In this episode of “Going Out With Jake Cornell,” host and former NYC hospitality pro Jake Cornell chats with “Real Housewives of New York City” star Dorinda Medley. They discuss Dirty Martinis, what makes British pubs so special, and how Medley hosts the perfect dinner party. Plus, learn about Bluestone Manor Bourbon, a brand inspired by Medley’s Berkshires home and the “sexiness” of nightlife. Tune in for more.
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Jake Cornell: Thank you so much for doing the show.
Dorinda Medley: Absolutely. I was very excited.
J: Yeah, this is so fun. So obviously this is a show about going out. You are a former Housewife of New York — or, you’re a Housewife.
D: I’m a former Housewife, I’m on pause.
J: You’re on pause.
D: You can say it. It’s not a bad word. I’m on pause. Say it. Get comfortable with it.
J: I love that you’re proud of it. OK. Former Housewife on pause. But NYC is one of the greatest places to go out in the world. And we obviously also are here to talk about Bluestone Manor, your new bourbon.
D: Bluestone Manor Bourbon, it’s delicious.
J: I can’t wait to try it. We’re going to do that shortly.
D: I think it’s very apropos to what’s going on with the New York we just reentered, because I think that New York that we are all entering now has got a very speakeasy feeling.
D: Harking back to what was your speakeasies, you tell me your secrets, I’ll tell you yours. Late-night little drinks, hiding places, getting dressed up. I mean, look at the Met. They just did the Gilded Age. Bluestone Manor bourbon should have been there. It really should have.
J: If I had been invited, I would have come dressed as the bottle.
D: Yeah, there you go.
J: Well, should we try it to start off?
D: Let’s try it. I want to see what you taste. Now, I can’t try too much because I have a full day.
J: So do I.
D: I’ve made the mistake of tasting bourbons and not being able to get home at night over the Hudson Bridge.
J: Yeah, just stay on that side of the bridge you started drinking on?
D: Yes. OK.
J: Well, cheers.
D: And I want you to smell it first. What do you smell?
J: It has that classic, very subtle, caramel-y thing happening.
J: Yeah, for sure.
D: Dried fruit.
J: Yeah, I got that.
J: Yeah. There is, like, a dried fruit to it. It’s not sweet-smelling at all, but it has all those.
D: But does this smell make you want to tell me your secrets?
J: Yes, absolutely. Oh, it’s lovely.
D: Yeah, it’s good, right?
J: It’s really —
J: It’s very smooth, for sure. Also, for how aromatic it is, it’s really light.
D: We talked about that. The obvious thing would have been the Dirty Martini. And when you go on the Housewives and you’re doing stuff, everybody gets offered to do a wine or a Prosecco or this. It’s so funny. I went to a party at Jay-Z’s club.
D: Yeah, when it first opened, I got invited to the opening party. And I remember they took me downstairs and there was this huge table of beautiful women drinking dark liquor. And I thought to myself, that’s f*cking powerful. There was just something about it that I was like, “Wait a second.” Because we usually think of dark liquors as something for men. Private men’s clubs, to have the ladies in the other room doing their dishes while they sit and tell secrets about their mistresses. Do you know what I mean? So now all of a sudden, these women are sitting there and they’re bad asses. And I start thinking about Bluestone Manor. I love Bluestone Manor, it lives and breathes for me. I’ve had so many wonderful nights there, so many wonderful parties and filming. And it really is a place when you enter Bluestone Manor, you enter a world.
D: And I wanted something that wasn’t just a Housewife thing that was sort of a Bluestone Manor thing. Something that carries itself beyond a Housewife and something that you could see sitting in your bar proudly. So the taste was very important. So I really thought that is what I need to do. Something that’s going to have longevity; a little “Downton Abbey,” a little speakeasy. I don’t know if you know this, but Bluestone Manor was built in 1902.
D: It was really part of the whole Prohibition up and down the Hudson. They ran a lot of liquor through Hudson and throughout the Berkshires because the Berkshires in the early 20th century, as it is now, has always been filled with a lot of artists and writers and poets and theater people and music people. There’s a story that my house was a speakeasy in the basement.
J: Oh, no way. Have you found any evidence of that?
D: We did when we had the flood. It was part of the Prohibition. They would have liquor there and have parties, which makes sense.
J: Absolutely. And it feels like you’re carrying that tradition on in a way.
D: Well, it was one of the grand houses. The guy that started GE built my house.
J: Oh, no way.
D: It was only open a month a year, believe it or not. It was considered one of the grand summer cottages, and they used to come up and just have fun for one month. And my house was sort of a big party house, which is very apropos for me.
J: That’s so special. I have a couple of questions now. Before that moment at the 40/40 club, seeing those women drinking those dark liquors, was bourbon already something that you were enjoying or was it something you kind of came to after that?
D: Listen, bourbon is something I’ve always had. I love a beautiful bar. I love to decanter stuff. I think you can see that in the bottle.
J: It is a truly stunning bottle.
