Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Where's The Retro in the Holidays?


There is no other time of the year that the Retro Vibe is so thick.
  It’s not hard to find Retro elements all around during the holiday season. Pulling out your Christmas tree ornaments & decorations that were handed down from past years(some, even generations). Also, the latest trend in party themes, The Tacky Sweater Party comes to mind. 
  In entertainment, there are so many Classic Black & White films and Classic audio recordings, that come out during the span between Thanksgiving and New Years. Versions of Christmas songs by the famous crooners can be heard on radio, TV, malls, Shopping Centers and just about everywhere. How many times can you watch, “Its a  Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street”? It’s tradition. The association of these holiday films and tunes echoes back to a simpler time which really is the message here: Giving, Sharing & Enjoying. Also the idea of ‘kicking back’ and smelling the roses which is main idea of the Modern Retro Lifestyle.
  Nothing says Retro Lifestyle more than sitting in front of a fire with a special holiday cocktail and just savoring the moment. The act of total downtime with no interaction with your modern conveniences, would be the goal. If you don’t have a fireplace or you can’t be bothered, let me help you out.


  Growing up in the 60’s in New England, I remember the Classic Yule Log. WPIX, channel 11 in New York(pre cable...yes, pre-cable!), would broadcast footage of a fireplace burning logs during the holiday season. This is the 45th year anniversary(Dec. 25th, 2011).
Upon further research(WIKAPEDIA, Yule Log- TV program), 


Yule Log (TV program) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Yule Log was created in 1966 by Fred M. Thrower, President and CEO of WPIX, Inc. Inspired by an animated Coca-Cola commercial a year earlier that showed Santa Claus at a fireplace, he envisioned this television program as a televised Christmas gift to those residents of New York who lived in apartments and homes without fireplaces. This also provided time for employees of the television station to stay home with their families, instead of working for the usual morning news program.
The original program was filmed at Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the Mayor of New York City, John Lindsay, at the time. An estimated US $4,000 of advertising (along with a roller derby telecast that night) was canceled on Christmas Eve for the show's inaugural airing. Thrower, and WPIX-FM programming director Charlie Whittaker selected the music, based largely on the easy listening format the radio station had at that time, with the likes of Percy Faith (whose rendition of "Joy to the World" is played at the beginning and the end of the telecast), Nat King Cole, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston "Pops" Popular Orchestra, Mantovani, and the Ray Conniff Singers to name a few. During the filming, the producers removed a protective fire grate so that the blaze could be seen better; a stray spark damaged a nearby antique rug valued at $4,000......




Mr. Lounge’s Holiday Yule Log


  Here is my YouTube music & ambience video that I’ve put together that will help get you in the mood. It is a High Definition(HD) video of logs burning in my fireplace with a stereo recording of the crackling fire combined with Holiday music, that is a real audio / visual experience.


  ‘Mr. Lounge’s Yule Log’ features a beautiful song titled, “All Through The Night”, a Welsh Folk song dating back to the 1700’s. With the help of my friends Joe Grieco on piano & Tom Majesky on guitar, I added some layers of percussion instruments, vocals and alto sax to the arrangement.  The beautiful melody comes through with a nice pulsating groove to give the song an updated feel yet still retain the simple, calming ambiance.
  BTW - There are so many great tunes that can only be played at this time of year. It’s fun to pull out the classics for a short period of time every year. The window of opportunity is short which make them extra special. 
Holiday Cran-Tini


  “All Through The Night” is a Holiday Classic yet it can work on it’s own so you can enjoy the “Log” anytime you need a 5 Minute break and a cozy fire to curl up to.

*The video featured cocktail is a classic Crantini. 


1 oz Cranberry juice, 
2 oz Vodka, 
1 oz Triple Sec, 
A swirl of Vermouth, 
Shaken and strained to a chilled Martini glass with a couple of lime twists and fresh cranberries(soaked in vodka) for Holiday effect.


  I had fun putting the Video together but it got a little sloppy after I needed multiple ‘takes’ due to production malfunctions...





Also check out my rendition of “Silent Night”, where I perform ‘Live in Studio’ the classic Holiday tune in a SmoothJazz / Modern Lounge style that also works well ‘Late Night’.



Have a Safe & Happy Holiday!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Downtown Vegas


If you’re trying to find a little bit of remaining Retro Cocktail feel in Vegas you must leave the Strip. Just down the road to Fremont Street in Downtown Vegas you will find a revival going on in terms of Las Vegas’s history.
Downtown Las Vegas was the original gambling center prior to The Strip with the historic casinos: The Golden Nugget, Lady Luck, The Golden Gate, The Western, Las Vegas Club. The effort to revitalize the area started in 2006 with The Fremont Experience.
The Fremont Street Experience consists of the closing of Fremont St. to vehicular traffic, a long canopy covering complete with the worlds largest audio system/video screens and the homage to neon signs.
Las Vegas was all about neon lights in the early days. Even the classic Las Vegas Welcome Sign shows its colors before you even enter the strip, but The Strip itself never embraced the historic value of neon and instead went the new direction with video monitors and fluorescent lights when the older casinos were removed. 
Recognizing this, the Neon Museum was established and has been collecting these historic relics since the 80‘s. Their goal has been to save and display this illuminating history of Old Las Vegas.
Many historic neon signs have been saved and had been stored at the Young Electric Sign Co. and then relocated to a new location called The Neon Boneyard. These treasures have been transformed from a waste by-product of the ever changing landscape of Vegas’s growth, to a very important part of their history. Several restored signs have been placed along Fremont Street with little plaques describing their history. Try to see all of the fully restored signs that are lit up every night in the downtown area.




