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Four Things About Your Man-Cave

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

By: Brian

In recent years, popular culture indicates it has become fashionable for a man to have a personal dwelling around or within his home beyond the usual living room or bedroom.  Thus we have invented a place dedicated solely to the tastes and comforts of an individual.  A private retreat from chores, everyday stresses, and even the demands of our beloved womenfolk.  The man-cave.

The subject of many an Architectural Digest article, the meat and potatoes of numerous DIY episodes, subject of mystery to the fairer sex, there is a set of principals and basic standards for a man-cave that go largely overlooked.

When I think of a genuine man-cave, I think of my Great-Uncle’s den.  A small doorway just past the kitchen, his was a brick walled, dimly lit room that smelled like pipe tobacco and old paper.  Glass cabinets lined the left wall, holding books, pistols, and trinkets acquired from a lifetime of worldliness.  In front of each was a waist-high sturdy wooden workbench with reloading machines and vices; the tools of a firearm aficionado.

There was plenty of seating, aside from his personal recliner, a small fireplace for comfort, and a large window overlooking the back yard.  Next to his chair was a small end-table covered with stacks of old magazines, pens and pencils, and bits of paper with notes on them.

It was a small, cozy room dominated by the things that meant the most to him.  In this era, especially now, where so many of us just want to get away, there are some finer points we can take from Uncle Mike’s man-cave.

First, make sure your man cave is a place where you do something.  Uncle Mike would clean and work on guns, reload spent rounds, and have Sunday evening discussions with my father and uncles, and now, my cousins and myself.  A bright room with flashy colors and decals designed as a shrine to Superman becomes more of a gallery and less of a personal space.  It’s good to walk through with the rare (if interested) house guest, but it offers little in the way of practicality unless there is some sort of activity that you can do there that you couldn’t do anywhere else.

Secondly; while a man-cave is generally a semi-private place, this does not make it an exclusive place.  It is understandable if you prefer not to have children invading your desk, jumping on your couch, or breaking your something-0r-other from that place with the thing, but prohibiting all others from entry makes you look like a bully on a jungle-gym.  Accept that you will have company beyond your buddies at some point: the fact that you have a man-cave at all will deter those who know better than to intrude.

Third–and this is a difficult line to walk–your man-cave should not be filled with piles of useless garbage.  Clutter and other forms of mildly organized chaos will accumulate on their own over time, but baseline cleaning should never go out the window.  If you’re finding half finished projects with no hope of completion or notes that no longer hold any meaning, discard them.  It is certainly your space and you’re welcome to do with it what you will, but remember that you aren’t guaranteed to be the only visitor.

Fourth; your space should make a statement about you and not be you trying to make a statement.  Specialized design and extravagance is acceptable only so long as function and purpose are not exceeded by them.  An astro-turf carpet and hundred dollar mural of a hole on St. Andrews might look pretty snazzy, but when you’re looking for a comfortable place to have a drink and watch whatever game you enjoy, spending unnecessary amounts of money on a manufactured atmosphere can cheapen the joy of  a private haven.

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The Art of the Cigar

Monday, December 20th, 2010

By: Brian

While smoking is generally considered an undesirable practice, there are times when the occasional cigar is a merited reward or novelty exclusive to no man: provided he knows how to smoke it.

Any quality cigar lounge will have cases upon cases of cigars of every size and color displayed prominently from within their humidors.  Each box will have two numbers on it.  The first is the diameter of the cigar in 64ths of an inch.  The second number, which indicates the length of the cigar, ranges from 1 to (usually) 9 inches, but as with all things there are exceptions.

Cigars range from a light, almost greenish-brown color to a black.  The outer wrapping leaves determine the overall color and shape, while the interior filler leaves determine the flavor.  A good rule of thumb is that the darker the cigar,  the stronger the flavor, and the more blue the smoke.  Likewise, lighter cigars may have a gentler taste and a more white, billowing smoke.

