Black Tie Time

Back in the day, Esquire magazine stalwartly carried the torch of classic black tie. One of my favorite writers of that era, John Berendt, grew up in Syracuse, New York, not far from one of the first appearances of the tuxedo. Almost immediately after graduating from Harvard, he became an associate editor of Esquire from 1961 to 1969 and continued to contribute from 1982 to 1994, when his book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was published. Many of his columns begrudgingly acknowledge trends while scornfully piss on what he calls “atrocities.” A particularly funny one is when he took umbrage with some of the spirited choices his contemporaries passed off as acceptable black tie. After observing that the first two public exhibitions of Henry Poole’s dinner jacket in America caused quite a stir, he wrote:

“I mention these two episodes…to make the point that, historically, there has never been much tolerance for individual touches when it comes to formal attire. And properly so–if not for the sake of tradition, than because for some reason the classic model is almost always debased rather than improved by innovation….But in a perverse sort of way we can be grateful to them because of what they reveal about the wearer’s level of taste.”

Classics: The Tuxedo, from Esquire, January 1983

For about 100 years, the classic black tie model has remained more or less the same, and is fairly straightforward: the suit itself can be black or midnight blue wool. As for the jacket, the most formal is single breasted peak lapel, and happens to be the most flattering one. Your shirt, which is always white, should be the quintessential marcella bib with two or three studs. A wing collar would have been the first choice a century ago, but nowadays a soft turndown collar has become the norm. Pleated shirts are fine, but I find they go better with peak lapels in a double breasted jacket or shawl collars in either configuration. A notch collar is acceptable, but has the tendency to look more waiter than waited on. Your bow tie, which should never be pre-tied and always in front of your shirt collar, can be in either black silk satin or grosgrain. Ideally the same material should be repeated in the lapel facings, buttons, and a single stripe down the trouser’s outside seam. Your waist should be covered by a double breasted jacket, a formal black waistcoat, or a cummerbund that matches your tie. Shoes are black oxfords or opera pumps in patent leather, although either in properly shined calf leather is a fine alternative. Hosiery is black silk.

Once you have a tuxedo in any of the above, you can start to go crazy – a little – for less ceremonious affairs. An easy way to do this is by simply swapping the top. An off-white jacket is a fine choice for daytime or if you happen to find yourself on a boat. On informal occasions, such as a party in someone’s home, a velvet smoking jacket in deep jewel tones is a louche option, or plaid if you’re feeling particularly festive. In these cases, lapels should never be notched, and facings can be in black silk or in the same color and material as the jacket, depending on how shiny you wish to be. If you feel especially casual, you can swap your courtly footwear for slippers in silk or velvet in black.

There are other options, of course, but listed above are already a dozen or so that will take you everywhere from the opera to the stag party. With the proviso that you have them all already and are exceptionally popular with a calendar bursting with fancy engagements, just don’t. Unless you’re Andy57.

Andy Poupart is a self-professed romantic that loves black tie more than anyone I know. His job, like most of us, doesn’t pit him against secret agents or nefarious megalomaniacs, but if it did, he’d be ready for the part. His black tie closet includes:

  • Straight-ahead, classic, by-the-book, black, peak lapel, grosgrain facings, single-breasted dinner jacket, with matching trousers, cummerbund, and U-front waistcoat
  • Midnight blue, shawl lapel, midnight blue satin silk facings, single breasted jacket, with matching trousers, cummerbund, and U-front waistcoat
  • Ivory, self-faced, double-breasted shawl lapel jacket
  • Deep bottle green velvet, black grosgrain facings and cuffs, shawl lapel, single breasted jacket
  • Thai silk, red, self-faced, peak lapel, single breasted jacket

To accompany these, he has socks in black and midnight blue silk, two shirts each in white and ivory, all with soft turndown collars and marcella fronts, several sets of studs and links, a butterfly and diamond point bowtie in black grosgrain, another in black mogodor, a fourth in midnight blue satin silk, and black patent leather oxfords. If that sounds like overkill, be assured Andy has worn every piece in his armory many times over, and has his eyes set on a few more. “I keep thinking about a burgundy double-breasted jacket in a fantastic wool/silk velvet,” he grins.

Although all of his outfits are excellent, Andy reckons his favorite is the ivory dinner jacket. “I designed it after Humphrey Bogart’s in Casablanca. When I wear it, I’m a 1940s gun-runner, one step ahead of the bad guys, with places to go and things to do that you can’t be any part of, but we’ll always have Paris. Oh, and a martini in one hand.”

