Being a Southern Cosmopolitan (or a Cosmopolite Southernista, which I was delighted to be dubbed by Veranda magazine in their July/August book pages) is not only about decorating with style. It is also about living with charm, elegance, a lot of individuality, and a little bit of humor. To celebrate the launch of this online style diary (I refuse to call it a blog–it’s just too ugly a word), I’m inviting you to attend (in the virtual manner) several parties exuding Southern Cosmopolitan style.
First, join me for an extravagant garden party in New Orleans’ garden district. With guests arrayed in proper garden party attire (airy frocks and shady chapeaux for the ladies, seersucker suits and straw hats for the men), the party was thrown by one of the city’s most extraordinary hostesses (who wishes to remain anonymous). Move over Dorothy Draper, stylemaker and author of the 1941 classic, Entertaining is Fun: How to be a Popular Hostess (rizzoliusa.com). Be sure to read this book if you want to overcome The Will to Be Dreary (p. 5) by hosting elegant yet economical entertainments.
Knowing that the New Orleans I explore in my new book The Southern Cosmopolitan combines classic style with Creole spice, the hostess selected an invitation with a tropical theme from Scriptura, a Magazine Street stationers (scriptura.com). With windtorn banana leaves and an ever-so-slightly sinister alligator, it suggests that this might not be your average garden party.
The correct hat is essential to dressing like a Southern Cosmopolitan. When Eric Mueller (designer of this website and my books) arrived in New Orleans for the party, I took him straight to Meyer the Hatter–which, in operation for 63 years, is the city’s oldest hatshop. After trying on a dozen Panama straw hats, from the genteel to the sharpster, Eric selected a hybrid of the two extremes perfect both for the party and his life back home in New York City and Long Island (meyerthehatter.com).
The hostess created jungle-madness centerpieces by anchoring dramatic arrangements of tropical foliage and flowers with natural sea sponges set in the tops of tall vases.
Eric Mueller, (contributor to Drinkology Eats: A Guide to Bar Food and Cocktail Party Fare) helped concoct a signature cocktail for the book parties called–what else?–The Southern Cosmopolitan. Pictured below, it is the velvety peach colored elixir in martini glasses. Everyone who tastes this dangerously drinkable cocktail asks for the recipe, so here it is.
For 1 Southern Cosmopolitan:
3 sprigs of fragrant mint
1-1/2 oz peach infused vodka
1/2 oz Cointreau or other orange liqueur
1 oz peach nectar
1/4 oz fresh lime juice
Rim a chilled martini glass with a mint leaf. Muddle the mint sprigs in a cocktail shaker. Add the remaining ingredients, shake with ice, and strain into the glass. For a virgin version called the Southern Peach, omit the alcoholic ingredients, shake the mint, peach nectar, and lime juice with ice, and strain into a Tom Collins glass, topping off with seltzer. A word of warning: peach vodka and peach nectar can be hard to find, so order ahead of time.
This delightful garden party peaked with the presentation of a cake decorated with the cover of my book (printed in edible inks on rice paper by Haydel’s Bakery, haydelsbakery.com) flanked by macaroon trees. Tempting towers of colorful meringue-based cookies, these Parisian style confections were made by Sucre on Magazine Street in New Orleans (shopsucre.com).
My only regret at the end of the day was that I didn’t eat more of the strawberry, lemon, orange, and pistachio meringues. Expecting them to taste like styrofoam (how could something that insanely perky looking actually taste good, too?), I did not discover how delectable they were until the end of the party. Since I couldn’t figure out how to sneak one of the trees home without anyone noticing, I had to make do with just a few unforgettable bites–the perfect sweet ending to a divine afternoon.