Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stylishly Classic: The Old Fashioned

“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”1 In other words, fashion is a fleeting trend, while style is engrained in your every action; fashion is embracing the classics and giving them a slight twist to make them your own. There are several classic pieces that every man should own (and frequently replace and upgrade throughout each station in life) and incorporate into his own timeless style.

The first is a gray t-shirt that fits. Whether it is a v-neck or crew neck doesn’t matter. A solid gray, fitted t is forever cool (think Steve McQueen or early Marlon Brando). Wear it untucked with jeans, throw it on under a blazer, or wear it as an undershirt that is exposed when you are changing out of your shirt and tie. The solid gray t is a classic on any man.

So is a pair of jeans. Here, color and fit are key. No baby blue, acid washed, or faded jeans; and definitely no rips or holes. As Ryan Gosling advised Steve Carell, “be better than the Gap.” Upgrade your pair to a dark hue made from a soft denim (Japanese if you can afford it). Avoid overly embroidered pockets (think the opposite of True Religion) and stick with a classic, straight leg (boot cut is for Billy Ray Cyrus and skinny jeans are just wrong). The right pair of jeans can be worn anytime, whether with a t-shirt or coat and tie. So it worth spending a little more to get a durable pair.

A stainless steel watch is also a must. The ultimate in this classic timepiece is a Rolex Submariner, a watch well worth the investment (I still wear my grandfather’s from 1973, which was previously worn by my father — so the durability of the Rolex speaks for itself). Use the Submariner style as a guideline and adjust up or down from there depending on your means.

Other “must have” staples are a v-neck cashmere black sweater, a pea coat, brown slip-on loafers (no tassels or “penny” style), and aviator-style sunglasses. These classic pieces ensure timeless style.

When it comes to the cocktail there is only one, timeless, classic, stylish drink that fits the bill — the Old Fashioned. As the Financier has complained to me throuhgout his business travels, sadly, these days you are likely to be served a bastardized version of the drink that includes over-muddled oranges and neon-red cherries in a too-generous serving of simple syrup that makes this classic drink taste more like Kool-Aid. Every time I see one of these versions being made, I watch my back to make sure the large pitcher with the smiley face is not busting through the wall behind me and screaming “Oh yea!” These fruit garnishes arise from the Prohibition period and were originally added to hide the taste of the poorly made whiskey. But now that Prohibition is long over and the quality of bourbon and rye is better than over, ditch the fruit and enjoy this classic the proper way.

Ingredients
2 oz. Bourbon or Rye
1 sugar cube
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 dash of orange bitters
Splash of club soda (optional)
*** As Don Draper demonstrated to Conrad Hilton, the Old Fashioned is a built drink, meaning it’s assembled and stirred directly in the glass. Place the sugar cube in an Old-Fashioned glass. Soak the cube in the bitters until the cube has fully changed color (i.e., absorbed the bitters). Splash a little club soda (or water) over the cube and muddle the cube. Rotate the glass so that the sugar grains and bitters coat the entire bottom layer. Add a single large ice cube (the 2” x2” version work perfectly as do the spherical versions, which you can buy here.  Pour in the rye (or bourbon). Briefly stir. Garnish with a lemon rind (if using rye) or an orange peel (if using bourbon).

I prefer my rye versions made with Rittenhouse (or Templeton if available) and my bourbon versions made with Maker’s 46 (for a smokier flavor) or Woodford Reserve (for a smooth and balanced flavor). I also experiment with the bitters and have found that Fee Brother’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged and Amargo Chuncho bitters from Peru are excellent additions.

You can also substitute the alcohol base and play around. Try this rum-based version:

Ingredients
2 oz. Zacapa 23 year or Zaya 12 year rum
1 raw or demerara sugar cube (or demerara simple syrup)
3 dashes Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters
Garnish with orange slice
***make as above

Or this tequila-based version:

Ingredients
2 oz. reposado tequila
1 tbsp. agave nectar
2 dashes Angostura or Habanero Bitters
***make as above - garnish with nectarine or cherry

The chairman of Hermes said, “luxury can be very simple, for example, staying 15 minutes longer in bed.” Don’t underestimate the simplicity of the Old Fashioned. It is a truly luxurious and classic drink. 

Cheers! 

1. Sayeth Yvest Saint Laurent.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Devil Is In the Details: The Vieux Carre

The other night, I was drinking with Satan (named so for his cocktail choice of a Satan’s Circus, a potent libation of rye, thai bird chili-infused Aperol, cherry herring, and lemon) and a group of other gentlemen rogues at The NoMad.[1] Looking around this group, it became readily apparent that the devil really is in the details.