“I know that all sounds silly, but I don’t care,” he states. “It’s how I can express the side my personality that I want to portray. I think that when we get dressed, in any sort of clothes, we are telling a story about ourselves, how we wish to appear to the world. When I wear black tie, I feel I’m presenting the best me.”

I have to catch up to Andy – I’ve got a few black tie rigs myself, but alas, no velvet yet.

You can wait until the invitation requests it, or you can do like Andy and where it wherever you want. To be honest, even a black trash bag is better than not trying at all, but as long as you’re trying, you might as well do it right. To that end, try your best to follow John Berendt’s sage words:

“My advice is to stick with the classic unless you happen to have a tailor with the prescience of a Henry Poole. And the odds are you do not.”

For what is probably the biggest, most awesomest collection of classic black tie, check out Voxsartoria’s blog. But you knew tha

Get Out and Enjoy a Romantic Evening Picnic

At least once a week, my fiancée and I head to the Botanic Gardens for a dinner free from distraction, and it’s a pastime I recommend everyone reading this embrace. It’s fun, it’s super romantic, and the best part about it is that it’s incredibly easy.

I’ve mentioned in the past – on numerous occasions – how much I enjoy dining outside, as well as how much I enjoy picnics. All you need is a cooler (or a fancy picnic hamper), a few tasty dishes, and a bottle of something equally delicious. In addition, I recommend taking the time to look at least a little bit nicer than you normally do, but I also recommend dressing in a way that suits the occasion. By that I mean leave both the tie and the tennis shoes at home. This is your chance to dress like a stylish gardener, or an exiled novelist, or whatever your own fantasies may entail. It’s like going out to dinner – only more celebratory. Here’s what I recommend, both in terms of wearing and eating.

1. Food

Really, as long as you can make your dish of choice portable, anything goes. Just avoid ‘heavy’ foods, since they’re largely at odds with the setting. Some of my favorite options include:

  • Baguette, cheese, olives, charcuterie (never forget to bring your baguette)
  • Caprese salad (we grow our own tomatoes and basil, and only use a bit of good oil and some salt)
  • Cold Soup – gazpacho or leek
  • Chilled soba noodles with steamed vegetables (use a vegetable peeler to slice zucchini and carrot into ribbons, steam very briefly, then stir into soba noodles with a peanut vinaigrette) or stir-fried mushrooms
  • Seared tuna bites (Sear, slice, wrap in individual packets of butter lettuce if you choose, top with thin-sliced jalapeno and a ponzo sauce)
  • Pre-grilled chicken skewers (chicken and green onion)
  • Tiramisu or creme brulée in individual ramekins – this gets you points, and both are very easy to make.

2. Drink

Recently, I had the very good idea of pre-mixing a pitcher of Mojito ‘concentrate’ (2 cups rum, 1 cup sugar, as much mint as you can find; blended) and bringing a bottle of sparkling water along with me. If you have access to a cheap rose you’ll love it, especially as the evenings become cooler. I tend not to bring ‘nicer’ bottles with me on picnics, just because everything tastes better when you’re outside anyway, and you also limit the chances of being disappointed if your plastic cup spills in the grass. Speaking of, a plastic cup is great to have, since it won’t shatter if you drop it. Plus, it’s not hard to can find clear plastic cups that are an elegant alternative to a wine glass (I always favor stemless) – just look for something that doesn’t have a pronounced lip. Oh, and if you’re bringing wine, don’t forget a corkscrew – and remember that something bubbly is always fun.

3. Where to Go

I’m a big fan of botanical gardens. We’re members at the one in Denver, and we tend to visit them when we travel. Of course, the nearest nice park (or beach) is also a great choice (just be surreptitious with your alcohol), and if you can drive 15 minutes out of the city to a pretty spot that’s also great. Just be sure that you’re not going to get stuck in traffic for more than 20 minutes – nothing kills romance and spontaneity like staring at the back of the same minivan for hours. If you do have a botanic garden near you – go! Especially if you’ve never been before. Strolling through beautiful gardens is a fantastic activity by itself.

4. What to Wear

As I said, if you’re picnicking with your significant other, this is a chance to look nice in a way you don’t look nice while at the office. It’s not really the time for ‘weekend’ clothes, and while you can certainly wear an odd jacket and trousers I recommend you give in to the weather and wear something more at home in the sun. I tend to favor floral prints, lightweight outerwear to fight the evening chill (which is a reality now that we’ve passed Labor Day), and loose or cropped pants that are comfortable for lounging, strolling, as well as sitting around when the sun starts to go down.