Typically, the smell of the wrapping on a cigar is roughly the flavor one can expect to have on their lips as they smoke it.

Once a selection has been made, there are two options: use a cigar punch and drive a hole in the bottom of the cigar, or invest in a quality guillotine cutter, and remove the cap. To cut a cigar, look to the cap for where the binding leaves connect with the outer wrapping: there should be a narrow ring of leaf where the wrappings change direction.  Slide your cutter to the point that the blades are resting lightly on the ring, then firmly and smoothly, close the cutter and remove the cap.

From there, the rest is rather simple: inhalation is optional.  Use wooden matches to preserve flavor, and turn the cigar when you light it to ensure an even burn.  Leave about 3/4 of an inch of ash on the ember to act as insulation, when the glue on the label starts to melt, remove the label and discard it appropriately.

There is, however, a certain measure of etiquette that goes into cigar smoking.  If at a party or restaurant, check with the host or hostess that smoking a cigar is permissible, after all the goal is to enjoy yourself and not disrupt someone else.  Do not ash more than is necessary, and try dispose of your butt properly: nobody has any desire to see you walking around with a sodden stump of stogie hanging in your mouth.

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A Matter Of Opinion: Cocktails

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I’m starting a new, repeating post that I am calling “A Matter of Opinion”.  It will include things that I think add to a man’s overall style and class, but are by no means required to achieve them.

I think that every man should have at least a basic bar knowledge.  What I mean by this is that men of style and class should know how to make a few of the great cocktails, even if they prefer beer or wine.  If a man has a small liquor cabinet at home then it should be stocked with the ingredients needed for these cocktails.  If you don’t drink them or at all then you liquor cabinet will stay stocked for a very long time and if you ever need to make anything for a guest, you will be well prepared.

Equipment: Corkscrew; Bottle opener; 1/1.5 oz. Jigger; Ice bucket with tongs and/or scoop; Cocktail shaker; Long spoon; Toothpicks, skewers, stirrers, etc.; Muddler; Assorted glassware (rock glasses, highballs, cocktail, etc.)

Ingredients: Gin, Vodka, Bourbon, Rye, Brandy, Scotch, Dry vermouth, Sweet vermouth,  Triple Sec, Angostura bitters, Orange bitters,  Lemons and limes, Simple syrup.

I’ll start with my favorite cocktail.

Manhattan:manhattan

1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

2 measures rye whisey

1/2 measure sweet vermouth

ice

Put ice in shaker, add a 1-2 dashes of Angostura bitters, pour vermouth and whiskey in stir and strain into preferably chilled glass.  You can garnish with a cocktail cherry but it tends to add a sweet cherry hint that I like to skip.  Can also be drunk on the rocks.  Pour into cocktail or rocks glass

Martini:martini

3 measures of gin

1/4 measure dry vermouth or to taste

ice

Put ice in shaker.  Pour in gin and vermouth and stir.  Strain into preferably chilled cocktail or rocks glass and garnish with an olive.  For vodka martinis just substitute the gin with vodka.  I like to garnish a vodka martini with a twist of lemon.

Sidecar:

2 measures brandy

1 measure triple sec

1 measure lemon juice

ice

Put ice in shaker.  Pour in brandy triple sec and lemon juice.  Shake energetically until frost forms on the outside of shaker.  Pour into rocks glass.  Garnish with a twist of lemon or orange peel.

Mint Julep:

3-4 fresh mint leaves

1/2 oz. simple syrup or two sugar cubes

3 measures of bourbon

crushed ice

Put syrup, or sugar, and mint in highball glass and mash well with muddler.  Add crushed ice to fill glass and add bourbon.  Stir well and garnish with mint sprig.  This drink is best on a hot summer day.

Scotch:

scotch

ice (optional)

Add ice to rocks glass (optional),  add scotch. Enjoy.

There are more drinks you can make with these ingredients and other ingredients you can get that will help expand your drink library but I think these will give anyone a good start.  For a pretty good list of other cocktails try this Link.

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