Old Britannia may not rule the waves any more, but as anyone who saw the Queen riding down the Thames to mark her Diamond Jubilee can attest, she sure makes like she does. We're about to get the chance to see her at it again with the Olympics -- choreographed by that great scene-setter, Danny Boyle, hopefully bringing some of his Slumdog magic to the spectacle. Celebrate with us by popping some uncommonly good English bubbly, donning some classic threads, and serving some impeccably brewed tea in the correct china.
A decade after shopping nirvana Opening Ceremony debuted, the store is still winning golds for its design collabs and retail manifesto, a fashion twist on the founding principles of the modern Olympics: countries squaring off against each other. Score limited-edition, Games-inspired capsule collections by Band of Outsiders and the sport-meets-street debut of its "Adidas x Opening Ceremony" line at its newest global outlet, a 3,000-square-foot pop-up shop in Covent Garden (31-32 King St.). A larger, more permanent space opens up a few doors down later this fall. OpeningCeremony.us
A Spirited Spritz
Typically, being covered in gin and tonic means either you're on an episode of Dynasty or it's time to call it a night. Despite this, the noses at historic British perfume house Penhaligon's have concocted a fragrance that echoes the classic cocktail with notes of juniper, but doctored up with sweet cinnamon, spicy pepper, and fresh vetiver, which is, needless to say, intoxicating.
Rebranded Four British labels that have endured the test of time.
FRED PERRY Established: 1952, Wimbledon Known for: Polo shirts Now: The short-sleeved polo that became its calling card was taken from the court to the street immediately. Recently, Dior creative director Raf Simons renewed his contract to work with the brand. FredPerry.com
BARBOUR Established: 1894, South Shields Known for: Waterproof outerwear, waxed jackets Now: Still family-owned five generations on, the company now produces a full wardrobe that's been adopted by the vintage-loving hipster scene. Barbour.com
DR. MARTENS Established: 1960, Northamptonshire Known for: Leather boots Now: The shoes have long been associated with rebellious youth culture. And recent collaborations with model Agyness Deyn and Liberty London add contemporary appeal. DrMartens.com
SUNSPEL Established: 1860, Nottingham Known for: Undergarments, basics Now: Appointed as creative director in 2010, designer Johnathan Anderson introduced a trimmer fit and youthful colors to brand staples like boxer shorts, undershirts, and pajamas. Sunspel.com
Mon dieu! The English are coming.
It sounds like an oxymoron, but English wine is not only real, it's good. And many vineyards are making such great strides that they've started competing with the French -- and winning. Nyetimber in West Sussex, Camel Valley in Cornwall, and Chapel Down in Kent have all bested the competition recently. In many ways, their success isn't surprising; southern England has almost identical geology to the Champagne region, and global warming means lower annual rainfall and milder winters. Also, new techniques are more readily adopted in the U.K. than in France. One disadvantage: Production is small, and exports to the U.S. almost non-existent. That may change, but until then, you'll have to visit Britain to hunt these beauties down.
1. Nyetimber Classic Cuvee With its own medieval manor, this vineyard produces excellent Blanc de Blancs and this luscious, sparkling rose. Nyetimber.com
2. Chapel Down Rose Brut This vineyard is currently sending about 500,000 bottles of its sparkling and white wines into the world each year, including this award-winning gem. ChapelDown.com
3. Camel Valley Cornwall Brut Like the dense, green countryside in which the vineyard sits, this bubbly is lush and fruity. Founded by former Royal Air Force pilot Bob Lindo, the estate also offers two stone-built cottages for guest stays. CamelValley.com
English Crisps: A Field Guide
The potato chip may be an American invention, but the English have raised it to sublime levels of absurdity. A British company, Smith's, started flavoring chips, or crisps, in 1961, starting with basics like Salt & Vinegar. But the taste craze reached epic proportions; at the 2010 World Cup of Crisps, Scottish Haggis, Japanese Chicken Teriyaki, and Spaghetti Bolognese flavors debuted. Somehow, we don't think they'll last as long as these hits.
1. Prawn Cocktail The chip that screams 1970s dinner party.
2. Hula Hoops Short hollow cylanders in BBQ beef flavor.
3. Monster Munch A pickled-onion-flavored puffed corn snack and a lunchbox staple.
4. Cheese & Onion Likely the single most popular flavor in the U.K. Not a date-night chip.
3 More to Try:
Tomato Ketchup The American condiment is no longer a supporting cast member with these crisps.
Marmite An acquired taste based on the yeasty, bitter spread.
Frazzles Bacon-flavored winner of the 2012 World Cup of Crisps.
You don't have to go to London to get a good cup of tea.
Modern convenience has not treated tea kindly. The American style -- lukewarm water and a Lipton teabag -- is a crime against taste. Teabags should only be considered at home as matter of last resort. It's not tea; it's dust. First things first: If you can make tea in a pot, do. Secondly, invest in bone china cups (above)--tea really does taste better in fine china. Finally, boil your water just once -- over-boiling flattens the flavor--and warm the pot with a splash before adding two or three teaspoons of tea. For a good breakfast tea, try Yorkshire Gold, a blend of teas from Assam, Kenya, and Rwanda, either loose or bagged. As for the most vexing question of all -- milk or tea first -- we consult George Orwell, who wrote, in an entire essay on tea-making, "The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that... by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk."
From left: Christofle teacup and saucer, $130, Bloomingdales.com; Wedgwood Harlequin Butterfly Bloom Blue Peony teacup and saucer, $50; Versace Home Medusa d'Or cup, $160, and saucer, $70; Wedgwood Harlequin Butterfly Bloom Spring Blossom teacup and saucer, $50; Raynaud teacup, $70, and saucer, $44, Bloomingdales.com