Here’s some of my recent picnic-wear:

 

5. Why You Should Picnic in the First Place

Because it’s fun. No, seriously: taking the time – during the week, no less – to consciously disconnect yourself from all the stress and distractions you probably don’t even know you have while you’re at home (phones, shows, computers, errands, etc.) results in a sense of profound relief, both mental and physical. The kind of relief that results in you feeling the stress leave your shoulders. Not only is the cooking and meal preparation cathartic (at least, it should be), but choosing an outfit based on no one’s expectations on your own is way more entertaining than choosing what you’ll wear to work or even to a restaurant. The older I get, the more I’ve come to cherish slow moments, especially with loved ones. A picnic – and the slight sense of celebration that goes with it – is a fantastic and intimate way to liven up your weekly grind and, I hope, start a new tradition.

 

Aperitivo Style: Dress for Italy’s Favorite Pastime

You might have heard the word “aperitivo” once or twice if you have Italian friends, as it is a common word we use to describe the light snack, usually accompanied by an alcoholic beverage, which predates dinner.

My job today is to describe in detail what aperitivo implies, so that Americans can hopefully adopt this custom, or so you’ll be prepared should you attend an aperitivo the next time you find yourself strolling the streets of the Eternal City.

Like every occasion related to food in Italy, it is a social occurrence more than a fulfillment of human bodily needs. Unlike American’s happy hour, where places offer drinks and food at reduced prices, aperitivo involves the consumption of a drink that comes with a complementary light snack. The purpose is stimulating the appetite while enjoying a conversation with anyone who is accompanying you – whether it is your colleagues after a day of work, a new date, your spouse, or simply a group of friends. The most similar thing that Americans have is that cocktail hour with the complimentary salted nuts.

The Milanese claim they invented the aperitivo, but the tradition actually originated in my hometown, Torino, in 1786, when the owner of a liquor shop invented vermouth, a white wine reinforced with an infusion of over 30 herbs. Vermouth started being served as a pre-dinner treat along with tiny bites – also typical of Torino – such as tramezzini, olives, and salatini.

What should you wear to an aperitivo?

First of all, you need to make sure your outfit is appropriate for the place and the people you’re going to see. If your aperitivo is going to be a quick meeting with your friends at a café after a football match on a Saturday, you can probably skip the blazer and save your expensive cologne for another occasion. However, if your aperitivo is a date or it takes place at a nicer bar or restaurant, I recommend going for a classic but always appropriate combination of blazer or sport coat and tailored pants. You can play with the accessories to add character to the mix, and to make sure you’re properly dressed for the weather. For instance, if you’re lucky enough to enjoy an aperitivo by the seaside, a light silk scarf might come in handy, and it instantly adds charm to the whole look; a pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes if you’re sipping your drink al fresco while earning you extra cool points (because really, who doesn’t look good in sunglasses?)

My only recommendation is to leave the tie at home – or remove it if you’re going out directly after work: it will make people around you more comfortable, it will show them that you value the leisure time you spend in their company, and that you left behind your work day.

aperitivo styleforum aperitivo style styleforum

Blazer: Sartoria Formosa
Pants: Rota Pantaloni
Shirt: Barba Napoli
Hat: Larose Paris
Scarf: Drake’s
Sunglasses: L.G.R.
Shoes: Barbanera

What do you drink at an aperitivo?

Today, vermouth is no longer the only option when you want to treat yourself to an aperitivo. For the summer months, the most popular drinks are the infamous spritz – a cocktail made of prosecco, Campari, and a splash of sparkling water – and the mojito. White wines are also a valid option, especially if bubbly, and typically every place serves its own aperitivo concoction made of fresh fruit and alcohol. For those who choose not to imbibe, alcohol-free options involve juice-like drinks made of fresh fruit and seltzer water.

During the winter months, the negroni is always a hit, along with red wines and any other cocktail the bar offers.

What do you eat at an aperitivo?

Most places will provide your table with free snacks such as olives, potato chips, and tiny sandwiches to consume while you enjoy your drink. In the past few years, many places adopted the concept of apericena (aperitivo+cena – dinner). With the purchase of one drink, the customer has access to a large buffet that is essentially all-you-can-eat. The selection varies, but it usually consists of cheese and cured meats, pizza, sandwiches, deep fried vegetables, salad, and – occasionally – warm dishes such as pasta and risotto. Apericena are understandably quite popular among young people, since they provide a fulfilling dinner and a drink for less than €10.

