27 February 2009

Friday Belts - The Tiffany Martini

One classic deserves another.

I've always had a thing for the martini. But it's all about the details. For me, it has to be gin and it has to be very dry. There was once a bar in Philadelphia called Harry's. The bartender was better than the bar. Murray made the best martini I've ever had (other than my own) and when he poured it into the chilled glass on the bar - - I swear you could smell juniper from across the room. He's still one of the best barmen I know and can be found today in Philadelphia at the Westin in Liberty Place (the old Ritz Carlton).

For some contrast...back in the late 80's I ordered a martini in London. I was given a couple ounces of warm gin in a highball glass. London didn't get jiggy with martinis until the 90's. Duke's Hotel has a couple Italian bartenders who push around twee little carts and laugh at you if you ask for olives whilst they prepare your cocktail tableside. When I'm paying a small fortune for a cocktail I really don't need that kinda crap. Consequently, I've never returned. Buena fortuna, Tony!

Martinis have a well deserved reputation as being dangerous. Just like women's breasts...one's not enough and three's too many. It should be icy cold with a smidge of dilution from the shaken ice. Dry vermouth, while it has it's place, has no place here. I shake mine until the cold stainless steel shaker gives me frost bite and like so many things - - I like it a little dirty. The first sip should almost take your breath away. Use whatever gin you like. I followed Trad Dad and am a Beefeater man. I tried this stuff you see in the picture. Cheap. Very 60's bottle. Not bad for what it is. Anyway, I'm sure a bartender in South Kensington is microwaving a martini for some Yank right about now.

The sterling monogrammed buckle with alligator strap speaks to the crisp cold of the martini. Elegant, understated and simple. It's not a cheap proposition but you'll have it for donkey years. My plain buckle goes back to 1991 or '92 and I have an engine turned buckle from '87. The strap is Brooks Bros and I have no idea how old it is. At least 1992. Maybe earlier?

I remember paying $75 for the engine turned buckle. That's $3.40 a year for something that'll never go outta style and if you buy it from Tiffany they'll polish it free for life. Mine or the buckle's... I'm not really sure. "No, I just came in for a polish. May I look at the Crain's letter stock you fob off as your own while I wait?" $215 for a buckle today but what's it gonna cost in 2029? Hell, what's a martini gonna cost in 2029?

25 February 2009

The Trad Line

From the 1968 Yackety Yack.

20 February 2009

The Friday Belt

Trad Sister (actually she's more Bohemian than Trad) found a belt that was given to her by Trad Grandmother (actually she was more Continental than Trad) that belonged to Trad Dad as a high school kid in the 50s. I assume the belt was given to my father by Trad Granddad (more a Roaring 20s type) but I'm not sure. This was the German infantryman's buckle in WWII. Gott Mit Uns or God is With Us has always confirmed my suspicion that government BS is a full time job. Then and now.

From a design perspective it's a masterpiece. Cheaply made from stamped aluminum with that ever common sentiment among those cretins who send soldiers to die, "God is on our side." God sure has been on a lot of sides. Anyway, I can't wear this with my favorite Ralph Lauren khakis but it'll be placed in the sock drawer with the whistle my Grandfather carried in WWII and the sterling silver jump wings my father wore in Vietnam. I like to think of the three of us and what we all have in common. A love of beer.

Ballantine Ale is a lot like a Nazi belt buckle - - somewhat embarrassing with an ancient graphic and an underground following. I know Trad Dad drank it. First brewed in 1840 I assume my Grandfather had one or two as was well. Only available in a handful of States today --I just rediscovered it. The best part? Like that Springfield Rifle Sling belt...at $17 a case it's a steal.
Today the brand is owned by Pabst but made by Miller in Milwaukee. Oddly, you can't get it south of the Cheese Curtain in Chicago. I'm not sure what the Brand Manager of this stuff is up to but I have a feeling this beer is gonna take off soon. If it doesn't - - he should be fired and I should be hired.

I was always a fan of hoppy beers. In the last ten years the IPA or India Pale Ale has taken the beer market by storm. Many sell for $10 a six pack. In the New York City of 1985 I drank Ballantine Ale for one reason. It was cheap. Ten years later I rediscovered the beer in Chicago. An IPA, it was made in Ft. Wayne and it was still cheap. Then it disappeared.
It was the beer of choice for Trad Dad in Central Asia and just when I thought it was long gone it finds me again. Not as hoppy as the Ft Wayne IPA but what do want for .70 cents a bottle? This is a great everyday beer. Perfect with cheap Port Wine Cheese and Triscuts. There's something about that chalky processed cheese being cut with cold Ballantine that I just love.

17 February 2009

Trad Truths

"You should feel that, under the right conditions, all women would be available. Maybe it would cost a lot of money, maybe it's a matter of timing. Who knows. Helmut Newton

I wasn't a fan of Helmut's photography but the man was a poet. Anyway, check out Harvey Weinstein's wife this month in Town & Country. She's moved up the designer ladder in no time --but not without huge sacrifice.

