Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Perfect House Guest: Thank You Cocktails

Over the past few weeks, I have been privy to horror stories (usually over a cocktail) about poor etiquette. Whether I’m having an Old Fashioned with the Financier, a glass of wine with the Hedge Fund, or a beer with the Music Mogul, the complaints are basically a riff on the theme that some guys have no couth.  Whether it is the story of someone wanting to itemize, rather than evenly split, the dinner bill when six guys are out to dinner (hint: Don’t Do That! It all comes out in the wash); the guy who gets too loud and causes a scene (hint: Don’t Do That! Keep your conversation amongst your group); or the guy who tries to one up everyone’s stories (hint: Don’t Do That! Conversations with friends are not a competitive sport), it seems that everyone has a story about a (now ex) friend who displays poor manners that negatively impacts others’ experiences. Being a modern gentleman not only means dressing the part, but—and even more important—acting the part. As they say, “you can put a pig in a suit, it’s still a pig.” Don’t be a pig; act cultured and sophisticated at all times.

The other night, I was having dinner with the Trust Fund, who told me a horror story about a recent houseguest.  Although the guest was provided free room and board at the Trust Fund’s beach house, he acted ungrateful, complained about the meals, left a mess, and acted entitled the entire time.  Even worse, he never thanked his host for the hospitality. 

As the heart of summer approaches, you will likely be invited to be a guest in a friend’s weekend country house, Hampton’s summer share, private island, or back yard dinner party. Whatever the invite may be, accept it immediately (pause or delay is simply not tolerable) and do not make your host regret his decision to extend the invitation. 

The main rule to remember is that you should contribute something positive to make the experience memorable for your host. Start off on the right foot by showing up with a thank-you present that shows you put thought into it (rather than something you picked up last minute while running to the airport). Try to personalize the gift. If your host is a culinarian, a gift basket of exotic spices, oils, and ingredients is nice.  If he is a mixoligist, try some obscure bitters, amargos, or interesting liquor. A recent guest of mine to a cocktail party brought me a bottle of High West’s 36th Vote Barrel Aged Manhattan, since he knew my penchant for the drink.  Similarly, when the Texan recently came to visit at my weekend house for an evening of bar-b-queuing, he brought a homemade dry rub for ribs and another one for beef brisket, which he had made earlier in the week.  His gift not only added to our experience (and was ridiculously amazing), but it also subtly let me know that he had been looking forward to the visit that week. A good rule of thumb is to spend at least $50 on a gift if you are spending a weekend or more in someone’s home ($20 is enough for a dinner party). Avoid a gift that imposes on your host, such as offering to take him out to dinner, since that may require deviating from the plans your host may have already had.

When you are at the house, pack only your necessities and don’t spread your things all over the house. Keep your clothes neatly stacked in your room and a few toiletries in your bathroom (if you are sharing a bathroom, pack your items in a nice toiletry bag so that they are not in the way). Keep your wet towels out of the way (either behind the bathroom door or in your room) and, on your last morning, ask your host what you should do with your dirty towels and sheets.  It goes without saying that, before you leave, clean your bedroom, bathroom, and even a few of the common areas to alleviate your host’s chores.

If you are going to be staying several days, offer to purchase groceries (or at least chip in) for the house.  And waking up early to make a nice breakfast for your host is an excellent way to make sure that you get invited back. While you can make food allergies or dietary restrictions known beforehand, eat whatever your host provides with compliments and praise; no complaints, no matter how bad the food.

Finally, make sure to send a handwritten thank you note —not an e-mail or text message—to let your hosts know exactly how gracious you are that they opened their home to you.

During your stay, impress your host by tending bar and concocting something that they may not have tried before. A Mary Pickford, an old 1920’s drink named for the silent-film-actress, is an excellent drink to sip during a hot summer afternoon.

2 oz. Denizen or Banks 5 Island Rum
¾ oz. Fresh pineapple juice
½ oz. Luxardo Maraschino
¼ oz. Grenadine (make a homemade grenadine [boil 2 ½ cups pomegranate juice and 1 cup simple syrup for 20 minutes.  When cooled, add ½ cup dark, Spanish brandy (such as Cardenal Mendoza)] or use a high-quality premade version such as Employee’s Only or Trader Vics. Anything but the bright red, Rose’s version).

***Shake with ice, strain into chilled coupe. Garnish with cherry (optional)

or a Bee’s Knees

2 oz. Old Raj gin
1 oz. Honey syrup or agave nectar
¼ oz. fresh lemon juice

*** Shake over ice, strain into cocktail glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with lemon twist. 
Note, you can also make a variation of this cocktail substituting a high-end clear rum, such a Flor de CaƱa, for the gin

If you really want to impress, try a Hemingway Daiquiri

1 ¾ oz. 10 Cane rum
¼ oz. Luxardo Maraschino
1 oz. fresh lime juice
¼ oz. fresh grapefruit juice
¼ oz. simple syrup

*** shake vigorously over ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lime wheel and cherry.

or a Moscow Mule

2 oz. premium vodka
4 1/2 oz. spicy ginger beer (like Fentimans or Reed’s)
½ oz. fresh lime juice

***Pour vodka and lime juice into tall Collins glass filled with large ice cubes.  Fill with ginger beer and stir.  Garnish with lime wheel

Visits always give pleasure—if not the arrival, the departure.  Make your host regret your departure, not your invitation.  And return the favor by opening your home to him. After all, you never know what new cocktail he will thank you with in return.

1 comment:

  1. I am really enjoying your blog. It is like GQ, but with cocktails.