Now, while you are cruisin' around downtown, the are a few 'real' lounges that you should stop into for a true Modern Retro Vibe:


Vanguard Lounge  I missed, but it’s also in this area where you can hit one after another along with a walk around to see the displayed neon signs in all their retro glory.
Now That’s Vegas Baby!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where's the Retro in Vegas?


Another part of my trip to Vegas was to try to experience the 50’s & 60’s Retro Vibe that the city is known for.
Start of the Fire & Water show @ The Mirage with
The Venetian in the background.
But one of the saddest aspects of Vegas is that the constant need to remodel and update the casinos and hotels to stay lucrative and competitive causes a void in their history as the mecca of everything Retro. The history of entertainment from this spot on Earth is so rich that to overlook it and take it for granted is a shame. Whether you are talking about the epicenter of gambling in the 60’s or the definition of show business with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and crew, or the glitz and glam of the shows on The Strip, Vegas is to Entertainment as New Orleans is to Jazz. As they remodel or implode and remove the historic landmarks that set the stage for classic Retro Vegas, it becomes harder and harder to visit these iconic treasures. 
The Sahara(scheduled to close May ’11) was considered one of the the last playgrounds for the Rat Pack. The Sands, Dunes, Stardust, New Frontier have all disappeared. 
That being said, the last time we visited Vegas, we stayed at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel. Now 6 years ago this was quite a spot. A new type of Vegas but fun and magical(kind of an adult Disney). This trip we stayed at the Wynn(breathtaking) and we did a walk through The Paris and I was shocked at how dated and stuffy it felt. It is amazing how modern architecture and design evolves and the impact it has on our overall experience. With the amount of revenue involved on a day to day in Sin City, you must stay relevant!

Here’s an interesting video collection of implosions of important hotels in Vegas. They become entertainment events on their own. Remember, this was the town that promoted itself as "Atomic City" as it drew tourists to view the mushroom clouds of the 1950's above ground nuclear bomb testing at the Nevada Proving Grounds, 65 miles away(hence the Atomic Cocktail).  


Again...It's so Vegas.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stand Out Cocktails in Vegas






M
y best tasting Sapphire & Tonic had to be at
The Vesper Bar @The Cosmopolitan Hotel. This trendy little lounge sits right on the 1st floor as you walk in the the complex. Our mixologist, Jamie used Fever-Tree tonic, Cold Draft ice, fresh lime, & an X-ACT glass. The obvious attention to detail regarding the final presentation was flawless.











Most scenic S&T was at the same hotel on the 3rd floor of The Chandelier Bar. The Cocktail was fine and the surrounding sparkle was magical. Also loved the extra shot of Lime Juice!








                 

The two non-Sapphire & Tonic notables were the  liquid nitrogen passion fruit margarita w/ tequila floater at Fleur in the Mandalay Bay Resort and the salt air margaritas at China Pobano again at The Cosmopolitan. We hit the Fleur for a appetizer tasting as we waited for Red Square to open for the day. It’s really not a good idea to start a cocktail tasting at 11 in the morning- it didn’t end well. We then marched over to molecular gastronomist, Jose Andres’s China Poblano for a quick lunch and were pleasantly surprised with a wonderful Mexican/Chinese sampling complete with our unique margaritas. A must experience.            
It’s so Vegas!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Search for the perfect Sapphire & Tonic.



I did some research on the internet to try to find the ‘must try’ spots in Vegas. I searched, best cocktails, trendiest, Tiki, retro and newest on the strip and I came up with some beauties. The search for the perfect Sapphire & Tonic was on. 




1st we hit the lounges and bars closet to the Wynn(where we were staying). Most notable had to be the Surrender Nightclub at the Encore(next to the Wynn). The cocktail was fantastic but I’m not sure if that was the taste or the overall visual experience of the club and patrons. Ah youth.
Another favorite spot or me was the Parasol Up Lounge at the Wynn. This was a spot that I would end up at the end of the evening while my buddies were hitting the tables. A nice S&T that I would combine with a robusto cigar while I would observe the coming and goings on the gambling floor. Not far from the Wynn was a real gem called the Peppermill Fireside Lounge. If you appreciate the Retro Cocktail history that Vegas has produced with the likes of Frank, Dean & Sammy, you will really get a kick out of this throw back to the 50’s & 60’s that the Peppermill provides. Combine the famous fire pit in the middle of the lounge with the waitresses dressed in evening gowns, the neon lights and the mirrors and you get a real Austin Powers experience.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vegas Trip '11

So last week I go out to Vegas for 5 days, with some guys to get away from this insufferable New England weather. While I'm out there I decided I was going to do a search for the perfect Sapphire & Tonic(it's fun to have an agenda). As I'm heading out there I'm realizing that there probably are going to be many variables in the 'search'. But, we have a mission, this is good. By the way, this is my mission. Everyone else has their own experience in mind but all are up for the tastings around town with me. That's the funny thing about drinking..usually everybody's in, especially in a town with such a adventurous slogan.
Over the course of the 5 days we hit some pretty exciting spots and have the opportunity to experience some very exotic cocktails. That's exotic, not a typo.