When the invitation hit my Inbox I didn’t know what to expect, but the Subject line intrigued me: ‘You’re Invited to a Gentlemen’s Clinic’. I immediately thought it was from my wife and she was giving me a hint, but it wasn’t from her. I unashamed to admit it, I was dubious. I think I’m a pretty gentlemanly guy, but the description of the event made me want to go:
“You may know your way around DC, but do you know how to show up in style? How about the best wine to pair with that cheese plate you just ordered? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We believe that with a little training and helpful advice, all DC men can be versed in the fine art of being a gentleman.”
I pictured booze, bowties, and babes so I had to go.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
Even though I arrived too early and under dressed, (I should have known better, it was a Gentlemen’s Clinic after all) the crowd waiting for the event to start epitomized urban sophisticate and when a few women turned up, the expressions on their faces confirmed that they came to the right place. This event was sponsored by companies that specialist in urbane, sophisticated living. Urban Stems was there to educate the masses about floral concepts. Vino Lovers, a local wine specialist, was on hand to teach us all we really needed to know about wine. Catoctin Creek was on hand to share the ins and outs of gentlmanly cocktails. State of Affairs was in the house to show you how to look, and Thirst DC’s Eric Schulze was in the house MC-ing the show.
Info About Booze You Can Use
After chatting with other eager gents for a while, I found myself standing in line to sample whisky from Loudon County’s first distillery, Catoctin Creek. This-stuff-was-smooth! Now, I’m an old school cocktail drinker. My libation of choice is a Manhattan, but Catoctin’s bartender made an Old Fashioned so good I may need to switch up. Just as I was about to chat him up and ask for a recipe, it was time for him to present.
Still sipping my Old Fashioned, I walked into the main room where Eric Schulze was doing his thing. He was just finishing an impassioned speech about the origins of the word gentleman, and how, now; more than ever, is a great time to set yourself apart by becoming more gentlemanly. Then he introduced the night’s first speaker, our beloved bartender, Chad Robinson.
Chad is Catoctin Creek’s Brand Ambassador and you can tell he loves his job. I imagine him being hunkered down in an office perfecting his cocktailing and then, evangelizing the merits of his spirits to the world. Chad kicked the evening off by having us understand cask strength, or the amount of alcohol by volume contained in whisky when it’s being matured in it’s cask. Also, it’s really important to know when to add water. When a whisky is greater than 50 proof then it’s a good time to add water. And gents, it’s okay to add ice, don’t be ashamed, but if you’re going to add ice, add the water first to let your whisky open up.
I don’t know if it was the Old Fashioned, or that another line had formed up behind Catoctin Creek’s demo table, but Chad’s talk seemed pretty swift. Following Chad were Ajay and Jeff from Urban Stems. Urban Stems boasts same day flower delivery anywhere in the DC metro region. Urban Stems makes it simple to send your lady love flowers via a simple web site. You can choose between three different bouquets, punch in the who and where you want the flowers sent, and pay. Trallahhhh, you’ll instantly earn points. Ajay and Jeff shared with us that 94% of women, want more flowers. Duh. And the best time to send those flowers is at random. Getting flowers as a surprise is the most enriching experience most women experience. Anyone who has been in a healthy long term relationship knows that you have to continue dating after you get married, and a floral surprise at your lady’s desk is a sure fire way to score.
Simple Rules to follow:
1. Never send carnations. Carnations are used for funerals.
2. Red roses mean love. Don’t send them to a new girlfriend or someone you’re just kicking it with.
3. It’s the gesture that counts. Send yellow flowers for a friendly surprise or a mix to brighten a rainy day.
4. Cut your flower stems at an angle to improve water flow, and change the water once a day for long lasting flowers.
5. Ultimately, order fresh flowers.
So be spontaneous and send your lady flowers.
Go Bespoke or Go Home
I was frantically getting my notes down when Kendrick Jackson from State of Affairs approached the center of the room. Wearing measuring tape around his neck, a tousled tie, blue blazer, and no socks, Kendrick was in the room to help us dress our best. I needed his instruction that night y’all. A short sleeve plaid shirt with pocket, gray slacks, and orange socks practically shouted out, “Nerd!” to the room.
Kendrick started his talk off by telling everyone to stop having their girlfriends dress them. Kendrick’s talk centered around ‘fit’ and why it’s important. The crux to looking good is to having clothes that fit and many of us, big and small, tend to buy clothes that are a little larger than we actually are. Many men, myself included, have bought dress shirts a size larger because wec couldn’t button the neck without cutting off our air supply. Baggy shirts makes for a, not-put-together appearance, and makes you look 15 pounds heavier than reality. And big men, like myself, don’t want to look heavier. The solution. Find, then hire a tailor. Bespoke clothing fits better because it’s tailored for your body, but if you can’t swing the extra price for local tailoring you can also try online tailors like iTailor. I’ve used this service myself and like it a lot. If iTailor is still too rich for your bones, then you can always take your off the rack clothing to a tailor for adjustment. Taking up hems, bringing in sleeves, and extra cuts around the shoulders can go a long way to a presentable image.