See, this was a Friday after work impromptu cocktail, which means that casual attire was on display; nary a tie among the group.  Nonetheless, the group was extremely well-heeled thanks to an array of elegantly displayed pocket squares, tailored unlined cotton blazers, bespoke off-white seersuckers pants, contrast stitched slim-fit shirts, colored socks, and bench made shoes.  Looking around our group, it was clear that “business casual” no longer meant khakis and a polo shirt.  Time to up your game!

While business casual can mean a lot of different looks (usually describing the need to not wear a tie or even a suit), you can follow a few guidelines to make sure that you are still a rakish standout even without a suit (especially among those who dress like they just got done playing a round of 18). 

As discussed in prior posts, your clothes (not only suits) should be tailored to fit your body.  Flat front pants are cleaner looking than pleated, and especially when the legs are tapered.  Contrast stitching, colored buttons (such as the ones sold at Lord Willy's, barrel cuff or even a Portofino (2-button turn back) cuff, or an interesting pattern can raise the bar for a shirt.  I also recommend a set of magnetic collar stiffs, such as W├╝rkin Stiffs, which will help to ensure that your collar doesn’t look like it came off the disco floor.  Casual looks also call for an elegant, in-your-face watch (I typically wear my IWC Big Pilot on these days since a 46mm is usually too big to go with a suit).  Finally, I can’t stress enough how much a blazer with a colored pocket square completes your look.  I am almost never seen without a pocket square because I believe that a suit pocket just looks incomplete without one.  However, on those days when I am not wearing a tie, a pocket square is even that much more of a necessity to me since it brings a splash of color to your look.

An elegantly casual day, calls for an elegantly casual drink. After all, you have earned such a drink after a long, hard week of work.  And my choice of reward for these types of evenings is a Vieux Carre.

Ingredients
.75 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
.75 oz. Cognac
.75 oz. Dolin Rouge Vermouth
1 tsp. Benedictine
2 dashes Peychauds Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
*** Stir over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon peel

Since you have a long weekend coming up, make your next drink a de la Louisiane (a slight variation)

Ingredients
.75 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
.75 oz. Cognac
.25 oz. Benedictine
2 dashes Peychauds Bitters
1 splash of Absinthe
*** Stir over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon peel

Since you are a gentleman, you should also order a casual drink for the lady on your arm. My suggestion (especially in this weather) is a Bramble.

Ingredients
1.5 oz. Hendrick’s Gin
.5 oz. Lemon juice
.5 oz. 1-1 part Simple syrup
2.5 oz. Fresh blackberries
***muddle the blackberries at the bottom of a glass. Add ice.  Then add remaining ingredients and stir. Fill up remainder of glass with ice and garnish with a blackberry.

As the Joker famously asked, “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” If you want her answer to be “yes,” follow Satan’s lead and ditch the polo.

  


[1] Congratulations to Leo and his staff for their inclusion in Esquire’s Best Bars in America.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Man, if you gotta ask, you'll never know: The Arnold Palmer


The best drinking advice ever given comes from Roger Sterling. When out on a business dinner, “you order a scotch rocks and water. You drink half of it until it turns see-through. You get another.” The point that Mad Men’s rake (compare his suits and three-point fold to Don’s, and Roger wins every time) was making is that a real gentleman is always in control.

Besides by not becoming a dipsomaniac, a gentleman can ensure that he is not faking his way through life by asking informative questions of those more knowledgeable than him. After all, as discussed in an earlier post, a true bon vivant soaks up the knowledge from the world around him in order to better appreciate it.  It is only by asking questions of those with the answers that you can soak up their information. And the more questions you ask, the more knowledgeable you become. It is for this reason that I love to discuss tailoring with well-healed haberdashers in order to learn about surgeon cuffs, fused vs. fully canvassed jacket construct, and what thread count really means. I interrogate chefs to learn about braising, searing, sauces, and semifreddo. I question menus that are foreign to me with waiters so that I can learn the differences between shabu shabu and pho.  I never miss the chance to discuss ‘cue with a pit master and learn the proper slow and low heat for a dry rub as opposed to a wet glaze.  And, of course, I seek out opportunities to depose the masters of the bar in order to learn new recipes, ingredients, and labels.  It is only by asking these questions that I gain the knowledge necessary to carry on conversations (as well as know how to act) in almost any social setting.