13 February 2009

The Friday Belt: Surcingle & Americano

I remember walking into Cordings the first time. With very little money but with some sense I thought, "This is what Ralph Lauren couldn't do on his best day." Not that Ralph ain't talented but Cordings is the real deal.

I really like surcingle belts. Cheap and colorful; it's obvious purpose is to hold up a pair of casual khakis, shorts or cords. I'll step out on a limb and admit I've worn a navy & red surcingle with a navy sack suit and bow tie. Rarely seen today but not so outrageous 40 years ago. You can find these belts anywhere but I've always preferred the non-elastic version at J. Press. They were $30 or so my last visit. Beautiful stripings and solids. They'll outlive me. Anyway, getting back to Cordings...I saw the belt above hanging all alone on a sale rack.

I thought, "Hey, surcingle belt. My size. Ten pounds. That's a no brainer, yeah."

It was wrapped carefully and slipped it into a Cordings bag. For a while that bag meant more to me than the belt. Until I learned of the belts's history. In the UK they call this a Regimental Belt. This one has the "Regimental" colors of the Black Watch. That's why I like to wear it with a Black Watch shirt or jacket. No one ever seems to notice...but me.

The Americano

I started drinking the Americano in the early 90s. It was the perfect cocktail with the boss or the in-laws. Or when you had to stay sober. Bitter and low in alcohol it was something you sipped unlike a beer-- which I tend to drink very fast. Back then, I started with Campari (1/3) and whatever sweet vermouth (1/3) there was. Topped it off with club soda (1/3) and was it.

By the way, getting older is really a mixed bag. I'm not gonna say it's all good or all bad. Although, I was happy to read in last Sunday's NY Times that Lilly Allen likes older men and is dating one of her father's friends who is in his mid 40s. That warms the heart of dirty old men everywhere. Something else to like with old age is more money and a pursuit of the smallest details when it comes to...just about anything. Art, booze, shoes, news, music, rugs, cars and bars. I do love learning about stuff.

I recently learned of this sweet vermouth mentioned in last weeks "Friday Belts." Carpano Antica Formula is $29 and a buggar to find. Go here for the company web site but good luck with the distribution page. I couldn't get anything out of it. Sherry Lehman is where I get mine. If you're gonna be in NYC anytime soon I suggest you blow off the Statue of Liberty and go get a bottle of this stuff. It's simply mind blowing.

I deep six'ed the Canada Dry Club Soda and now use Perrier or San Pelligrino. Look, there's not a lot of booze in this so you may as well do it right and enjoy it. Kind'a like sex after you're 40. I like Aperol over Campari because...well...because the bottle looks cool. There, I admit it. I'm a visual guy. What can I say.

Once you have the right stuff just pour equal portions over ice and prepare to sip. It's bitter, sweet and tart and a nice way to slide into dinner. It also pairs nicely with that regimental belt.

11 February 2009

Suits you, sir.

London has always shamed the States in many ways. Here's a guy passing the Laura Ashley store some years ago. Cutest sales girls in that store. By the way, this was taken on a Saturday. Not far from here is Jermyn Street. A favorite street of mine. Some of London's best shopping for men is found on this street. The salesmen call you, "Sir" a lot. And they do it a unique tone. Not unlike this clip from "The Fast Show."

If you need a laugh - - I strongly urge you to watch this clip...sir.

09 February 2009

The Bean Blucher vs Frau Blucher

The Blucher Moccasin circa 1988. This was taken in British Columbia. God's country, eh.

A favorite shoe of mine and I should never have thrown 'em out. Back then you just assumed you could always order another pair. Had I known then... Not a fan of the barrel knot. It always reminded me of the girls in college who bit their nails.

This is what LL Bean'll ship today. It looks nothing at all like the pair I'm wearing. Plastic feeling leather cheaply made and with only the most obvious details left over. The last is clunky and the toe squared to satisfy Kenneth Cole fans. What a shame. It makes you shudder - - or whinny. I wonder if Frau Blucher bit her nails?

06 February 2009

The Friday Belt

The Springfield Rifle belt was sold for years by LL Bean. Based on the sling from the '03 Springfield 30-06, this simple belt not only kept your pants up but borrowed design cues from the military without banging you over the head with a shovel. This subtle nod to the LL Bean customer was a hit. OK, I don't know if it was a hit. Maybe they sold three. But this guy bought one.

See the guy with the laundry bag? He's wearing a sling belt. Click on the picture for a closer look. This is from Take Ivy and so we're looking at 1965. I remember the belts being very popular in the southeast around the early to mid 80's. They were also advertised heavily by LL Bean in the New Yorker. Sometime in the early 90's I thought I'd like to have one and POOF... They disappeared. Just like the Greek in the joke.

There's this outfit called Colonel Littleton . Very popular with southern Trads. They had a variation of the sling belt that was sold by Willis and Geiger that was bought by Lands' End who ran it into the ground when POOF... Willis and Geiger disappeared. But it wasn't really a sling belt. I looked on and off for this belt going back to 1992. I kid you not. And then one day I found it.

