Happy Hour: The Vintage Holiday Cocktail Guide of What to Drink When

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Nothing is more festive than whipping up a round of cocktails to toast the season and spread holiday cheer. Whether you prefer your happy hour hot or cold, sweet or staunch, straight or slushy chances are there is at least one vintage drink that you could enjoy any time any where no questions asked. But did you  know that there is actually an appropriate time and place for some very specific cocktails? Not all are meant to be enjoyed as a prequel to dinner, a post work wind-down or an eleventh hour night cap.  Today we are setting the bar straight and suggesting the most appropriate time and circumstance to enjoy your favorite vintage libation as approved by Amy Vanderbilt, mid-century America’s go-to etiquette adviser.

Eggnog – Only in the Afternoon

Try a Jamie Oliver version here.
Try a Jamie Oliver version here.

Eggnog, the traditional centuries old cream filled concoction that has more recently filled Tom & Jerry bowls for over  five decades is meant to be consumed only  in the afternoon, in cold climates and ideally alongside a holiday treat like fruit cake or sweet biscuits. Even though it is now consumed anywhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year’s Day is actually the most appropriate holiday for this beverage harking back to the British custom of raising a glass to toast good health and prosperity in the coming year. Never serve eggnog just before dinner. Its high fat content, rich flavor and thick consistency make it too heavy for hors d’oeuvres hour.

Hot Buttered Rum, Glogg and Spiced Wine – Only After Exercise

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Make your own Swedish Glogg with this recipe here.

These are the spirits you want to enjoy after a heavy dose of physical activity in frigid, frosty climates.  Any outdoor activity that has you moving around a bit (shoveling snow, ice skating, skiing, chopping firewood, hanging holiday lights, building a snowman, etc)  is the perfect precursor to a warm cup of spice that will balance your blood sugar and warm your belly. Plus that extra bit of butter in your cup of rum doesn’t seem nearly as devastating if you just shoveled your way out of your latest snowstorm. Like eggnog these contain a rich and colorful mixture of scent and flavor, so you should avoid serving this trio right before a big meal too.  Give yourself at least a three hour spacer between these drinks and dinner.

Tom Collins, Mint Juleps, Rum & Colas, Punch – Only When You Are Not Eating

Find a traditional recipe for a classic Tom Collin here
Find a traditional recipe for a classic Tom Collins here

This assortment of spirits is meant for more sociable affairs where large amounts of food or a dedicated meal are not going to be served. Traditionally in the mid-century days of Amy Vanderbilt’s time such activities included club meetings, card games, dances, open houses, fundraisers and sporting events typically attended sometime between noon and 5:00 pm. They generally followed brunch but preceded cocktail hour. Their light, sweet consistencies were meant more as a refresher  – a spirit to perk your spirits – and keep you feeling lively and engaged in an activity that didn’t revolve around eating.

Brandy, Stingers, Vegetable and Herb Liqueurs – Only After Dinner

The easiest of cocktails. Find the two ingredient Stinger cocktail recipe here
The easiest of cocktails. Find the two ingredient Stinger cocktail recipe here.

All of these drinks fall under the digestif category and should be enjoyed only after dinner. By this time of  night you undoubtedly would welcome a little peaceful calm down. These types of cocktails are like your very own batch of internal elves helping your body in digesting both the day’s events and the day’s food intake. On the body front they help enzymes and organs break down food and on your brain front they help relax your thoughts and settle your spirit for a night-time’s worth of relaxation. There’s a reason why people “retired” to another room for post-dinner brandy back in the days of elegant entertaining. It was the ideal end-cap to the evening for both body and mind.

Find a classic Manhattan cocktail recipe here.
Find a classic Manhattan cocktail recipe here.

So now that we have discussed some drinks that shouldn’t be hanging out at happy hour, let’s look at the little darlings that deserve a  seat at the bar between that much anticipated 5:00pm-7:00pm stretch…

One of our favorites in the land of Ms. Jeannie - find a classic martini recipe here.
One of our favorites in the land of Ms. Jeannie – find a classic martini recipe here.

