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 Würkin 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.

.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)

.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.

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.


  1. Finally, someone understands me! The business casual subject of the post sounds like a gentleman I could get along with. The greatest aspect of a personal sense of style is that it just that, personal. In spite of being branded as the guys around the office, at the bar or in the airport with the colorful socks, the rotating pocket squares, the too tailored pants and the blazer for every temperature (it needs to be at least… 75 degrees to wear THAT one), we persevere! Why? Because if we let it slip for one moment, everything else begins to crumble. Your attitude when you wake up. How you deal with that first too hot coffee sip in the morning. How you work. How you play. How you treat your girlfriend (or girl-friend, in the case of the above commenter – we know who you are…). If you look good, you feel good. Oh yeah… and you never know when a blogger with a Holmesian eye will sit down across the table from you among a stack of aesthetically pleasing, leather bound books. You want to look like you could go pick up one of those books, take a sip of you bourbon on a rock (big cube please), begin reading, and not have anyone think twice about it. Because GODDAMIT, YOU LOOK LIKE A GUY WHO READS LEATHER BOUND BOOKS! You know what I think when I see someone wearing an untucked polo and khakis (and probably white tennis shoes) doing the same thing? TOURIST. Don’t be a tourist. Be a man. Dress correctly.

    Lastly, upon forwarding your post along to the fiancé (which you cannot strategically hyphenate in order to allow for two of them – again, see Anonymous comment) I was immediately asked why I never make her a bramble – “It has all my favorite ingredients”. You know why sweetie? Because I don’t have the ice. As volume 2 of the proposed book of appropriate drinks by occasion, I’d like to establish the laws of proper at home drinkmaking. And chapter 1, page 1 is ice. If you don’t have an ice crusher (I guess a modified Sno-Cone maker of sorts would work) - DON’T SERVE A BRAMBLE. I don’t want my Whiskey with a bunch of cubes, I don’t want my martini with any ice, and I would never, ever serve a bramble (even the homemade, behind close door variety) without the right well crushed ice. So until I get that Sno-Cone maker I always wanted that would fit nicely next to the espresso maker, no Brambles.

    1. All I can say is...I couldn't agree more with this comment. And I really like the "leather bound book test" - I may have to steal that one.

      Except for the no ice at home part - get yourself a Lewis Bag and start cracking and make her a Bramble!

  2. Great post.

    Got me to thinking about how people think about deciding what kind of drink to go with……beer v wine v cocktail and then what you end up picking in the category you settle on.

    I usually try to match drink with stage of the evening/place/setting/temperature/company…….rather than food or “what I’m in the mood for”.

    Someone should come up with some guidelines.

    Say I’m in Vegas with the girlfriend/girl-friend and we’re having pre-dinner drink at Barlotta at the Wynn at the start of a long night……you need a “pick me up” but also something that is suitably elegant…..and probably somewhat Italian……and something that won’t knock you out ahead of the opening glass of champagne, bottle of wine at dinner and then probably bottles of champagne at Marquee. I always like to set the tone for the evening with that drink, so it usually involves also nudging her to try something appropriate too.

    Quite a lot of variables.

    Or do you just say screw it, order whatever you’re in mood for or just pick the 1st cocktail on the menu.

    Scenarios also include: post work cocktail at casual bar, post work cocktail with clients at boring steakhouse, first date drink, etc.