If you’re not likely to visit Italy in the immediate future, you’ve still got the chance to enjoy aperitivo in the comfort of your own home – just like I do.

In fact, when I moved to US three years ago I made sure to bring with me a few things I could not live without – the bidet and aperitivo were on top of the list. I will not bore you with the details of the former (maybe that’s going to be Jasper’s next assignment for me), but I can provide you with a list of things you need in order to organize an aperitivo at your own place.

  • Drinks. If you’d like to try your hand at bartending, a spritz is a quick and easy recipe and it’s likely to be appreciated by everyone in your group (but do keep a bottle of wine in the fridge in case a guest asks).
  • Food. If you’re not in the mood to prepare tiny sandwiches and warm dishes, you can just buy plain ingredients and serve them in small cups. Grab some olives from the grocery store – and make sure they’re not pitted and they come from Italy or Spain. Serve them with a plate of your favorite cheese and some cured meats, if you can get them fresh the same day (do NOT buy the packaged types that taste like fat-laden cardboard). Potato chips and similar snacks will work just as fine, especially if you don’t intend this to be your dinner.
  • Pay attention to the setting… Even if it’s just a late afternoon snack, make sure everything looks tidy and pleasant to the eye. Food tastes better when it looks good. Use matching cups and the appropriate glasses for the type of drinks you’re serving. For a full Italian experience, treat your table to a nice, clean tablecloth.
  • …and to the outfit. It would be a shame to present such a lovely table to your guests and not look just as glorious.
  • Repeat. That’s right. Aperitivo is not a special occasion. On the contrary, it is a trivial one, like having coffee after school. It is a time for people to get together and catch up on everything that’s going on in their life, whilst consuming delicious snacks and beverages. Having an aperitivo at your own place is also a wonderful way to save money if you’re on a budget, since it’s way cheaper than having a drink out (and you get to choose the music, which is not of little importance if you, like me, are already sick of Taylor Swift’s latest album blasting out of speakers in any public space).

Naturally, you don’t need to serve wine or cocktails each time; you can get creative and make your own, alcohol-free signature drinks for the aperitivo. It can be as simple as seltzer water with an infusion of citrus fruit and berries, or more elaborate using juice and maraschino cherries to decorate, but I would advise against sodas. As I mentioned at the beginning, aperitivo is a social occasion – and what matters in the end is finding the time to enjoy the company of your friends, your colleagues, your date, or even your partner at the end of a long day.


Food and beverages have the magical power to bring on conviviality; the Romans and the ancient Greeks knew this well, and those who could afford a proper banquet would organize the courses around the topics of conversations that they intended to discuss. The banquet described in the Satyricon by Petronius is a perfect example, with one of the courses being a statue of the fertility god Priapus with the belly filled with saffron-squirting cakes and fruits. Or, think of the power of gathering around the table in Plato’s Symposium, where inebriated men praise the god of love, Eros.

If you’re keen on medieval lore, you’ll certainly know that King Arthur made the round table specifically to encourage conversation and deliver a sense of equality among his knights, so that they all could be served equally and sit equally at its board. Each man’s opinion was therefore equally valuable.

Today, our lifestyles brought us to consider our food as merely either a primary need – thereby consuming our meals quickly in order to be able to return soon to our daily activities – or we focus entirely on the food by experimenting with textures, colors, and flavors, or perhaps calculating those macronutrients. Only during special occasions, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, or other celebrations, do people and food reconnect to create that special experience that our ancestors so deeply treasured.

The good thing is that we can re-educate ourselves to find balance again, and enjoy company as much as food when the two happen to encounter. You can do so by picking up an exotic custom such as the Italian aperitivo, or you can research yourself the method that best suits your lifestyle and interests.

Whatever your intentions are, bring a good attitude along with a nice bottle and tasty food, and you’ll have the recipe for the best time of your day.

Cin cin!

Feeling down? Have a Deliciously Unhealthy Late Night Snack

Sometimes you have to take a break from worrying about whether your suits will fit you tomorrow. You come home late after a bad day, you go on a first date that ends badly, or you just want to pig out. Well, I’ve got you covered, and the best way to deal with all the bad things in life is to eat delicious food.

