Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thirsty Thursday: Brandy Old Fashioned

Hello Vintage-istas,

For this week's Thirsty Thursday recipe, we are going to visit a drink that is considered to be one of the original "classic" cocktails. This drink is so classic, one of the most standard styles of bar glassware is named after it: The Old Fashioned.

By this definition, the Old Fashioned is rightfully regarded as the grandfather of all cocktails! While this drink's exact origin is a bit "muddled" (pun most certainly intended), it is an American cocktail in both history and character. In the bartender's bible, Mr. Boston, Anthony Giglio suggests that, "we can trace [the Old Fashioned] back to as far as a popular New York publication called The Balance and Columbian Repository." In this publication, the term "cocktail" is officially defined for the first time ever in print, as "a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits...sugar, water, and bitters."

This drink has inspired its share of spinoff cocktails over its two-century life. Despite this, if you go into a bar and order an "Old Fashioned" any respectable bartender will whip you up something that largely conforms to the above definition. However, as the temperatures continue to rise outside, we here at The Vintage Chanteuse are always looking for ways to lighten our cocktails up a bit to keep with our summertime mood. So we've taken the whiskey out of the equation and instead have opted for brandy, which takes a little bit of the edge off of the drink while still delivering much of the drinks original character!

Keeping that in mind, let's take a look at what ingredients you'll need:
  • 1.5 oz brandy
  • 2 to 3 dashes of bitters
  • Splash of club soda
  • 1 Sugar cube
  • Lemon twist for garnish
  • Maraschino cherry (optional)

In the bottom of an Old Fashioned glass, muddle one sugar cube with a couple dashes of bitters and a splash of club soda. Next, add one shot of brandy and a couple of ice cubes, stir gently. Finally, top off with a cherry, garnish with a lemon, and enjoy!

Recommended accompaniment:

Enjoy your Old Fashioned alongside a truly American old fashioned, Glen Miller!


The Vintage Chanteuse

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Weekly Playlist: Torch Singers

Happy Tuesday! This week's playlist is all about the great Torch Singers of the 1930's and 1940's.  Torch songs are exactly what you might think: songs of unrequited love. The slang saying "to carry a torch for" became popular in the 1930's along with the women who sang about these unrequited loves, known as Torch Singers. 

As a teenager growing up in Nebraska, I was introduced to the great torch singer Ruth Etting and began a love affair with the torch song. Ruth Etting, a native of David City, Nebraska, was a famous actress and torch singer in the 1920's and 1930's. Known as "America's Sweetheart of Song," Ruth Etting was the epitome of the classic beauty, as pictured above. 

I hope you enjoy this playlist of some of the most notable Torch Songs and Singers! 


The Vintage Chanteuse

*In order to listen to the playlist below, please follow the instructions to sign-up for a Spotify account. It is quick, easy, and completely free!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Father's Day Gifts

Hello! With Father's Day around the corner, I thought what a great way to introduce you to the world of buying vintage and vintage inspired gifts. I ADORE buying vintage or vintage-inspired gifts for my loved ones. The gifts are always unique, thoughtful, and personal. Here are few ideas to help you get started!

For the:
1) Dad who loves to tailgate: Vintage travel bar set .
2) Dapper Dad: 1960's arrow tie bar.
3) Competitive Dad: Vintage chess set.
4) Manly Dad: Dr. Squatch men's soapscription.
5) Bearded Dad: Vintage-inspired deluxe beard care set.
6) Beer Enthusiast Dad: Retro beer glasses.

I hope this gives you a few ideas on your hunt for the perfect vintage (or vintage inspired) Father's Day gifts!

Happy Hunting!

The Vintage Chanteuse

Friday, May 23, 2014

Living Room Tour

Hello Vintage-istas! Before I moved to the Northeast from Phoenix, I lived in an apartment almost exclusively outfitted with color-by-numbers furniture from IKEA. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of using IKEA furniture can attest to the fact that their furniture travels as well a bicycle with a flat. So, when my fiance and I decided to move to New England, we made the decision to sell all of our furniture and travel across the country with two cars filled only with necessities and irreplaceables.