D: I love to have a night that kind of continues on to the drawing room or the living room, then you pour that beautiful dark liquor. We’ve always done that because no one wants to really start with the dark liquor. But at night you’re like, “Now I’m ready.” Now I’m ready to get a little down here. I don’t know if I’m going to tell you my secrets, I’m going to take off my clothes. But something’s going to happen with this dark liquor right now.
J: It’s sexy. It has that energy of exactly what you’re talking about, at the party when the people who aren’t really going to be down to hang go to bed.
D: Go to bed now.
J: And now there’s a new room.
D: These are the real people. Anybody that’s faint of heart, please leave now.
J: Absolutely. That’s the Bluestone Manner.
D: And make sure you sign a DNA if you enter.
J: It has that energy, though, of that sexy decanter that they pull out and you’re like, “Uh oh.”
D: Oh, I love the bottle, too. One of the things I love at the Berkshires is I was very, very focused on doing the original- type curtains. So I did a lot of damask, a lot of things that you would see in the early 20th century. The heavy, double folded curtains that are two too long for the room. I love an overly dragging curtain. And I think the bottle almost looks like a ball gown or like a curtain.
J: Oh, I see that. You were mentioning before we started recording something about the stopper.
D: The stopper was an ongoing thing. By the way, everyone, it’s a woman-owned company, which I’m very proud of.
J: As you should be.
D: I don’t know if anyone wants to hear this, but it’s the age of the woman.
D: The universe is a woman. I knew it all along. I said to Hannah the other day, “You are so lucky to be part of the world as a young adult woman with access and power and a voice.”.
D: Originally they had a cork stopper. And I just couldn’t get my head around it. Then they had a marble ice stopper. Then we had a supply issue during Covid and we didn’t want anything that was going to make the price too high. The stopper was a really hard thing to source. And we finally found a company that did it. We went really deep into buying a ton of glass, a ton of stoppers, because we were so worried about the supply issue thing. So we got that covered. And I just think it looks beautiful.
D: It harks back to Baccarat, which is one of my favorite brands ever.
J: I’m not blowing smoke, I will keep this bottle after I finish it.
D: Also it has a different key. It comes with a different key so you can collect the keys.
J: Oh, no way.
D: Now you have a key to my heart. And a key to my house.
J: What an honor.
D: I am a marketing genius.
J: You really are. It’s like top to bottom.
D: Of course, the peacock. We have to take note of the lady peacock.
J: You know, I didn’t even notice her. She’s so subtle.
D: She’s our mascot at the house.
J: I’ve seen the peacock. I just didn’t see it on the label yet. But it’s beautiful.
D: By the way, I see that peacock label and I see the wallpaper. I see a home line, I see stationery, glasses, sweatshirts. That baby right there, she is going to work hard for me in the next couple of decades. I will bet she’s going to work hard for me.
J: Dorinda, I’m not joking. If you make this a wallpaper, I’ll buy it. I think it would be a really stunning wallpaper. You mentioned that with Bluestone Manor, it is a world when you enter it.
J: Obviously, there’s an enormous amount of history to the house. It’s a beautiful estate. How much of that is also something that you are intentionally creating as the host, as the owner?
D: Always. If you read my book, “Make It Nice,” my backstory is that I lived abroad for almost 10 years. I started off in Hong Kong and ended up in England, in London, and all these places in between. And my longest stay actually was in London and I just was very young when I moved to London. My husband was working 15 hours a day in investment banking. And I was married to a British man, so it wasn’t like I was going there as an expat and then had to go back. I was there.
J: You were putting roots down.
D: I would be great in any sort of situation because I’m able to adapt. I figure out my environment. OK, now I got to be that person. So I was an investment banker’s wife, married to a British guy that was going to live in London and raise four children that way. I literally took courses at the school, took etiquette courses, learned how to set a table properly, studied every time I would go anywhere, Venice, Paris, London. Every country house I went to in London or outside of London, I would think, “Well, wait a second. Why are the curtains so long? That’s kind of cool.” Oh my God, they’re mixing colors. They’re layering colors and it’s OK. I became very aware of how people entertained, lived in their homes. And this is what Bluestone Manor has. Not everybody wants to live like this. I get it. Some people would hate it. It’s very layered. It’s very colorful. You either love it or hate it, which I love. I want you to love or hate my house.
J: I can’t imagine anyone hating it. It’s so stunning.
D: When you go to a country house in England, it’s cozy. It’s all about the food. It is nothing to see the hostess in the kitchen cooking and making food and incorporating everybody in the house with the fabrics, the colors, the smells, the senses. And I love that. I always have a set dinner table.
D: And I change it every weekend that I go up. I’m a China fanatic. I have 20 sets of China.
J: That sounds incredible. I love the notion that you were really a student of hosting.
D: I have a thing at Bluestone Manor. You come on a Friday, you can do whatever you want. I don’t care if you stay, come, go sleep all day. But it’s Saturday at 6 p.m., you must be in the Blue Room dressed for cocktails. Everybody has to have a proper dinner with me on Saturday night.