Indeed, it is the ignorant man who thinks that asking a question will make him seem the fool. I was recently told the following true story (by the man’s father no less) that illustrates this Chinese proverb. A bright law student was called back to interview with a "white shoe" law firm for a possible summer associate position.  After a few hours of interviews, one of the senior partners took the student to lunch. The partner ordered a cocktail. Perceiving that ordering a drink at lunch must be part of the firm culture and wanting to fit in, the student ordered a gin and tonic.  When the partner got to the bottom of his glass, he ordered another round, and the student followed suit with a second gin and tonic.  As the lunch went on, the partner ordered a third, as did the student.  By the end of the lunch, the student was visibly inebriated and slurring his words (not the best idea on a call-back interview).  The partner, however, was completely fine, not even the slightest hint of tipsiness.  The next day, while nursing a slight hangover, the law student wanted to see what exactly was in the partner’s cocktail.  Imagine his surprise when he realized what was in an Arnold Palmer. [Note: the student did not get the job.]

Ingredients
1/3 cup iced tea
1/3 cup fresh lemonade
***stir and serve over ice

Had the student simply asked the partner what was in such a delicious sounding drink (and maybe even discussed The King’s greatest Master's victories) he would not only have learned about my father’s "go to drink," but he would have saved himself the trouble of continuing to hunt for a job and living down this story that will likely haunt him for the rest of his life. After all, he who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.

Happy Father’s Day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Accessories That Make The Man: Swizzles


Recently, I was drinking tequila cocktails (see my previous post) with the Consultant and the Banker. Our conversation, as many of mine are apt to do, began to focus on men’s style. What was most interesting to me about the conversation was that the Consultant does not work in a fashionable industry, lives in a far more conservative city than I, and is also a few years younger. Nonetheless, we were discussing the virtues of a proper-fitting suit, surgeon cuffs, pocket squares (a definite subject of a future post), colored socks, and other accessories as routinely as three guys discussing the morning’s baseball scores.  At times, even the Banker jumped in to show off his horological knowledge as naturally as if agreeing that Yankees are overpaying for their pitching roster.  The conversation confirmed that we really are living in a sartorial revolution. One in which a man takes pride in his appearance and is not afraid to display aplomb, much less discuss the pros and cons of brogues vs. monk straps with friends.  Indeed, shows such as Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Suits, and others have given guys the “green light” to dress well and, as evidenced by this very blog, discuss clothing and style in social settings.

An exciting part about this revolution is the ability to break out of the traditional suit/tie or jeans/shirt mold. A man can now wear—without apologies—accessories that add a bit of peacock flair to his outfit. Whether it be a tie bar, a collar pin, a vest, a pocket watch, flamboyant cufflinks, or colored socks (as opposed to the boring gold toe all black version), we now have an excuse to stock up on these sartorial accessories.  We can proudly wear a pair of off-white oxfords with a navy suit in the summer or green captoes at night with jeans.  Indeed, you can and should be searching for those accessories that, while you may not wear every day, you don on those occasions when you want to subtly stand out for having a rakish quality. These, after all, are the details that separate the men from the boys and communicate that you are not a man to be taken lightly, much less crossed.

The cocktail accessory equivalent is the swizzle stick. Unless you work in a tiki bar, it is likely a tool that you won’t use every day, but when you do…wow, what a difference!

As the name implies you use a swizzle stick to swizzle (thus, creating swizzle cocktails), which is not the same as stirring or shaking. A swizzle stick originally came from the Swizzlestick Tree (Quararibea turbinata), which grows in the Caribbean.  Branches from the Swizzlestick tree grow so that the twigs diverge from each other at close to a 90 degree angle, similar to a star burst. The branches are cut and whittled down to create a long handle with an end that has 5 or 6 “spokes.”  These days you can also find a plastic swizzle stick (which is basically useless) or ones cut from bamboo.

To swizzle, build a drink in a glass full of crushed ice. Insert the stick so that the “spokes” are at the bottom of the glass (you may need to twirl the stick a few times to work it through the ice).  Spin the stick back and forth as fast as you can by rubbing your hands together with the handle in between them.  Move the stick up and down in the glass as you twirl. As the drink “swizzles” and gets colder, frost will appear on the outside of the glass.  When the glass is frosted, your drink is ready. Start with these simple swizzle cocktails:

Rum Swizzle
Ingredients
3 oz El Dorado Demerara Rum
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup(I use Demerara sugar to pair with the rum)
3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
.25 oz. Falernum Syrup
Fresh Mint

***Swizzle the ingredients (except the mint) until frosted. Garnish with the fresh mint.

Bourbon Swizzle
Ingredients
2 oz. Bourbon
1.5 oz. Lime Juice
1 tsp. Sugar
2 Dashes of Bitters
Club Soda
Lime

***Swizzle the ingredients (except the club soda) until frosted. Fill the glass with the club soda and garnish with a lime wedge.

