Limousines, New Years Eve and Tales from Ontario


Everyone deserves a ride in a limo at least once in their lives. For me, the most recent, and perhaps most memorable was New Years Eve in Brampton, Ontario. Before we knew anything about global pandemics, sheltering-in-place and closures of all my favorite restaurants, there was that one fateful night, December 31, 2019, the evening we all moved into what we thought would be the glorious new “Roaring Twenties.”

That carefree time just a few months ago seems like decades now, and a lot has happened in a short amount of time, but my love of limousine rides still remains. It’s certainly not an everyday luxury, but I’ve found that as my fondness for the finer things in life has grown, I do take advantage of the opportunity for a little luxury whenever it presents itself, and whenever possible, I use a limousine service to make a special event even more special.

Over the years I have cultivated something of a reputation for throwing exquisite and very memorable parties, and those who are lucky enough to get an invitation know that I pay attention to details. There are a few things that every party must have, a few things that are nice to have but aren’t necessary, and some things that a party should never have. By understanding these three categories, my parties have always been very successful.

First of all, what must every party have? A good cross-section of guests that complement one another, outstanding drinks, appetizers that go a bit above and beyond, and a well-dressed host and raconteur, well-equipped with stories of a globe-trotting life well-lived.

What should a party never have? Bags of potato chips on the counter for an appetizer. Cheap lager beer served in the can. Hosts in sweatpants. Air-guitar-playing guests who insist on commandeering the stereo system to play loud heavy metal music. Stories of religious conversion, vacation photos, messy living rooms and portraits of poker-playing dogs on the wall. Oh, and accordions. Absolutely no accordions.

But what about that middle ground of “nice-to-have but don’t really need it?” To make a party truly exceptional, you should have at least one thing from this “nice-to-have” category. You can still host a great party without these things, but it’s precisely those things in this middle space that make a party go from just simply great, to absolutely fabulous. If you’re a fan of the TV series Mad Men, remember the scene at Don Draper’s Manhattan apartment when Megan Draper (played by Canadian actress and singer Jessica Paré) threw a surprise birthday party for her husband, and famously sang “Zou Bisou Bisou?” Yeah, that. 

What else lives in that “nice-to-have” category? Flower bouquets in every room. Printed invitations. Professional servers in uniform walking around holding trays of hors’ d’oeuvres and filled champagne flutes. If your guests smoke ‘em, a box of fine Cuban cigars (for outside only, of course). The Communists may not have much going for them, but they do make a pretty fine cigar! And yes, I’m talking about limousines here, too.

Naturally, the “nice-to-have” category is limited by budget, and even if you do have unlimited resources (which I certainly don’t), regular access to limousines has the effect of spoiling the recipient. But provide it on an occasional basis, and it becomes special and very memorable.  

There is always competition for guests on New Years Eve. Most people have at least three or four parties to choose from, not to mention some pretty spectacular public events downtown, so that’s when I really up my game. I don’t like for my guests to be driving on that particular night, so I had considered offering an Uber service, which would be perfectly functional and appreciated. But then, why stop there? Why not a limousine to shuttle guests from their homes to my party, and from my party back to their homes when it’s over? Why not indeed? Wouldn’t that be the perfect “nice-to-have” ingredient?

So, the next decision was, what kind of limousine? It’s not unusual to see those big stretch Hummers all over town, and those are very elegant, but just a little too ordinary for my taste. So I called up Brampton Limo well ahead of time and scored a reservation for their vintage Bentley.

There were, regrettably, no pretty women serenading me with French love songs. Still, the evening was an overwhelming success. Over the next week or so, guests talked about the party, remembering how good the charcuterie tray was, discussing my gin-to-vermouth ratio for martinis (it’s 4:1, with Bombay gin and bleu cheese stuffed olives), and repeating some of the more entertaining episodes I had relayed from days gone by. But what they remembered most of all was the limousine. I’ll definitely do it again. I’m not going to tell anybody ahead of time.