Having a few late night snacks options always at the ready will always serve you well.  If your friends decide to crash on your couch after a night out, you’ll need to feed them before they tear your fridge apart.  If you meet your soulmate, and walk long into the night, talking about the future – all the walking will get you hungry for, and let’s be real here, snacks.  If you miraculously do not strike out, you will be hungry after all the festivities, and you’ll need some… snacks.  If you are married, with kids, a late night snack with your significant other is going to be one of the very few adult moments you will share.

Statistically, though, let’s face it, if you are single, your Matches.com date is going to be terrible, and you are going to spend your night alone, with only Netflix binges to keep you company.  Styleforum is not here to kick you while you are down, though – we’re  here to uplift you with delicious calories.  Here are the definitive 5 Best Late Night Snacks you can make to soothe your soul.

  1. Bacon wrapped hotdog
    These are sold outside stadiums all across America.  And they are delicious.  You know it, I know it.  The tasting menu that you thought your date would like has nothing on these late at night after a few beers on a cold winter’s eve…. alone.
  2. Spaghetti carbonara
    One of the easiest dishes to make, and it fits your timing perfectly.  Put on the water, and by the time you’ve washed off the disappointment, the water will be boiling (remember to have salted it well), and you can fry up the spec in time for the pasta to finish cooking.  Remember to get the pasta off the heat before you add the cheese and egg mixture, or else your sauce will separate disappointingly as well.
  3. Nutella and banana grilled sandwich
    Find solace in the nostalgia of a childhood snack.  Of course, your mom is no longer there to tell you that you are a special person and that everything will be okay.  Unless your mom IS there to tell you that you are a special person and that everything will be okay, in which case, it’s no wonder your date didn’t work out.
  4. Steak and Eggs
    The Notorious B.I.G. famously rapped for a t-bone steak, cheese eggs and Welch’s grape to fill his belly.  Delicious.  The only difference between his snack and yours is that his were a prelude to more exciting evening activities, while yours mark the beginning of an evening of old television shows.
  5. Garlic Bread
    Let’s face it.  The only reason that you don’t eat garlic bread when there is garlic bread to be eaten is in order to not turn off your date.  Well, turns out, you didn’t need garlic bread to do that, so the joke’s on you.  But now you can eat all the delicious, buttery, garlicky bread you want, so you win.

    Bonus: Avocado Toast

    Delicious, and instagram friendly.   Instagram is your desperate attempt to tell the world that you are okay with being alone, with just being you)

Top 10 Valentine’s Day Netflix Binges

Valentine’s Day sucks.  Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t celebrate your undying love, nor even to not celebrate Valentine’s Day at all.  However, the day itself sucks.  It’s a money grab, and every even peripherally-related industry knows it.  Roses are about four times the price of roses the day before or the day after, and restaurants change their menus to hackneyed Valentine’s Day menus that are designed to be able to be easy to prep and serve.  Every chef I know hates the Valentine’s Day menu.  None of them want to cook yet another molten chocolate cake.  Do you really want to eat food that is cooked with that degree of hate?

No, of course not.   Choose love, choose life.  Choose to stay in and netflix and chill.  Literally.  Here’s my list of the top 10 Valentine’s Day Netflix binges.  Your date night can wait until the 15th.

  1. Daredevil (Netflix)Starring that guy from Numbers, and also Hannibal (Charlie Cox), the first and second seasons of this adaptation of Marvel’s blind ninja-like superhero mixes complex characters with a somewhat convoluted, but still generally compelling, narrative.  It also features some of the best fight scenes since, well, Old Boy, which inspires single take fight scene in a hallways full of henchmen.  The Valentine’s Day tie-in: the muddled relationships between the main characters.
  2. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