Backyard Swizzle
Ingredients
1.5 oz. Reposado tequila (Any good quality reposado will suffice.)
1 oz. pear puree (puree 2 pears, 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp water in a blender)
.5 oz. lemon Juice
2 small slices Thai chili peppers
4-5 grilled pineapple chunks
3 dashesAngostura Bitters

***Swizzle the ingredients (except the peppers and pineapple) until frosted. Garnish with chili pepper and pineapple chunks.

A swizzle cocktail is not something that you will drink on every occasion. But on a hot summer evening, when you pull out your swizzle stick, your guests will know that you are a true bon vivant.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Ramos [Gym] Fizz

“Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentlemen as courage.”[1] A real gentleman, therefore, is courteous in all aspects of his life. Not just at work or on a date, but in all social settings, including at the gym.

Physical fitness is a must. After all, no clothing, no matter how much you spend or how bespoke it is, will look right if you have a giant gut hanging out. (And, conversely, there is no clothing to hide that gut when you are in the bedroom.) Therefore, a regular fitness regimen consisting of both strength training and cardio/aerobics is a must for every man’s schedule. But just because you are in sweats and a tank top does not give you an excuse for leaving your manners in your locker along with your three-piece suit. Set an example for others in the gym by following these gym etiquette rules (and post this blog on the mirror for others to see!):

  • DO NOT talk on your cell phone especially while resting on or using equipment. If your need to talk on the phone is that important, go to the lobby or walk to a corner of the gym. 
  • DO wipe down the equipment after you use it. Make sure you are not leaving your sweat behind for the next person to take care of. 
  • DO NOT lounge around on the equipment and take long breaks. If you need a break between sets, stand to the side and let others work in with you. 
  • DO let others work in with you. You do not own the equipment (and never take up more than one piece at a time — you certainly do not own the entire gym). If you see someone waiting to use your machine or bench, ask if they want to work in. Just let them know how many sets you have left so they know you are not done. 
  • DO NOT bathe yourself in cologne or body spray (and, really, just don’t wear body spray) before your workout. No one wants to take a deep breath on the treadmill just to inhale a whiff of Axe Phoenix. 
  • DO wear appropriate clothing. Make sure that your shirt and pants fit. No one wants to see your belly (or worse) hanging out. 
  • DO NOT grunt or make other loud noises. It is not necessary. 
  • Likewise, DO NOT drop the weights or the stack at the end of your set. If you cannot control the weights, take the hint and use lighter ones.  
  • DO accept requests to lend a spot, and it is acceptable to make your own requests. Just don’t do it while someone is in the middle of a set. 
  • DO NOT get too close to others when they are working out. Be mindful of your surroundings (especially if you are wearing headphones), and make sure that you aren’t crowding others. Nothing is more distracting when working out than worrying if the person next to you is going to drop a weight on you or hit your bar. 
  • DO stay home if you are sick. Please do not spread your germs by coughing and sneezing on the weights. 
  • DO NOT leave your weights so that someone else has to put them away. Re-rack your dumbbells, and strip the weights from your bar when you are done. 
If you have followed these rules, then I would say that you have earned a post-workout cocktail (hopefully with that girl you noticed looking at you while doing abs). But your post-workout cocktail should not undo all of your hard work. In fact, if possible, find a cocktail with a little protein in it and one that will give you a little workout while mixing. Thankfully, I know just the drink: the Ramos Gin Fizz.

The drink was invented in 1888 by Henry C. Ramos at his bar, the Imperial Cabinet Saloon, in New Orleans, and was originally called the New Orleans Fizz. In its hay day, the bar was known to have over 20 bartenders working at once, making nothing but the Ramos Gin Fizz—and still struggling to keep up with the demand (mainly because of the 12 minute prep time it originally took to make this drink)!

Now, before I share one of my all-time favorite drinks with you, on behalf of my friends behind the mahogany, please promise that you will not order this drink when the bar is busy. In fact, I ask permission from the bartender before I order this drink, as it is still not a quick one to concoct and will very likely lead to another customer getting envious of yours and ordering his own. Therefore, if you want to ensure that you are able to get a second round of cocktails that night, be courteous and ask if the bartender has time and would mind making you this amazing drink.