Fast forward to our arrival in Hartford, where we found ourselves with a nearly empty apartment and our bank accounts were not fairing much better. It was then and there that we vowed we would save money and only fill our apartment with used, vintage, and antique pieces from around Connecticut! If you are resourceful, imaginative, persistent, and--most importantly--patient, you can save beaucoup bucks by reusing and repurposing antique pieces for your home or apartment while giving your living space character and comfort. Even better? Finding clever ways of reusing vintage pieces is a great way to help have a positive impact on the environment!

There are lots of ways to incorporate repurposing and reusing into your home. Beyond simply finding vintage furniture, try reusing old trinkets for decor or repurposing newer items for ways they were not originally intended.

We came upon a mirror from IKEA that we really liked but had no need for, so we spray painted its frame and applied chalkboard paint to the inside so we would have a little place for us to write messages to one another right before we walk out the door! Also notice the sconce hanging on the wall, found rusted and ragged at a Nebraska flea market but now spray painted blue and being used as a place to store keys right by the front door! Lastly, we found several great advertisements in old LIFE magazines from the 50's so we carefully cut them out and hung them thematically around the apartment: liquor ads by the bar, food ads by the fridge, toiletry ads in the bathroom, etc.

Be certain to think outside the box, way outside the box, like our mid-century TV turned bar, or our DIY marquee.  Oh and we can't forget our bust of Ludwig van Beethoven whom we have named our wiener dog after!

Everything has a story for us, from our Parisian prints bought while traveling in Paris,  our turntable which we danced our first dance to, or our vintage books which we have started collecting as a couple.  I also love to make our living space as personal as possible.  I have picture banners hung above our couches and even a clock made from the face of our wiener dog, Ludwig!

Our entire living room was furnished and decorated for less than $500 by being patient (all we had to sit on for an entire month were folding chairs!), resourceful, and creative! We found the majority of our furniture via Craigslist and perusing flea markets and antique shops. We passed up so many great deals until we found the perfect piece for us as a couple. 

Check out our most recent addition, a 1960's turquoise typewriter that acts as both a functional item and chic decor! 

I hope this gives you a few ideas about how you can incorporate vintage in your home. Now, go out there and turn your apartment or home into what you've always wanted it to be; it could be just sitting there, waiting for you at the nearest flea market or antique shop!


The Vintage Chanteuse

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thirsty Thursday: The Dubonnet Cocktail

Hello Vintage-istas,

For this week's Thirsty Thursday installment, we're going to show you our slightly updated version of a classic and simple drink: the Dubonnet Cocktail! However, don't let yourself be fooled by this cocktail's surprising crispness. Although it is deliciously cool and refreshing, it is not for the faint of fortitude!

Part French, part English, this cocktail has a bit of a confused national identity. Its French half, Dubonnet, is the aperitif for which this cocktail is named. A wine-based drink that comes in either rouge, blanc, or gold (red, white, or gold, respectively) Dubonnet was created in 1846 by Joseph Dubonnet and can be enjoyed by itself, chilled, or as a feature ingredient in a number of cocktails. The English side of this cocktail is London dry gin. In particular, the Dubonnet cocktail is most famous for whom it is enjoyed by: England's Queen Elizabeth the Mother and now her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. While there are many ways this cocktail has been altered throughout its century and a half history--perhaps most notably the ratio of its two prime ingredients--its sheer simplicity is what makes this cocktail a favorite of ours whenever the occasion calls for an easy and cold cocktail!

 Here are the Ingredients:

1 part Dubonnet, chilled
1 part dry gin
Dash of bitters
Squeeze of fresh orange juice
Orange twist for garnish

Now, it is first important to briefly be introduced to the general evolution of this cocktail. In the early twentieth century, this drink was commonly served with a gin-to-Dubonnet ratio of 2-to-1. Throughout the middle of the century the ratio became 1-to-1 (as you may be able to see on our vintage mixing glass pictured above and below). Today, it is not uncommon to find the above ratio to be completely reversed to 1-to-2, as Queen Elizabeth II purportedly enjoys it. For us, we like to meet in the middle with a 1-to-1 ratio.

