BAMF Style’s Guide to Holiday Parties
Like it or not, the holiday season is upon us. For many folks, that means parties, gifts, and the unfortunately inevitable fruitcake. Whether you’re Buddy the Elf or Ebenezer Scrooge, BAMF Style has got you covered to make each celebration a merry one.
(Obviously, there are many more examples than the ones I highlight below… these are just the most BAMF Style-specific scenarios as well as the most common. If you’re honestly trapped in a supervillain’s Swiss Alps lair on Christmas Eve with a bevy of brainwashed beauties, you might be in more trouble than my below guide can mitigate.)
The Office Party
Ah, yes. Designed to be the consolation for all desk jockeys disappointed with their holiday bonus (or lack thereof), most offices put forth some sort of effort in entertaining everyone with a few old and/or cheap decorations, and – ideally – plenty of liquor.
As Seen In: L.A. Confidential, Mad Men, and several episodes of The Office. (Die Hard also famously features a holiday party, but it isn’t John McClane’s office so does that really count?)
What to Expect: Unexpected and mostly unwelcome revelations or advances from co-workers. The best one can hope for is blackmail material for the boss. (If things do take a turn toward Die Hard, let’s hope you’re armed… or can be quickly.)
What to Wear: As these are typically at the end of a working day, that depends on the office culture. For many industries, that is still a jacket and tie for men.
Don Draper opts for a dark gray flannel suit with a dark, subtle tie while a flashier character like Jack Vincennes sports a checked sport coat with a white-on-white shirt and tie. Neither man feels the need to infuse any bright colors, instead choosing to dress fashionably for their environment. It is men like Draper and Vincennes who attract the attentions of the fairer sex while men like Michael Scott, who saves his favorite snowman tie for each holiday gathering, ends up crying in his office to iTunes samples or marking a Benihana waitress with a Sharpie. Opt for the understated. (And if this turns into a Die Hard scenario, wear shoes.)
What to Imbibe: If your office is generous enough to have some booze present, let the others enjoy the cheap vodka. A whiskey on the rocks is the perfect way to unwind after a long day, tune out during a long party, and still exude masculinity.
Music: Don’t start a sing-a-long. Instrumental versions of holiday songs, perhaps from the Hollyridge Strings, would be advised to keep the singing to a minimum.
The Fancy House Party
So your friends are having some people over for a party? Maybe this is your chance to finally get your hands on a cheap, unnecessary trinket from the local Five Below as a gift during an ill-advised round of White Elephant!
As Seen In: American Psycho, Spy Game, The Thin Man… the list goes on.
What to Expect: You’ll see a few of your friends and a LOT of their friends… most of whom you’ve never seen before and will make you question why you’re friends with the host in the first place. This is what liquor is for.
What to Wear: This depends on the company. The yuppies in American Psycho wear their ’80s power suits (and antlers, in some cases), the formal dinner guests to Nick Charles’ Christmas murder revelation wear black tie, and Robert Redford’s Spy Game operative sports a comfortable fisherman’s sweater over his blue plaid shirt for the party. All are correct in their context. A party like this is not the time to wear your mom’s ugly Christmas sweater.
What to Imbibe: It’s not polite (but often tempting) to polish off a bottle of your host’s finest single malt, so a whiskey highball will keep you hydrated without sending you back to the bar every ten minutes to refill your glass. Plus, whiskey has a pleasant warming effect that will combat the frightful weather outside.
Of course, a host may have some drink choices of their own, often of a rum punch variety. These drinks may be offered or – as the “Have a cocktail!” undercover waiter insists in The Thin Man – forced upon you. If you are the host and looking for a fun but classic holiday beverage to prepare, a Grasshopper is a popular and tasty option with its minty flavor and green color to make a few people get into the holiday spirit.
My personal Grasshopper recipe is:
- 1/3 crème de menthe
- 1/3 white crème de cacao
- 1/3 light cream
Mix all of the above ingredients with ice in a well-chilled shaker and serve in equally chilled martini glasses. The two crème liquors involved are typically inexpensive, but Tempus Fugit Spirits offers a few fine-tasting examples if you don’t want the usual DeKuyper or Jacquin’s.
Music: Since you never know who will be there, play it safe with more “wintry” songs. Dean Martin’s 1959 album A Winter Romance included plenty of non-Christmas holiday standards like “Let It Snow!” as heard in Spy Game.
The Country Family Christmas
Have your holiday traditions remained simple without the distractions that major department stores and TV networks are tossing out your way? Do you spend your days driving around on dirt roads in a bright orange muscle car with your cousin? If so, then I’ve got the celebration for you!
As Seen On: The Dukes of Hazzard.
What to Expect: Some good old-fashioned holiday spirit with decorations, family, caroling, and everything else lionized in Christmas songs of yore. If you happen to live in a bucolic but corrupt county in the Deep South, perhaps the county commissioner will show up uncharacteristically beaming and showering all of those present with gifts. If you happen to live in a realistic household anywhere else, the first half of the evening will be full of repressed emotions as the second half is marred by loud – and somehow not cathartic – fighting.
