A gentleman realizes that it is his duty to continue passing down these items—hiding the skeletons along the way—as well as to add to them in order to better the future generations. As a fellow bon vivant, I challenge you to take it upon yourself to both pass on a family legacy as well as to start a new one that later generations will continue.

As I noted in my first post, I proudly wear my grandfather’s 1972, red Submariner Rolex. It is a timepiece that my grandfather sported for over 20 years and, thereafter, kept time on my father’s wrist. Each time that I check it, I know that the watch has ensured that Bon Vivant men timely kept their appointments and, one day, I look forward to passing it to the next generation.

I have also recently acquired another timepiece—a silver, handmade Wempe Zeitmeister pocketwatch—that I hope will become the next Bon Vivant-family heirloom (I even had my initials engraved on the back so that everyone will know who first carried this handsome watch).  In acquiring this piece, I came to realize that a pocketwatch is a lost art, and purchasing a well-made one is not as easy as one might think (even in New York City).  Indeed, it is for this very reason that every well-heeled gentleman should have at least one in his collection; it is just further proof of how refined a bon vivant you really are.

In the 16th century, men wore watches on chains around their neck or pinned to their jackets as pendants.  In the 17th century, the watch itself was shrunken, the face covered in glass, and began to be worn in the pocket usually attached to a chain or a silk ribbon. In fact, it is for this reason that vests have pockets or, as in the case of jeans, a smaller “fifth” pocket was sewn into pants (that small pocket in your jeans is not for coins).

Patek Phillipe created the first wristwatch in 1868. In 1880, Constant Girard (Girard-Perregaux) developed a concept of wristwatches, made for German naval officers. In 1904, Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont asked his friend Louis Cartier to come up with an alternative that would allow him to keep both hands on the controls while timing his performances during flight. Cartier soon came up with the first prototype for a man's wristwatch called the Santos wristwatch, which was first sold in 1911.  But the pocketwatch remained in favor until World War I. During the war, soldiers needed access to their watches while their hands were full. They were issued wristwatches, called “trench watches.” After the war, pocketwatches went out of fashion, and by 1930, the ratio of wrist watches to pocketwatches was 50-1.

Today, given the resurgence of the three-piece suit and the old-world styles that are now en vogue, a pocketwatch attached to a fob and chain makes a rakish statement, even when worn with jeans. And when paired with monk straps that have the same color metal as the chain (as I am decked in today), the pocketwatch makes an even bolder statement.

In addition to passing on family heirlooms, a gentleman should also teach the next generation how to act like a man (passing along this blog is a good start). My grandfather taught me how to quail hunt, my father taught me how to properly cradle the nose of a football when breaking through the defensive line, and I will add to the list by passing on the art of the cocktail, especially ones that have withstood the test of time. 

One cocktail that is sure to be passed down is the Rolls Royce, a cocktail that was first published in the 1930 edition of the Savoy cocktail book.

2 oz. gin (use a peppery one like Beefeater 24 or one with bite like Ransom Old Tom)
1 oz. Dolin sweet vermouth (or Carpano Antica if using the Ransom)
1 oz. Dolin dry vermouth
1 tsp. Benedictine

***Stir over ice for 25-30 seconds.  Strain into chilled glass.  No garnish.

And for an old-world "last call," a New York Flip:

3/4 oz. tawny port
1 oz. Elijah Craig bourbon
3/4 oz. heavy cream
1/4 oz. sugar syrup
1 egg yolk (note: crack an egg onto a Hawthorne strainer, the white will drip out while the yolk will remain intact in the spring)
1 pinch Nutmeg

***Add all ingredients (except nutmeg) to shaker without ice.  Dry shake for 1 minute to emulsify the egg).  Add ice and shake vigorously for another minute.  Strain into chilled coupe glass and sprinkle with nutmeg.

As a young Bocephus said, “If I get stoned and sing all night long, it’s a family tradition.”  Whatever your family tradition, add some polish to it and make sure it proudly lives on.