Holiday parties are upon us and we have to figure out what to do. So many events with so little time, festive cheer but confusion abounds. The lack of definitive dress codes is a problem for modern men because there is so little distinction left in what to wear. What does “Business Casual” really mean? If I wear dark denim and a blazer, is that business enough? If I wear a tie, does that take me out of “snappy casual”? Here at Southern Ash, we’ll look two components to attending a great holiday get-together – what to wear and what to bring. Good manners dictates that you should bring along something to the party, and I’ll focus on a bottle of adult beverage for the host and event. My assumptions for the series are a gather of 8-12 people including at least 3 couples (spouses, significant others, or just evening dates).
You get an email or notification that some friends just want to get together for a brief evening around the holidays. Let’s have a little fun and catch up before the family events overwhelm all of our schedules. It’s casual, maybe kid-friendly if the group has wee ones in the orbit. What do you wear?
What to Wear
Truly casual get-togethers are not an excuse for ratty jeans and a faded tee shirt. You can still put together a comfortable and casual look that is holiday appropriate. We’ll eschew ties and suits on this one, but if your group is a casual get-together means suits & ties group more power to you.
A button-down shirt and slightly chunky sweater creates a relaxed but not sloppy look. Here, I went with a slightly larger red sweater as red is a color of the holidays for many of those celebrating, but any bright color will do. This lets you be festive. With the pants, we could go with dark jeans but instead I’ll choose some slighter darker chinos and desert boots to complete the attire. Comfortable and still put together for hanging out with a few friends.
What to Bring:
This one is really tied to the tastes of your small group of friends, and shouldn’t be too pricey. If you are in the suit-and-tie equals casual crowd, drop me a line and we’ll talk. For a wine, you want something that most people will enjoy drinking and that fits with the mood. For my money, a bottle of Chilean Carmenere is a near perfect red to bring along because it is flavorful, rich in story making for great conversation, lacks substantial body so it is quaffable, and doesn’t break the bank. You can get a nice bottle for $10 to $20 at local merchants.
Carmenere is a well regarded Old World grape. It grew up in France as a Cabernet relative. Okay, so it actually may be one of the oldest cultivated grapes for wine. Around the middle of the 19th Century, it was believed lost as so many of the vines were killed by the phylloxera epidemic that shook the Old world vineyards. This, however, was not the case. Instead, clippings had survived in Chile where the individuals did not realize they were growing Carmenere. It was mistaken for merlot and so gave the Chilean merlots’ their distinctive characteristics. About 20 years ago, somebody realized that this was actually Carmenere instead of Merlot and Chile began making some wonderful wines with the grape. When used as a varietal wine, it is best to have young as it does not really improve with age.
As a friend of mine once said, “gin and tonics taste like Christmas.” I am not sure that she meant it as a positive, but I certainly love a good gin and tonic any time of year. For a perfectly reasonable amount, you can grab a bottle of Gordon’s London Dry Gin that contains all the flavors and aromas of the season and has a history with James Bond. My preference for this sort of a gin is Pinnacle Gin, a great flavor for under $15 per bottle, but I have not had much luck finding it locally lately. If your group is more of a vodka drinking crowd (I won’t hold it against you), you can get something like Pinnacle or Smirnoff Vodka. These are an affordable price range but certainly punching above their weight class. One word of caution, make sure that you get the plain Pinnacle Vodka. Pinnacle has been at the forefront of the, in my opinion, absurdly flavored vodka trend. While the regular vodka is a great value buy, the artificial flavors in the others leave a bad taste in my mouth.
That is a quick overview of attending a casual get-together with friends this holiday season in a handy matter. Check back later for the Southern Ash thoughts on Dinner Parties and Cocktail Parties!