In a mixing glass, combine gin and chilled Dubonnet over ice. Then, add one dash of bitters for each serving. I really like using citrus-flavored bitters throughout summer months, so I have elected to go with orange bitters. Next, stir the drink gently and thoroughly with a bar spoon and set aside for a brief moment. Squeeze a small amount of fresh orange juice into the bottom of a chilled cocktail glass. You will often find recipes calling for lemon but because it is summer, I find using oranges (along with the orange bitters) gives this cocktail a refreshing update. Our version of this drink is really a mix between a Dubonnet Cocktail and a Tabby Cat. However, we elected for gin as opposed to vodka, so we are sticking with the Dubonnet moniker. Then, strain gin and Dubonnet mixture into the cocktail glass, which will automatically mix nicely with the squeeze of orange juice. Finally, garnish with an orange twist or slice (or lemon if you opt to stick with the more traditional form of this cocktail) and enjoy!

Recommended accompaniment:

Accompany this Franco-Anglo drink with a French classic, "C'est si bon," and enjoy!


The Vintage Chanteuse

Monday, May 19, 2014

Weekly Playlist: The Waltz

Hi There! As an opera singer, music is my life. Between my fiancé (who is a musician as well) and I, there is always music pouring from our apartment. Lately, I've been dreaming of Europe and feeling a bit homesick for cobblestone streets, rich espresso, and rotwein. To help sooth my aching heart, I've created a playlist with music of the most beautifully wistful kind: the waltz! I hope you enjoy this playlist and find yourself dreaming about sitting at a French café with a croissant and café au lait or on the streets of Vienna with a large glass of rotwein.  


The Vintage Chanteuse

*In order to listen to the playlist below, please follow the instructions to sign-up for a Spotify account. It is quick, easy, and completely free!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Brimfield 2014

Hello Vintage-istas! 

This past week my fiancé and I put on our game faces and headed to Brimfield, MA. Home to the world's largest antique show and flea market, Brimfield has it all with over 5,000 vendors, live music, amazing food, and all a quaint New England setting.

Brimfield Antique Shows take place three times a year in May, July, and September with each show running about a week. Vendors come from all over the United States to showcase their most unique finds; the amount of antiques is jaw-dropping! This quaint New England town swells from a modest population of 3,300 to over 250,000 people! The flea market consists of 21 individual shows located on a one-mile stretch along highway 20 in Brimfield. 

We recommend arming yourself with a good pair of sneakers, lots of cash (preferably a mix of small and large bills for haggling), bags and/or a small cart (if you are planning on purchasing bigger items), an umbrella, and a jacket. 

 Here is Vintage Chanteuse's list of must do's while at Brimfield: 
  1. Haggle. The vendors are expecting you to give them a lower offer than what the tag indicates.  Go for it! Come in low (but not too low), be prepared to walk away, and be willing to take a chance! It's my fiancé's FAVORITE part of antiquing! 
  2. Look at pieces that are way out of your budget, if only for the sake of appreciating them!  We found a 1920's trolley bar cart and we fell in love with it. I actually can't stop thinking about how perfect it would look in my living room! Alas, the bar was $650 which is slightly out of our classical musician budget! 
  3. EAT! The food is sooooo yummy! The smells coming from each field are divine! You can find freshly made doughnuts, empanadas, freshly squeezed lemonade (the slightly tart, not too sweet kind!), barbeque ribs, freshly cut french fries, homemade ice cream...EVERYTHING! Don't worry you will end up walking several MILES by the end of the day, so enjoy!   
  4. Chat it up with other antiquers. Don't be afraid to share a table with another group of people. Find out their story, ask for haggling advice, or simply relish in sharing your finds for the day!
  5. Buy something! Even if you only spend a few dollars on a small trinket, you will always remember Brimfield when you look at it! Below is my favorite find of the day: 1940's Italian espresso cups!