I ordered my belt from these guys. Narragansett Leathers is in Damariscotta, ME. The belt is $36 plus $9 or so for shipping. They're wonderful people who insist you call them to place an order. I like that. They'll also ship world wide. How much can a belt weigh? Those other belts look pretty heavy but the Springfield Rifle Sling belt is very light. It's made in the US. It's affordable. It's damned good looking. It's Trad. Hard to go wrong there. Now it's time for the belt you can drink.
I think it appropriate to kick off the Friday Belt with a Manhattan. I was a bourbon drinker in college and the army. Not so much afterwards. Back then Wild Turkey was my brand. Why? Clint Eastwood ordered it in The Eiger Sanction. Is there a better reason than that? Anyway, I pour 2 ounces of Rye Whiskey in a glass without ice. I like Sazerac a lot. Tough to find but worth the effort.

Add 1 ounce of sweet vermouth. I like Carpano. If you think Sazerac is hard to find wait'll you try and find this stuff. $29 a bottle. Steep for vermouth but this stuff is amazing. I use it in Americanos and there's nothing like it. It comes in a handsome tin that you can mail cigars and screenplays in to big shot film producers who you roommated with in college but now never return your calls or emails.

Being a fairly bitter man -- I like bitters a lot. For a Manhattan I use the two bottles on your far left. A dash of Peychaud's (a Sazerac connection) and two dashes of Regan's Orange bitters. Now add ice and stir with a cocktail spoon. One of those long ones. Stir for 5 minutes or so. Maybe 10. You want it very cold and you want some of that ice to melt. Strain into a chilled martini glass from the freezer and take a sip. Will a cherry or slice of orange help? I dunno. I never have the patience to put that stuff in. Next Friday we'll be looking at wine made with sour grapes. I have a lot of those.

05 February 2009

Joe Ades The Peeler Man

Mr. Ades passed away in his sleep last Sunday. He was 75. I would see him at Union Square and across the street from Bloomingdales slicing carrots in a Turnbull and Asser shirt. If you don't live in New York please take a couple of minutes and watch the You Tube video below. You'll see why I love this city so much.

04 February 2009

Black Watch

The Gulf Foxtrot (girlfriend) took me to see Black Watch last Fall. It's been four months and I still can't get this play outta my head. As a soldier it connected to me in ways the Gulf Foxtrot couldn't understand. The letter reading scene hit me from nowhere and I couldn't believe how close it was...how close it still is. Here's the opening scene and monologue. With what I wore today.

Voice Over
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the unique setting of the Edinburgh Drill Hall. It's almost time for the thrilling moment when the gates swing open. The unforgettable first sight and sound of the massed pipes and drums.

Ladies and gentlemen, may we present the Black Watch.

A'right. Welcome to this story of the Black Watch.
At first, I didnay want to day this.
I didnay want tay have to explain myself tay people ay.
See, I think people's minds are usually made up about you if you were in the army.

They are though ay?
They poor fucking boys. They cannay day anything else.
They cannay get a job. They get exploited by the army.

Well, I want you to fucking know. I wanted to be in the army.

I could have done other stuff. I'm not a fucking knuckle-dragger.

03 February 2009

I can't wear what?

There's a whole lot going on over at Michael William's blog, "A Continuous Lean." Michael's a good kid. He's a smart kid. And if you read the comment page about his recent quote in Newsweek Magazine you'll discover he's a, "take no crap" kid. Check it out. I'll wait.

So you see... Michael has this thing for work clothes that I don't really understand. I busted my ass for 20 years so I wouldn't have to wear the clothes he loves so much. If I was allowed to "do what I want" years ago, I'd be a deputy sheriff somewhere in Florida with a wood porch attached to my double wide trailer filled with kids and a pissed off wife working part time at Denny's. I can just see my youngest shooting at the propane tank with a BB gun. Don't laugh. My mother will tell you it almost happened.

Instead, after the Army I went to college and after college, I worked at Brooks Brothers, devoured Flusser's books, cruised Tripler, Chipp and J Press in NYC. In London I sucked up Jermyn Street like it was a pint of Bitter. I peered into the windows of Savile Row tailors - - too scared to venture inside --but I was comfortable in Hackett, New and Lingwood, Harvie and Hudson and felt at home with John Carnera at George Cleverley. I saved for alligator straps with Tiffany sterling buckles and became friends with sales people at Polo on Michigan Avenue, Dunhill on Oak Street and Paul Stuart in the Hancock.

I could care less about Filson tin cloth work pants and Alden Indy boots but I'll defend the biggest Nancy Boy to wear that stuff if that's what they wanna wear. I think it looks ridiculous but who is anyone to tell anyone what to wear?

The above photos are what I'm wearing today. English and American. I think it works. Flusser may disagree. You can tell me I shouldn't wear it - - but no one will tell me I can't.

02 February 2009

Loose Change

Who needs to buy anything when a Trad can shake his (or her) closet loose for sartorial change.