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.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Securing the Dinner Reservation: Sophisticated Cocktails

Being a bon vivant means enjoying the best that life has to offer.  And many times, that comes in the form of a great meal.  But that great meal is not always easy to order.  As with most things in life, things worth having are worth fighting for. Which means that even if you call for a reservation and are told that the next open table is in four to six weeks, don’t take “no” for an answer.  Try these tricks, and you will be ordering that six-course chef tasting menu and wine pairing before the night is through.

In order to beat the system, you must first understand it.  A misconception that people have is that restaurants are holding tables. They aren’t.  To the contrary, many restaurants actually overbook so that there are more reservations than tables.  That is why most of the better ones require confirmation of your reservation.  Restaurants have this down to a science: they know how many “no-shows” there will be in a given night, how long a typical dinner lasts, and how many customers can wait at the bar and hostess podium.

Restaurants also have customer databases, where they keep track of the generous tippers, the bigger spenders and—equally important—the problem customers.  This works to your advantage, if you act correctly. Instead of calling and asking for a table, let the hostess know that you are friends with a customer (or better yet, you are that customer) who is in favor with the establishment.

Finally, 9:00 is the hardest time to get, then 8:00, then 7:15 and then 10:15. [Note: Add approximately two hours to these times if you are in Europe or South America]  Large tables (6 or more) and reservations for 2 are the hardest to get.  Believe it or not, a table of 4 is easier to secure than 2 (just think about how many couples are out on dates).

So, now that you know the system, you can beat it.

·              If you can, stop by the restaurant beforehand and take a look around, especially taking notice of the hostess. Then, when you call, you can say something like “Hi, I was there a few weeks ago and you might have helped me. Were you the one with red hair in the front?”  This helps to establish a rapport.  You may even call once or twice just to ask some basic questions, “Hi. What’s your website? Thank you, may I ask your name so when I call back I can ask for you?”  Then, when you do call back,you can act more casual and on a first-name basis, which helps set you apart from the hundreds of other callers.

·              When you are told that the restaurant is fully booked, ask about the schedule for the evening.  Try something like“If we come in around 7:30 and promise to get the table back to you by 8:45, would that work?” By acknowledging the system, you have established yourself as an insider, and the hostess will likely try to accommodate you.

·              Ask if you can be put on the waiting list.  And don’t be afraid to emphasize how much you want that table, as your eagerness may help persuade the staff to fit you in, even when they’re booked. Not only do restaurants first look at the wait list to replace cancelled reservations, but they usually go out of their way for a diner who shows a real interest in their food. 

You can also get lucky by checking the restaurant for cancellations around the time the staff may be calling to confirm parties for the evening (often before or after lunch).  As a tip, weekends can be the best time to land these last-minute tables since the reservation lines are not tied up by office assistants phoning in requests for their bosses.

·              Even if you don’t have a reservation, you can still get a table just by showing up.  The secret is never to speak to the hostess at the podium.  Every other waiting customer is huddled around the podium and keeping track of who checks in and when to make sure no one cuts in front of them.  Therefore, the hostess can’t do you any favors if everyone sees you asking for one; to quote a well-known concierge, you are “podium poison.”  Instead, wait to get the hostess’s attention when she is away from the podium.  And when you do, start the conversation by complimenting her at how amazing she is at handling the crowd.  Trust me, no one else has, which sets you in her good graces.

·              Don’t be a douche.  She doesn’t care “who you are” or what title is on your business card. And don’t be pushy or ask “how much” for a table. 

·              Instead, acknowledge that you are aware of the system but messed up.  Let her know how badly you want a table.  Then, offer to wait at the bar for “as long as it takes” and tell her that “you are going be patient and hope that she can some how squeeze you in.”  Then go hang out at the bar, order an appetizer, and talk to the bartender.  Let him know what you are doing.  By being nice to the two most important “gate keepers,” you will end up with a table.

·              Finally, if all else fails, consider joining a private concierge group.  While a top-of-the-line service comes with every Vertu phone or Centurian AmEx, you can also join private services in your city.  These services can prove quite handy in securing those hard-to-get reservations for you because they have already established the relationships that are needed to obtain that last-minute booking.

Once you are in, show them that they were right to give you a table by ordering a drink that says “I have taste.”  While waiting at the bar, order an Easy Does It.

1 oz. Plymouth Gin
½ oz. Aperol
¼ oz. Campari
1 oz. grapefruit juice
½ oz. simple syrup
3 raspberries

***Shake all ingredients (except raspberries) over ice.  Strain over one large ice cube and garnish with 3 raspberries on a skewer.

If you need to order another round, order up a DLB.

1 oz. Rhum Barbancourt 8 yr.
½ oz. Fernet Branca
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. Angostura bitters
¼ oz. Angostura orange bitters
¼ oz. Peychaud bitters

***Shake over ice and strain into chilled coupe glass

And once you are at your table, show them that you are a man of taste and sophistication by reading the menu while drinking a Globetrotter.

1.5 oz. Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey
¾ oz. VSOP Cognac
¾ oz. Bénédictine
½ oz. Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb (or Curacao if unavailable)
1 dash Orange bitter

***Stir over ice and strain over one large ice cube.  Garnish with an orange twist.

Bob Dylan said, “man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”  Living life is about exploring new things and not letting anything, even an “I’m sorry, we are all booked,” stand in your way.