Ingredients
2 oz. Plymouth or Bombay Dry gin
1 oz. heavy cream (do not try to substitute with half-and-half)
1 egg white
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
1 tbsp simple syrup
2 to 3 drops orange blossom water (I prefer Nielsen-Massey)[2]
1 oz. club soda

Fill a cocktail shaker with all of the ingredients except the club soda. Dry shake (no ice) the shaker for at least 1 minute in order to emulsify the egg white. A trick that I sometimes use to speed the process is to take the spring off a Hawthorne strainer and put it in the shaker, which acts like a whisk.

Then add plenty of cracked ice to the shaker and continue to shake vigorously for a minimum of two minutes. It should be noted that many bartenders pride themselves on shaking this drink for at least 5 minutes (I once had a bartender at The Beagle shake mine for 10 minutes!), so don’t wimp out. The goal is to pour a light and frothy cocktail.

Strain into a chilled Collins glass, and add the club soda until an inch or so from the top.

David Wondrich proclaimed that “to sip a Ramos Fizz on a hot day is to step into a sepia-toned world peopled with slim, brown-eyed beauties who smell of magnolias and freshly laundered linen, and tall, mustachioed gentlemen who never seem to work and will kill you if you ask them why.” I can’t top that sentiment, so I won’t even try.


[1] So sayeth Theodore Roosevelt.
[2] Orange flower water is altogether different than orange juice or orange liqueur so do not try to substitute this ingredient. 


Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Confident Cocktail: The Blue Smoke Martini

There comes a time in every gentleman’s career when he hosts an important business dinner or power lunch. The purpose of this meal is twofold—create a bond with your client and, more importantly, instill their confidence in you. And while there is no substitute for hard work (“everything I deserve, I earn”), your non-verbal communication is on display, so make sure it is communicating the appropriate message.

Although the client can wear whatever they want, you must present like a man whom they can trust without question. Therefore, it goes without saying that a spot-free, perfectly tailored, “power” suit must be worn. Navy blue or dark gray are, with few exceptions, the only color options. Solid, pinstriped, bird’s eye, or windowpane are all acceptable patterns. A pressed white, blue, or lavender shirt (no buttoned-down collars, as they are too casual) makes the perfect canvas for your most important sartorial message: your tie. And while the perfect dimple in your half-windsor or pratt knot (my preference) is required, the color you choose speaks loudly about who you are, your tendencies, and your traits. Choose wisely. But also choose the color that most appropriately describes you and your personality.


·      Red---Powerful, Bold, Dominant, Determined, Persistent, Strong
·      Blue---Authoritative, Loyal, Intelligent, Tranquil, Honest, Articulate
·      Purple---Passionate, Visionary, Regal, Powerful, Respected, Dignified, Luxurious
·      Pink---Calm, Friendly, Compassionate, Easygoing
·      Orange---Happy, Enthusiastic, Welcoming, Warm
·      Brown---Reliable, Approachable, Stable, Patient
·      Yellow---Enthusiastic, Alert, Optimistic, Cheerful, Confident, Outgoing
·      Green---Relaxing, Peaceful, Harmonious, Calm, Efficient
·      Black---Strong, Dignified, Mysterious, Sophisticated, Cold

The business dinner is also the appropriate venue for you, the host, to demonstrate your command of ordering the appropriate bottle of wine (which will be discussed in a later blog post). But, as with any good meal, you should open with a cocktail. And since you will only be ordering one since you need to remain confident, in control, and professional (remember this when drinking wine later in the meal), it must be one that is filling, complex, and furthers the message of confidence that you are conveying. Enter the Blue Smoke Martini.

Ingredients
3 oz. Ketel One or Stolichnaya vodka
Splash of peaty Scotch (preferably Laphroaig or Ardbeg)
3 olives stuffed with blue cheese

Wash a chilled martini glass with the Scotch by tilting the glass to coat the inside, and pour out the excess.
***Shake the vodka vigorously in an ice-filled shaker and strain into the coated glass. 
Garnish with the olives.

The Scotch rinse gives this cocktail a smoky flavor, which is eagerly soaked by the vodka, while the blue cheese-stuffed olives add a pleasing “tangy” flavor. Simply put, the drink is the perfect one pre-dinner cocktail (and you can eat the filling garnish while waiting for the appetizer).

Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says to love your enemy. There are some occasions, however—like a business dinner or power lunch—when you should love in moderation.  Make sure you order wisely and confidently.  After all, you are on display.