Where To Start: Entertaining Guests Part I

I tried posting this last week, and somehow it didn't work out and got lost. *shrug*

This series of post is for those of you who'd love to entertain, but don't know where to begin. Do you ever watch classic films and simply love the way they have their place setup and how they always have the proper libations at hand?

This post's focus will be setting up and stocking a home bar. A small aside--when I was a kid, I'd go to some people's homes and all they had was water and milk. Come to think of it, even as an adult I've been faced with that exact choice.

First rule of having guests--you must have an assortment of things to drink.

But how do you go about setting up a home bar?

Bar tools:  cocktail shaker (just go with an all metal type if you're uncomfortable with the Boston shaker --glass and metal), jigger, bar spoon, strainer, and maybe a muddler. These are the basics. You don't have to be fancy here and you could make do with some kitchen items you already have, but you can get these things in a kit from places like Williams Sonoma or World Market.


Making The Wardrobe Your Own (and a bonus classic drink)

The basic wardrobe I posted last week is somewhat bland, and it's that way on purpose. The components I advised purchasing allow for a variety of configurations and the option to make the wardrobe your own by adding individual touches.

So, what are those personal touches? 

But before I go on with those touches, allow me to suggest a classic drink:

Let's go with a Sidecar. The Sidecar is one of my favorite drinks and a true classic. Like many of the libations I'm partial to, the Sidecar was created in the early 1920s.  Many recipes call for a cocktail glass or martini glass for this drink, but I prefer a rocks glass, also known as an Old Fashioned glass (yep, the glass was named for the drink in which it was served).  The Old Fashioned glass is a type of tumbler. Why do I prefer this type of glass for this drink? Well, it's easier to hold and sip from in my opinion. Yes, certain drinks look better in a cocktail glass, but this isn't one of them.

There are a few variations, but they usually mess with the ratio of ingredients.  Below is how I prefer the drink. Oh, and don't rim the glass with sugar--there is no need, the drink is sweet enough already.


  • 2 parts Brandy or Cognac
  • 1 part Cointreau (or Triple-Sec) 
  • 1 part lemon juice

Dump all those ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake with vigor. Pour the mixture in an Old Fashioned glass (don't put ice in the glass).  Enjoy.

Okay, time to discuss the personal touches you can add to your basic wardrobe. This is quite a list, and allows you to add color and texture and put your mark on the ensemble. What exactly are these accessories?  

  • Tie
  • Pocket Square
  • Cuff Links
  • Watch
  • Belt
  • Socks

Depending on weather and other situations you could add the following as accessories, but I won't deal with these in this article: 

  • Wallet
  • Hat (not a ball cap--a real  hat like a Fedora--I'll cover this in another post).
  • Sunglasses
  • Glasses
  • Gloves
  • Scarf

Tie:  I'm still going to have you hold off on getting crazy with ties. You should really keep them simple at this stage. A horrid tie will ruin your ensemble. You'd almost be better off without a tie if you can't go simple and seem drawn to crazy colors and patterns.

Pocket Square:   Be careful here--simple is better. You can go silk or cotton. Cotton allows for intricate folds (you should learn a few--they're sharp and you'll have people commenting on them), while the silk variety allow you to basically go for a more carefree look.  Whatever you do though, do not buy a pre-folded pocket square that has a cardboard insert. That is embarrassing and in poor taste. It's like wearing a clip-on tie or keeping your tie knotted because you don't know how to tie it properly.  I'd keep the colors on the silk pocket squares  simple--you can do a pattern, but realize that you're limiting your options for usage. I actually prefer white cotton folded with precision. It'd be a great idea to keep a spare handkerchief folded neatly inside your suit jacket.

Cuff Links:   I didn't tell you to buy French Cuff shirts, but if you happen to have one already, or went out and bought one, cuff links will raise your style a couple of levels, but with caveats I'm afraid.

Again, and I'm going to keep writing this: keep them simple. Try plain swivel bar types that are squares/rectangles or circular. If you stick with plain metal, like sterling silver, they will be functional and go with the wardrobe I suggested last week. 

A few caveats:

  • stay away from the cloth braid/knot type cuff links
  • do not buy a package that has cuff links that match a tie and a shirt. DO NOT DO THAT.
  • match the cuff links with the watch.  If you have a white metal watch, you HAVE to wear white metal cuff links.

Watch:   I find it's easier to match with a white metal type watch. I don't care if you go with a quartz movement or mechanical movement, but whatever you do, do not wear a digital watch with the wardrobe I've suggested. In fact, unless you're working out or running a marathon or something similar, stay away from the digital watch.

Make sure you have the watch adjusted. Meaning: the watch should fit snugly around your wrist, not dangling and able to spin around because it's so loose.  The face of the watch doesn't have to be enormous: it isn't a contest.

My day-to-day watch is a Swiss made Burberry watch:


Belt:   Fine leather. And you have to have a black one as well as a brown one. Do not wear one with a huge buckle emblazoned with some emblem or logo on it (this isn't the rodeo). You have to go plain here. And again, the belt buckle needs to match the rest of the accessories. If you're wearing white metal cuff links and a watch, well, you have to do the same with the belt buckle.

Socks:   You could make a statement here, but don't. Stay plain. You have to match the socks with the slacks as best as possible, and when in doubt go with a darker shade of sock than the slacks.

I've rambled on enough. I have a lot more to say about how to wear this stuff and what to buy, and I'll save those comments for a future post.

As always, my posts are meant to convey a classic style. If you're a nutty professor then go for that look. If you're a cowboy then go ahead and dress like one. But don't be a poser. 

Go have a Sidecar today, it's a classic drink and not difficult to mix.

Let's Begin With A Drink

My goal with this portion of my website is to impart advice and opinion on matters such as style (and the lack of in this day and age) as well as discussing the art of living.

I figured I'd start by sharing the recipe of a fairly obscure cocktail: the 20th Century.  The 20th Century was concocted in the late 1930s in honor of the Twentieth Century Limited, a train that used to run between New York and Chicago.

I first saw this recipe in a wonderful book:  Vintage Spirits And Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh, aka Dr. Cocktail. Below is my version of the drink, only slightly modified.

Get this book!

Get this book!

20th Century:

  • 2 measures gin
  • 1 measure Lillet Blanc
  • 1 measure lemon juice
  • 1 measure light creme de cacao

note:  if the chocolate taste is too up front, ease off the creme de cacao a bit so that the chocolate taste ends up being an after note. The last thing we want is for the creme de cacao to overpower the other flavors. 

You need to buy this book if you have any interest at all in cocktails. It is more than just recipes--it tells the stories behind the cocktails. There is also a section detailing where to obtain rare ingredients and even how to create ingredients for those no longer available.