    This adaptation of Piper Kerman’s novel is a bit less gritty than the memoir, and a lot less “authentic,” but that goes for pretty much any adaptation.  No one really wants a police procedural in which a moose wandering in the park is the main crisis, anyway.  The later seasons get a bit flabby, and then bam, you are hit with a doozy of a season.  Of course, in the memoir, the protagonist is in the system for two years.  So, to fill out so many episodes, either she has to get stuck in the clank for much longer, or things just happen at a frenetic pace in prison.  Romance?  It’s a choice between Jason Biggs and Laura Prepon.  C’mon now.  Of course, then you get a season of Ruby Rose.
  3. The Walking Dead (AMC)The Hospital Scene in the very first episode of the series, when Rick wakes up from coma into a world that has taken a decided change for the worse, still resonates.  It’s hard to describe the awesomeness that is the first two seasons, and “survivors navigate lawless, zombie-ridden America” seems somehow inadequate to describe one of the best shows of the decade.  Enjoy  the first two seasons as our protagonists navigate couples counseling in the zombie apocalypse.
  4. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix)This was much anticipated, and it doesn’t disappoint.  At least, not the first few episodes.  No spoilers, please (my kids finished this one well before me). The show follows the three talented and precocious Baudelaire children, who constantly outsmart the villainous, vain, and only semi-competent Count Olaf, who is after their vast fortune following a mysterious house fire that apparently claims the lives of their parents.  The series plays out like a collaboration between Wes Anderson and Tim Burton, and it’s really an excuse – I mean vehicle – for Neil Patrick Harris to ham it up.  And there is nothing wrong with that.
  5. Narcos (Netflix)I thought I was practicing my Spanish, but it seems that the joke is on me. Apparently, Wagner Moura, who plays Columbian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, speaks terrible Spanish. Nonetheless, he gives an amazing performance that is charismatic and terrifying, and sometimes, touching.  Besides, the series is visually stunning.  The entire show drips the heat and the fecundity of jungles and blood, although I think that the setting never moves further north than Miami).
  6. Black Mirror This is the American release of a British anthology set in a dystopian near-future (or even a future-now).  That it’s an anthology means that unlike the other, character-driven series I’ve been recommending, it will be easier to stop watching so that you can get to more Valentine-y activities.  Note: if you are looking to engage in after-the-show intimacies, maybe skip the pig-fornicating (really) episode.  Unless you like that type of stuff.
  7. Justified (FX, on Amazon Prime – I know, I know)If ever there was an American hero, it would be Timothy Oliphant’s Raylan Givens.  That is to say, he embodies being crap at relationships while being hyper-competent at his job, which he demonstrates by acting constantly insubordinate in the name of efficacy and efficiency.  In other words, he sucks at relationships, but that’s okay because he is a badass who gets things done and is a rugged individualist who has no time for bureaucracy.  Also, he is great with one-liners.  If you have ever dreamed of being this hardcore even once, this show is for you.
  8. Shameless (Showtime)Robert H. Macy plays the drunken, narcissistic, father of a large Irish family in South Chicago.  The family copes with the turd pie life serves to them, as well with all the romantic, legal, and other mad troubles they get themselves into.  What’s to not like?  It’s like your family, but with much better acting.  Plus, you have Emmy Rossum as Fiona, the oldest sibling.  The show is worth showing for that alone.
  9. The Leftovers (HBO – on Amazon Prime)What if 2% of the population of the world suddenly disappeared?  The Leftovers explores the world after something that could be the rapture.  On Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to love, counteract all those gooey, icky feelings with a marathon spent watching of a show dedicated to the themes of isolation, grief, and disorientation.
  10. Westworld (HBO – on Amazon Prime)In Westworld, androids called “hosts” cater to the whims of the paying customers, or “guests,” in a virtual western setting.  But what happens when the hosts start to realize that maybe not everything is as it seems?  You can see this as a treatise on artificial intelligence.  Or, it could just be a fun and scary science fiction show.   This was one of the HBO’s biggest names of 2016, and for good reason.

    Valentine's Day Netflix


There you go.  Hours and hours of passive consumption.  After all of that, you should have at least some energy left.  Enjoy yourself.

3 Valentine’s Day Cocktails

Visit a bar and meet someone. Go out on a date and enjoy yourselves. Have a couple rounds with your friends. Or–perhaps, alone at home. The options you have for celebrating Valentine’s Day are plentiful, and, should you opt to imbibe, the selection of drinks is far broader than the common choices from which most people select. Here are three classic short drink options for the cocktail aficionado, with names and flavor profiles aptly suited for differing situations and contexts (although you may choose to enjoy them all, regardless of whatever plans for your Valentine’s Day).


The Aviation – it’s the wind beneath your wings

Just getting to know this person? Want to have a few rounds this evening before dinner without feeling remorse? Best to try the Aviation, a light, floral drink with a lot of interesting flavors mingling together.