After emptying our pockets and filling our tummies and our bags, we headed home with our treasures and happy hearts. If you find yourself in New England between July 8-13 or September 2-7, make your way to Brimfield, you won't be disappointed! If you don't, find your closest flea market and make a day of it! 

Happy Hunting,

The Vintage Chanteuse

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thirsty Thursday...The Americano

Hello thirsty readers, welcome back for our second installment of Thirsty Thursday. This week, we're bringing you a classic cocktail that is sure to cool your jets as the temps begin to finally soar outside: The Americano!

This cocktail is believed to have originated by the creator of one of its key ingredients, Gaspare Campari, in Milan towards the end of the nineteenth century. Multiple theories exist, but it is thought to have been named affectionately for the Americans traveling to Italy who became rather attached to this sweet and bitter cocktail towards the beginning of the twentieth century. However, it was not until during prohibition that this cocktail really began to become a popular libation in the United States. Its popularity has since cooled down, so we here at Vintage Chanteuse feel its about time this pretty cocktail makes a comeback!

First we begin with our ingredients:
  • 1 part Campari
  • 1 part sweet vermouth
  • Chilled club soda to finish
  • Splash of freshly squeezed orange
  • Lemon wedge for garnish
  • Orange wedge for garnish

Begin by filling a Old Fashioned glass with ice and then add in the equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth. Fill the remainder of the glass with the cold club soda. Now, here's where my recipe differs a bit from traditional Americano recipes: I like to add a dash of freshly squeezed orange juice to the top, which create an even balance of sweet and bitter. Finally, garnish with lemon and orange wedges and, most importantly, enjoy!

Recommended accompaniment:

Until next week's cocktail, enjoy this Italian classic cocktail with a side of Dean Martin!


The Vintage Chanteuse

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lloyd Kiva New and the Squaw Dress

Lloyd Kiva New was the first Native American fashion designer to reach national notoriety. A Scottsdale, AZ designer, he was known for his Native American inspired dresses, most specifically the Squaw dress. The Squaw dress style became immediately sought after when New's  works were featured in a July 6, 1953 issue of Life Magazine.

While many variations exist, there are a few defining features which can be considered calling cards of the Squaw dress. The skirts are typically designed in one of three different manners:
  1. A skirt that is slightly gathered and incorporates Navajo patterns into its design.  These skirts usually came with two or three distinctly different bodices to afford the wearer a variety of interchangeable options. 
  2. A "broomstick" skirt, which was ideal for traveling as the skirt could be easily washed and dried in a lady's stocking to create defined pleats.
  3.  A tiered skirt, based on a western style camp dress. To be worn on the patio, these dresses were perfect for invoking the carefree ranch lifestyle of the sunny southwest.
Here is a wonderful video of a fashion newsreel showing off Western Fashions in the 1950's.


By the middle of the 1950's, simple patterns for the Squaw dress were readily available for women everywhere to make and wear their own sunny patio dresses. 

These patio dresses were so popular in the 1940's and 1950's that leftovers are easily found at vintage clothing stores and thrift stores throughout the United States today. Maybe even in your own grandmother's closet! If you have a patio dress, the Spring and Summer months are the perfect time to adorn these beautiful pieces, steeped in Native American inspiration. 


Yesterday's Lady

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday in the Park with George

We have Sondheim on the brain these days as my fiancé is preparing a role in A Little Night Music with Hartford Opera Theater. Today, Spring has finally arrived in New England and there is no better way to spend the day than at the park! Every spring and summer, many would take part in a mass exodus from the indoors to the outdoors, and any given city's public park used to be thee gathering place for families and friends to meet with one another for an afternoon of sport or leisure. It's easy in today's ever-connected digital world to allow these fleeting beautiful afternoons pass us by as we sit indoors on our computers or in front of our televisions. Thus, in honor of this fading pastime we packed up an afghan, our puppies, a lighthearted novel, and a little something to whet our whistles with and we set out for Fernridge Park in West Hartford, CT.