Martinis, Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds, Daiquiris, Bacardis and Whiskey Sours –

These are the gang you want to spend your time with if a feast awaits in the near future. While they pack punch in the flavor department they don’t overpower your palate, so dinner will taste marvelous. All these drinks contain a mixture of pretty little garnishes like olives or cherries but proper decorum dictates that you should only eat those offered on toothpick or skewer. Amy Vanderbilt frowns on anyone fishing around inside their cocktail glasses with their fingers. No matter how hungry you get before dinner.

Finally, if all else fails and you can’t recall what you are supposed to be enjoying when remember this easy guide… brights and lights for warm weather, dark and moody for cold weather. That means…

top to bottom: Gin and Tonic, Vodka Tonic and
top to bottom: Gin and Tonic, Vodka Tonic and Coconut Rum.

if you are looking at palm trees, pools, heat, humidity, bathing suits and beaches on your Christmas holiday stick to gin and tonics, vodka gingers, coconut rums or anything light in color and topped with citrus. But if your holiday plans take you in the exact opposite direction and your vantage point involves twig trees, frozen ponds, wind chill temperatures, gloves and scarves and snow covered hills then warm up from the inside out with bourbon, scotch, rum, brandy and all the variations that produce colors in the brown, black, red and amber shades.

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Clockwise from top right: Scotch on the rocks, Black Russian, Sidecar

Common sense and natural instinct prevail here in the vintage drink guide. But sometimes we can get so caught up in the novelty of the holiday or the fun of party planning that we forget about proper pairings. We want to try everything. But just like wine and beer every cocktail has its ideal place on the food and activity spectrum.  So this year, follow this guide and you will sail through Christmas and New Year’s feeling snappy instead of sick.

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Cheers to partying like a professional!

9 Ways to While Away Your Holiday Weekend!

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It’s here! It’s here! The summer holiday season has officially started. Happy Memorial Day dear readers! If you are looking for some fun activity suggestions look no further, Ms. Jeannie has just the thing. Whether you want to get out or stay-in, celebrate or sleep, here is a list of nine different ways to while away your weekend…

  1. Go Stargazing!

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The How and Why Wonder Book of Stars. 1960 edition. Find it here in the bookshop.

Give that neck of yours a break from always looking down, down, down at computer and phone screens! Nothing is more relaxing or more magical than taking some time to simply look up at the stars. Right now, in Ms. Jeannie’s section of the globe, the constellation Hercules is taking center stage in the night sky, which is appropriate for the holiday weekend because Hercules led an exhausting life performing all sorts of daunting tasks in service to King Eurystheus before succumbing to a fiery death. He needed a restful break, just like you and he finally got it in his after-life as star of the spring/summer sky. His kneeling pose proves that he is truly relaxed (finally!) in the night sky.

Hercules is the upside man in gold. Photo courtesy of RetroPrintMaker.
Hercules is the upside man in gold at the top of the picture. This antique constellation print can be found at RetroPrintMaker via Etsy!

You are never to old to enjoy astronomy from a child’s point of view, and that is exactly what the How & Why Wonder Book of the Stars brings to you directly from 1960. Whether you read it to yourself or to a little one, you’ll come away with a new found sense of the solar system that is both whimsical and wise. Find the book here. And visit EarthSky to find out what stars will be appearing in your specific section of sky tonight.

2. Feed Your Friends and Family!

Cooking for a Crowd - vintage style!
Cooking for a Crowd – vintage style!

Whether you are grilling out, picnic-ing, pot-lucking or just plain partying this weekend bring something new to the festivities with a vintage recipe! Find all the inspiration you need in Ms. Jeannie’s instagram feed and in the vintage kitchen section of the blog, where she features recipes from all the vintage cookbooks available in her bookshop.

3. Plant Some Flowers!

vintage planters

Liven up your indoor spaces with some outdoor plants and flowers! These versatile vintage planters transition so well between all the seasons. Great for herb gardens, micro plants and artistic succulent-scapes these ceramic vessels bring pretty personality to any shelf, table top or sill. Find the the above assortment here.

4. Go Birdwatching!

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Fall in love with your favorite birds day after day after day with these vintage 1950s bird botanical prints. Find a large assortment here.

This past week Ms. Jeannie’s neighborhood was taken over by an unexpected kite festival. Not the colorful cloth kite flyers that you find at the beach but the bird species, the Mississippi Kite.

The falcon-like Mississippi Kite in all it's silvery beauty. Photo via pinterest.
The falcon-like Mississippi Kite in all it’s silvery beauty. Photo via pinterest.