The history of the Aviation is a long one: originally listed by Hugo Ensslin in this book, Recipes for Mixed Drinks, published 1916, the cocktail called for crème de violette. However, over the years, other ingredients started being used instead, as crème de violette became increasingly difficult to find inside of the USA. Replacements included Parfait d’Amour, Crème Yvette or ultimately blue curacao, used to provide the drink’s characteristic blue hue. For reasons of taste of course, you will likely want to stick with crème de violette, using Parfait d’Amour or Crème Yvette only if you are seeking a cocktail with more citrus or vanilla driven tastes.

The drink is refreshing and light, works well as an aperitif, and also can help to freshen your breath, thanks to the lovely floral scent provided by the violette-based liqueurs. Classically, you would shake the drink (on account of the inclusion of the lemon juice), but if you want to experience the true aromatics in the gin, you can take your time stirring it in order to ensure adequate emulsion and dilution. Note that the precise ratios of this classic recipe are still highly debated, but as we at Styleforum don’t like our cocktails too sweet, we suggest the following:

    • Eight parts dry gin
    • One part maraschino liqueur
    • Two parts lemon juice
  • One part crème de violette

Combine the ingredients in a shaker tin over ice; shake the drink well; serve up in a chilled coupe. Garnish with a Marasca cherry.


The Bijou – or, I couldn’t afford anything from Tiffany and Co.

Just finishing dinner but you need something to relax you further? Or you want to provide a good-looking gem to someone without breaking the bank? Try the Bijou, an herbaceous and heavy cocktail.

Another classic drink, the contemporary Bijou originally appears in Harry Johnson’s Modern Bartender’s Manual (1900). The Bijou, meaning jewel in French, stands strong with a glorious amber hue that entices the imbiber with its smooth mouth feel and attractive appearance. Johnson’s version of the drink is incredibly complex on account of the use of two strong components with plenty of aromatics and layers of flavor (Italian vermouth and green Chartreuse).

The cocktail works better as a digestif, considering the strong body and alcohol content. Historically the drink was made with equal parts, but in the modern day you want to provide a bit less of a kick, so reducing chartreuse and vermouth help to bring the cocktail into the 21st century. Additionally, for this drink, Plymouth gin works wonders, seeing as how both green Chartreuse and Plymouth gin feature coriander, and the creamy body of the Plymouth can extend the already rich mouth feel of Chartreuse and sweet vermouth.

Stirring the cocktail works best, and if your significant other likes strong drinks, this will serve as an excellent nightcap to your most assuredly already enjoyable evening.

    • Three parts Plymouth gin
    • One part Italian (sweet) vermouth
    • One part green Chartreuse
  • 1 dash orange bitters

Combine the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Stir the drink to emulsify it well and provide adequate dilution. Strain and serve with a twist of lemon and a Marasca cherry as garnish.


The Widow’s Kisswhen this Holiday just doesn’t suit you

So your evening is spent alone, or you really just want to have a strong drink before bed. The Widow’s Kiss will serve you well.

Likely first published in George Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks (1895), the Widow’s Kiss is a drink that packs a punch on account of the three strong alcoholic components that make up the body of the drink. The drink has seen itself published identically in a few other cocktail guides, including Bill Boothby’s and Harry Craddock’s. As such, despite not being well known, the cocktail serves as a true classic, providing you an interesting drinking experience that is directly a blast from the past.

The Calvados can be replaced with Applejack if Calvados is not available in your area, seeing as how they are similar spirits with similar flavor profiles. Each is a distillate of cider, and both have a wonderful note reminiscent of fall, dead leaves and freshly plucked apples. On the other hand, the Benedictine and the Chartreuse are both historically created by monks, and include numerous herbs and spices that provide strong, memorable flavor profiles that are interesting enough to enjoy neat on their own. Each of these liqueurs have their own notes, but in harmony they begin to exhibit and complement each other, providing a more interesting drinking experience.

The cocktail is incredibly deep and complicated thanks to the herbaceous liqueurs, and the high ABV content of the drink serves well to keep you warm on a chilly night.

    • Two part Calvados (or Applejack)
    • One part yellow Chartreuse
    • One part Benedictine
  • Two dashes Angostura bitters

Pour the ingredients together over cracked cubes of ice in a mixing glass. Stir well, ensuring the drink reaches adequate dilution. Strain, serve up and garnish with a Marasca cherry.