Kendrick also recommends that you blend color into your wardrobe in subtle ways. In DC, it’s hard to play with color, the dark blue, charocal, and black suits are the uniforms of our daily wear. We can add more splash to our wardrobes by wearing colorful ties, fancy cufflinks, and my favorite accessory, funky socks.
Finally, we received some insight into caring for our suits. Here are some simple rules:
1. Air out your suits instead of just drycleaning them. Hang them in the shower with you and let the steam clean them.
2. Know your dry cleaner. Dry cleaners reuse solvents. If your suit smells after being dry cleaned. Find a new cleaner.
Closing out the clothing segment was State of Affairs’ Eliot Payne showing us how to tie a bowtie. I needed it. I always have my wife tie my bowtie.
Stop Whinging About Wine
And batting cleanup for tonight’s activities was Justin Harrison from Vino Lovers. Vino Lovers is a great wine at your door service headquartered right here in DC. Justin strolled to the center of the floor and brandished a bottle of sparkling wine for us all to see, bellowing, “Wine has intimidated the shit out of people for a long time.” Hell of an intro.
For Justin, getting into wine was all about the holy shit bottle, a Schaefer 2008, that led him to being a wine otaku. Understanding wine is about being open and knowing what you like. There are so many rules around wine that it makes people fearful of it, but you needn’t be. In the end, the only thing that matters is knowing what you like to drink. Forget about everything else.
Understanding where wine grapes are grown and wine is made is important. Many people say they don’t like red wine. That’s not true. Many people don’t like the tannins in red wine that cause them to have a bitter flavor. Tannins are the molecules inherent in plants that inflluence their flavor characteristics. Wine’s fermentation process alters the tannins in grapes that causes the flavors and bouquet of wine. Understanding where wine is made will help you gain insight into the characteristics of the grapes and the tannins in the wine. For instance, red wines from Napa Valley will be high in alcohol content and have a high acidity. New Zealand white wines will taste brighter with lots of high notes.
How to order?
Alright, pop quiz hot shot. You’re out and it’s the perfect evening. You’re wearing your favorite suit and a bespoke shirt from State of Affairs. Y’all have just been seated at a table at the Inn at Little Washington and were handed a wine list. What do you do? What do you do?
According to Justin the first thing you shouldn’t do is panic. The second thing you shouldn’t do is order the house wine or cheapest thing on the menu. First, get an understanding of what you and your lady may order for the night’s meal. Red wines go well with game meats, think lamb, beef, and buffalo. Whites will go well with pastas in white sauces, chicken, fish, and squab. Think back to what you know; chardonnay will be buttery, Pinot Grigio bolder. Zinfandels (my personal favorite) bold and delightful. Pick a wine you like and order it. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask the sommelier. That’s what they are paid for. Ask them for a recommendation based upon your meal and they should deliver.
Before you start swigging your wine look at the pour. Make sure there’s no cloudiness. Cloudiness means the wine has turned. Send it back. Look out for sediments, elements of grape seeds, bark, and twigs. Expect aged wines to have some sedimentation. If a wine is 2010 or younger and has sediments, send it back. Swirl the wine to open it up and let some air in. Wine needs oxygen to get full aroma. Smell it dammit. Make sure there are no raisins or gym socks in the notes. Sip it. If it works, keep it. If not…Send-it-back.
Don’t be ashamed to send wine back. Look, you’re spending real money on some wine. If it’s funky or sour, you don’t want to waste your money or your date’s goodwill on it. If anything, the staff is going to take it home and drink it. Or the restaurant will sell it to some other uncouth patron and mark it up 400%. Also, never order the house Pinot Grigio. Why? Pinot Grigio has a high alcohol content, because of this, a bottle of Grigio can sit on the shelf near forever and be poured until its empty. The possibility of drinking stale old wine is high. Be polite, but send it back.
Why Should I Care About Wine?
Wine is the ultimate social lubricant. Whisky, gin, and vodka’s are all sexy and can get you just as toasty. But, you, and your conversation can go a whole lot farther on a bottle of wine than a couple of shots of whisky or vodka. You can’t drink liquor all night, but you can open two or three bottles of wine and keep the good times going.
Justin’s talk closed out the evening, and having drank all of Justin’s wine and Catoctin’s booze the night turned into a steady stream of networking. Before heading home to the misses, I had a moment to speak with Eric Schulze. I asked why a night like tonight matters, and why being gentlemanly in the 21st century is a cool thing to do, especially in a cool town like DC. He left me with this nugget, “being a good man is about the details, not about the clothes or anything else we talked about tonight. It’s about the thought of who you are that makes you a better person.” Well said, Eric. And the details of knowing how to order flowers, making the perfect manly cocktail, choosing clothes that fit, and ordering the right bottle of wine for a meal are all details that can make all of us more gentlmanly.
I did get a chance to chat up Chad’s love for cocktails, good whisky’s, and the important of choosing the right bitters. Here’s his recipe for making the perfect Manhattan.
Char’s Perfect Manhattan
– 2 oz Catoctin Whisky
– 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
– A dash (or to taste [heavy handed if you want to be]) of Peychaud’s Bitters
– No shaking
– Stir Gently
– Garnish with orange peel for Bourbon Whisky, a Cherry for Rye
– Drink Up