Dozens of these intriguing characters swooped and dipped and dived for days around the house giving Ms. Jeannie the opportunity to take a break and look at the wonderful world happening around her. Closely resembling falcons, kites have silver under-bellies that shimmer in the sky like diamonds. And just like star-gazing there is something both calming and curious about looking and listening to the bird world around us.

5. Get Back to You!

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Bright and cheery vintage tea treasures can be found in the bookshop here.

Sometimes we all just need to calm the heck down. Tea helps in this department immensely! A pretty personalized tea service and some embroidered vintage linens make the presentation of your soothing experience all the more zen-like. Dive into a novel set in China, written by Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck, and you have set the mood for a mini-vacation in the making.

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A vintage 1969 edition of The Three Daughters of Madame Liang can be found in the bookshop!

6. Go to the Zoo!

Speaking of unusual nature sightings, if you want a little bit of whimsy take yourself to the zoo! In the land of Ms. Jeannie curiosity comes in all forms, and travel happens both literally and metaphorically, so if you find that you don’t have access or ability to a real-life zoo – no problem! Take your imagination on a pictorial adventure with Robert Lopshire and his polka-dotted pal. Find them here.

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This 1960 edition of Put Me In the Zoo is so cute and colorful! Find it here.

7. Go on a Date!

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Sometimes all the dinner date inspiration you need is wrapped up in one vintage clothing piece. Make new memories with old classics like this 1960s beaded cashmere sweater or this snappy vintage silk bowtie.

One of the few seriously great and often overlooked activities in the warmer months is eating outdoors. In the South practically no one eats outside because of the humidity except for Ms. Jeannie! Whether its a bustling city cafe, a rural garden restaurant or even just the back patio of your favorite local hangout, nothing says easy summer like a breezy Memorial Day dinner that you have no hand in preparing (or cleaning up!). So pull out your best dress and your date’s summer suit and make this Memorial Day the most romantic one on record!

8. Have a Cocktail!

Vintage 1950's flash card spells out the sentiment of the holiday weekend! Find it here
Vintage 1940’s flash card spells out the sentiment of the holiday weekend! Find it here.

Or maybe two or three! It’s the sign of a spirited environment when your fellow weekenders say “I’ll have another please!” One of Craig Claiborne’s favorite May-inspired cocktails was Luchow’s May Wine Bowl, which featured two stars of the late spring/early summer growing season: woodruff and strawberries. If woodruff (the herb) is unavailable in your area you can substitute it for vanilla.

Luchow’s May Wine Bowl

1/2 cup dried woodruff (or two teaspoons of vanilla)

1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar

1/2 cup cognac

2 bottles Rhine or Moselle  wine

1 bottle champagne or club soda

1/2 cup whole fresh strawberries

  1. Tie the woodruff up in a small piece of cheesecloth. Place in a bowl and add sugar, cognac and one-half bottle of wine. Cover closely and let stand overnight.
  2. Strain the woodruff-wine mixture into a punch bowl containing ice cubes or a large chunk of ice. And the remaining still wine, champagne and strawberries. Serve in stemmed glasses. Yields eight to 10 cups.

This recipe was featured in Craig’s Herb and Spice Cook Book which you can find here.

9. Take a Trip!

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Find a bevy of assorted travel books and other vintage reads in the bookshop here.

This may be the ultimate luxury on a three day weekend! But if you can’t afford a trip away this holiday, do not fret! Traveling is a mindset as much as it is an experience. Relish in the adventure of reading with this selection of travel inspired books that will transport you to other places and other times.

Hitchhike your way around 1970’s Europe in the Hitchhiker’s Road Book; kiss the shore goodbye as you head out on ocean waters in Let’s Explore the Seas; fly through 1930s Africa in Following the Sun Shadow; explore 1960s New York City with composer Ned Rorem; learn how to parlez vous in French like a local with Collins French Phrase Book; and take in the sights around London with adorable Zachary Zween.

As you can see, holiday adventures await in an assorted number of ways. However you chose to spend this festive weekend, Ms. Jeannie hopes that it is magical!  Happy Memorial Day dear readers. Now… let the summer begin!

*** From Friday through Tuesday, take 20% off your purchase in Ms. Jeannie’s shop using the coupon code: MEMORIAL2016 ***