Enjoy your Valentine’s Day, whichever stylish way you imbibe.

e. v. Empey

The Pittilogues: Pitti Uomo 91, Day 1

Since I flew to Florence from Denver, there was of course a Weed Bro on the plane who had Everything Figured Out. I was banished to the window seat (Lufthansa having somehow ruined my seating reservations), and therefore couldn’t escape from the lecture he gave the young german man sitting in the aisle. Car people just don’t know business, he’s told us, which is why he’s managed to disrupt the entire hail damage repair industry. He wanted to know what everyone did for work, and I was tempted to tell him that I was an ostrich wrangler.

Somehow it seemed like a fittingly absurd conversation to overhear on my way to Pitti 91, where there is an equal amount of absolute certainty about the rules of the fashion system with no demonstration that any of it is even real. My arrival in Italy was punctuated by a 10 hour layover in Frankfurt, which I spent wandering the Innenstadt and people-watching. I watched, for example, a couple flirting at the bar where I ate a truly humongous schnitzel. The boy was wearing cowboy boots with jeans tucked in. The girl was very, very drunk.

Listening to them flirt was fascinating. I took my time over a beer, wondering why we, as a people, seem to only be fascinated by the process of falling in love, and not what comes after. I’m thinking of this in part because of the incredibly trashy YA fantasy romance novels I spend every plane ride reading, but why do we lose interest once the “ILU’s” are traded? Why do we skip from puppy love to heartwarming wrinkled people, with no appreciation in between?

It’s maybe not the greatest metaphor, but I’m going to extend it to fashion anyway. We’re obsessed with the anticipation of what’s next, with the climactic experience of the purchase, and then – well, how many of us have lusted after a piece of clothing only for it to fade to obscurity once it’s in our wardrobe? Arianna, who is at Pitti with me, tells me that something about living in the US just makes her want to buy, buy, buy. And Pitti is very calculated to make you want to buy buy buy, as well – because I can walk into the Monitaly booth and say “I want to wear this head to toe,” then walk next door to De Bonne Facture and say the exact same thing.

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Some quick snaps of De Bonne Facture at Pitti Uomo 91

This was a train of thought that continued to chug along through the haze of jet lag when I arrived at the airport for my flight to Florence – because I had forgotten how easy it is to spot the Pitti-goers, double-breasted and bearded just as they were the last time I made this trek; playing the game even at ten thirty PM in an airport.

It’s a bit awkward to realize that you recognize most of what everyone is wearing. There’s a Gray knit blazer. There’s an LBM casentino overcoat. An East Harbor Surplus down vest. Stone Island. Adidas.  I wonder what the tarmac workers think of us as we climb the ladders to the aircraft, our strange parade of coats-draped over-trousers and bellicose lapels cutting a fine figure through the Frankfurt fog. And once arrived, we descend en masse in equal majesty; a riot of sparkly skull rings and undercuts and white sneakers and hoodies worn under overcoats. I wonder at the cumulative worth of the wardrobes contained within the luggage at the baggage carousel. It takes away the fun of things when it feels as though none of us have any imagination whatsoever. 

Pitti, however, hides some gems. We’ll report back, but I do have some pressing thoughts:

  1. First of all, I can’t help but wonder how long it will take for the see now, buy now mindset to take over Pitti. Choya, a Japanese shirt maker, is taking MTM shirt measurements at their stand, and I can’t imagine they’re alone – or that other brands are far behind.
  2. It felt empty today, on the guest front. I’d be interested to see what the official numbers are.
  3. Hype rules all. Arianna and I went to the presentation of the new collaboration Liverano & Liverano x Roy Rogers denim, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t almost want a pair by the end. And I wondered, per bullet point 1, how many people would have thrown money at the stand hand they been allowed to take the jeans home.
  4. There are a lot of well-dressed people, proportional to the number that look, frankly, ridiculous.
  5. There are a lot of neat brands, too – perhaps it’s Arianna’s idealism that’s rubbing off on me, or perhaps I’ve somehow never noticed in the past, but some of the brands here are, well – they’re cool.
  6. Yasuto Kamoshita remains maybe the best-dressed man on the planet. Wish I’d taken a picture.
  7. The Italian way of eating lunch, in which you drink wine, eat tasty charcuterie, and talk for two hours, is much better than wolfing down whatever hellish fast food you can find while continuing to work, like we do in the states.
  8. Since I know some of you out there are just waiting for me to talk about how miserable I am – yeah, my feet are a little sore.

After all of that, we attended the Permanent Style x Plaza Uomo symposium event, where we saw some old friends. And tomorrow we’ll get into the full swing of things, with a day of fashion shows, parties, and lots of photos from the Fortezza. You’re following us on Instagram, right?

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