I threw on what I lovingly call my "Arizona" dress, a 1950s handmade patio or squaw dress with a wonderful novelty print of pink and green cacti, most likely leftover fabric from the 1940s that would have been used to make table clothes or curtains! (Stay tuned for a more detailed discussion on the history of the squaw dress.) This dress was a gift from Yesterday's Lady when I first moved to Phoenix for graduate school. Since then, it has traveled from Phoenix to Germany, Luxembourg, and now Connecticut. The dress has a full circle skirt and the material is gathered and fitted around the waist, a design popular in mid-century dresses for its flattering shape and character. Its characteristic puff sleeves help balance the gathered material around the waist. However, the neckline came up a little too high for my taste, so we brought it into our favorite tailor back in Phoenix and had him update instead with a sweetheart neckline.

It's important for any vintage dress to be adorned with the perfect accessories. In keeping with my Springtime mood, simple but colorful earrings such as these emerald and gold vintage earrings will draw people's attention towards your eyes and face, creating a lovely shimmer in the sunlight. And of course, don't forget your sunnies! I found my vintage inspired glasses online at

However, not every accessory has to be vintage. I also found this cute little belt from ModCloth. It actually was a part of an entirely different dress, but it nicely compliments the colors in the Cacti and helps add a little extra shape to the waist.

Don't forget, makeup can be as good of an accessory as any piece of jewelry! Women in the 1950s did not shy away from wearing bright lipstick. You will find that this helps work in tandem with rather than in competition against the other bright colors in your outfit; it's all about balance! 

For him, don't shy away from bright colors. Spring's color palate is flooded with bright colors that we assume would never work together in an outfit. Be more wary of patterns that might clash, than bright colors! A nice pair of shorts that stop just above the knee or a pair of lightweight pants, a bright short-sleeve button shirt and crisp clean boats shoes can never lead him astray in warm weather.  Lastly, for men, a classic leather band timepiece is not just an accessory; it's also a very good excuse to ditch that cellphone for a couple of hours!

Most importantly, don't forget your favorite book! We are currently working our way through A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Hartford's own Mark Twain.

The one 21st-century creature comfort we allowed ourselves was our sunny weather playlist! If you're looking for the perfect track to kickoff your season of sun, we recommend Dave Brubeck's "Take Five!" Brubeck's smooth and carefree West Coast jazz will put you in the mood to lay back, relax, and daydream while watching the clouds morph slowly above your head.

We hope these suggestions help make for a beautiful and memorable Sunday outing with you and yours. If you're looking the perfect drink to fill your flask, check out our recipe for crisp and refreshing Sidecars!

Until next time, salut!

The Vintage Chanteuse

Friday, May 9, 2014

Thirsty Thursday...The Sidecar!

Hi, Vintage Chanteuse here, and we are VERY excited to bring you our first blog post! We will be posting daily articles inspired by our experiences in classical music and vintage clothing. Oh, and another passion of ours is COCKTAILS! For our first installment of our Thirsty Thursday service, we would like to introduce you to THE SIDECAR:

With every cocktail we make, we LOVE to know the story behind it. This drink originated in Paris in the early twentieth century, named after a military gentleman who insisted upon arriving at Harry's New York Bar every night chauffeured in a motorcycle sidecar! Who does that?! One thing is for sure, after trying this recipe the only safe way for you to get home is to be chauffeured in your own sidecar!

Now let's make it! First we begin with the basic ingredients:
  • 2 parts brandy
  • 1 part triple sec
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice
  • lemon twist for garnish
  • sugar for rimming (optional) 

First, apply sugar to rim of glass by slightly dampening the edges of the rim and then dipping glasses into sugar. We used lemon infused sugar, but regular sugar will suffice well. Next, combine brandy, triple sec, and freshly squeezed lemon juice in a mixer with ice and shake well until exterior of mixer becomes crystallized. Then, strain into a cocktail glass of your choosing. Tradition warrants a martini glass but we love our vintage low-balls that we snagged from a flea market a couple of years back, so we opted for character! Finally, garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy in your favorite vintage dress, but don't spill!

Recommended Accompaniment: 

We hope you enjoy this cocktail as much as we did! It's a wonderfully crisp citrus cocktail beckoning for warm Summer weather!


The Vintage Chanteuse