What to Wear: The Duke boys sport dark plaid shirts with their usual light wash jeans and brown cowboy boots.
What to Imbibe: Spiked egg nog is the perfect drink of choice, fueling all of your holiday emotions until you just can’t contain your frustration with Uncle Rob’s insistence on bringing Donna to Christmas dinner even though she insulted Aunt Ruth’s cooking last year and…
Anyway, the beauty of egg nog is that it can be enhanced by damn near any booze. I prefer whiskey or brandy, but I’ve also found rum to be a pleasing addition. Art of the Age’s Root liqueur is also an excellent mixer for egg nog. The Dukes probably added moonshine, though.
Music: The Dukes sing along to “O Holy Night”. If John Schneider and Tom Wopat show up at your doorstep looking to belt out a few tunes, it’s polite to invite them in for some nog. Since most people’s families are horrible singers (The Partridge Family included), stick to the standard Christmas albums from the pros like Sinatra, Bing, Ella, and Nat.
The Bar Gathering
The easiest of holiday celebrations, all that is required is to show up at a bar with a few bucks in your pocket for drinks.
As Seen In: Goodfellas. (In fact, the Lufthansa heist being celebrated during the Christmas party seen in the film took place 36 years ago today on December 11, 1978.)
What to Expect: Lots of hugging, especially if you’re meeting up with fellow mob associates days after a multi-million dollar airport heist. You may be proud of some of your more extravagant Christmas gifts, but keep them to yourself; if Jimmy the Gent is around, you’ll just end up murdered in said gifts within a few weeks.
What to Wear: A nice, seasonal sport coat, perhaps matched with a tie or a sweater. You’ll want to be comfortable if the bar gets crowded, but you still want to look good… especially if some single (or unhappily married) women are looking to relieve themselves of the holiday blues.
What to Imbibe: Especially if someone else is picking up a round or two, this is the opportunity for some fun shots in addition to whatever whiskey or beer you’ve chosen for the evening. Wiseguy, Nicholas Pileggi’s book that was turned into Goodfellas, describes the Screaming Eagle concoction that Henry Hill and his pals enjoyed before Henry went off to prison:
At eleven o’clock Henry and his pals were at the bar at Maxwell’s drinking Screaming Eagles – shot glasses of white Chartreuse dropped into large goblets of chilled champagne.
Sounds good for a Christmas party, doesn’t it?
Music: While someone will be tempted to put Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” on the jukebox, a better judge of musical talent would choose the 1963 Phil Spector-produced album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. This record is one of my all-time favorites (and has been described by one of my friends* as “one of the finest pop albums ever made”). This is the album where we hear The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love, and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans perform Christmas standards with so much unique energy that no act could ever reproduce. Goodfellas particularly made use of The Ronettes’ “Frosty the Snowman” and Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, the latter of which has been performed by Love herself on David Letterman’s Christmas show every year since 1986.
* My friend Matt makes this statement on his great music blog Leading Us Absurd.
Drinking Alone at the Bar
Not much of a Christmas guy? Whether you watched your police partner get gunned down by a reckless liquor store robber on Christmas Eve or you’ve been estranged with your family ever since you faked your identity to either escape the Korean War or become a Pan Am pilot, everyone has a good reason why they may want to spend the holidays wallowing in misery.
As Seen In: Mad Men, of course.
What to Expect: A bar full of lonely people, all drowning their sorrows in drink. You’ll sit down on the end – somehow this bar is built primarily of ends – and grow an instant 5:00 shadow as you stare into the bottomless pit of a life that your glass of whiskey represents. Your cynical internal monologue reflects on the disparity between the happy holiday shoppers outside and the feelings of inferiority and loneliness bouncing around inside your brain. Merry Christmas.
(You should feel much better if you have a cherry red Jaguar E-Type parked outside, though.)
What to Wear: Dark flannel suit, white shirt, slim tie loosened at the collar, and tilted fedora. The fedora is really only best if you’re traveling back in time… these days, many men who try to pull it off just can’t.
What to Imbibe: Start with an Old Fashioned then stick to Scotch, neat. You’ll probably also want a deck or two of cigarettes.
Music: Something classic, of course. Don and Joan listen to Doris Day’s 1964 version of “The Christmas Waltz” in a Manhattan bar, although Sinatra’s is more befitting for being the man at the end of the bar. When calling his FBI nemesis from a New Orleans watering hole in Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale ironically hears the Hollyridge Strings’ soft cover of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in the background.
If you really want to feel lonely, Dean Martin’s “The Christmas Blues” keeps the Rat Pack vibe alive as well as giving you a chance to hear a side of Dino that wouldn’t work as well for the house party mentioned above.