J: I love that.
D: People look forward to it now. What they kind of made fun of in the beginning, now people are like, “What’s the theme of the dinner?” And I try to do the small themes. But you’d be surprised. People come all the way up to the Berkshires and they dress. Recently, the theme was going to be Old World, and one woman came up with a black velvet cape. I’m like, “OK, girl.”
J: She thought through material, through style.
D: And it fits.
J: Yeah, absolutely. When you’re up in the Berkshires, when you’re at Bluestone, you’re this incredible host. You’re very focused. Like you said, it’s cozy. When you’re in New York and it’s time to go out for a night on the town, what is that like?
D: Totally different life.
J: And you view them as two separate lives?
D: Two fully different lives. The Berkshires are where I live and cook and create and find peace and get good with nature and really do a lot of the things that I was raised on. I love home. I love entertaining and I love feeding people, I just love that.
J: You’re a true host.
D: But when I’m in New York, I’m none of that. I do not cook in my kitchen. I do not shop. It’s very minimal. I think New York is about getting yourself out there, seeing people. It’s just much more of a get up and go hang your hat. Just have fun. It’s my playground.
J: Do you feel like your place here is like a home, or is it where I’m crashing?
D: It’s just a different way of living. New York is just my fast-paced working girl. I think I get restored up in the Berkshires. And then I come back to New York and I hit it hard.
J: When you’re hitting it hard, how do you like to have a night out? What does that look like for you?
D: I love to go to dinner parties. I think there’s nothing better than a great dinner party to meet new people and get to know people. I kind of stick to my same restaurants.
J: I respect it, though. If you know what they are.
D: I said it to someone before, they were horrified. I said above Bergdorf’s, I’ll meet you. Below Bergdorf’s, I’m not going to meet you past 6 p.m. 12 p.m., yes, I’ll go downtown. But at 6 p.m. above Bergdorf’s, it’s fantastic. Below Bergdorf’s, nope. Maybe a couple blocks. Four or five, but not that much.
J: I respect a boundary being set and I think that’s really healthy.
D: I’m not saying everyone. Like, I went down to Cassie Cipriani. It was great. I’ll venture down. I’ll take the wings out and fly down the FDR every once in a while. So for me, New York is familiar. Late last night I went to Bar Italia. I know everybody there. I know the host. I’ve known him for 20 years. I like to be meet and greeted. I’m not a great one for walking into the rando restaurant. And that’s not even about being a Housewife. I’ve always been like that. I like familiarity.
J: Well, it makes sense. If you are such a fantastic host, it would make sense that when you go out, you would want that same experience back. You would want them to know who you are.
D: I don’t mean to give me special service. I just like the coziness of it.
J: The familiarity. Absolutely.
D: If you’re ever in doubt, you can probably find me at La Goulue. Even last night at 7 p.m., I’m like, I’m just going to walk somewhere and grab something to eat. So for me, it’s very casual. It’s very New York, because I think New York is a very pedestrian, interactive, fun city. And then, of course, don’t worry. There are nights where you could spot me at The Blond.
J: You can have a fun night if you want to.
D: Yes, I do it.
J: When you were a Housewife, did you feel like your relationship with going out and having your familiar restaurants and all that shift in any way?
D: Well, not so much with the restaurants that I go to: Fleming, La Goulue, Bergdorf’s, all that. I’ve been going there for 30 years. I was going there before I even moved to London. So it’s mine. It’s like these are the people in my neighborhood. They know me pre-Housewife. I’ll tell you one thing that was a big shift for me, is after I was on TV, you do realize that you have to be aware. That’s the difference. You just have to be a little bit more aware. I’m certainly not some big, huge, famous person. But if you are going out, you have to be aware that people are going to come up to you and you have to be prepared for that. Because if you’re in that world and then people have enough courage to come up to you and you can see them coming, you have to be kind and nice and receptive. And if you’re not in that mood, then you probably shouldn’t go out.
J: Yeah, that’s fair.
D: So I don’t really go out unless I’m going out with friends or I’m doing appearances or stuff. I’m just not a random go around-er.
J: Yeah, you’re not just jumping out for a big night out. I respect that.
D: I’m 58, too. Let’s put it in perspective. I’m tired.
J: In this city, I feel like anyone at any age can do anything they want.
D: Look at Ramona.
J: Did you love London?
D: I loved it. You have to remember, I moved there as a young, young girl at 24. And I got married there.
J: How long were you there?
D: Almost 10 years.
D: But formative years. Because, remember, I got married. I had my daughter there. My friends from London, who I just saw in the Bahamas the other day, are still my friends because we kind of grew up together. Now London is filled with a ton of expats. Back then it was still very London, it was still very British. It was post-Thatcher, pre-John Major and you had to peel the onion a bit.
J: Yeah. I lived in Brighton for a year just an hour south. Yeah, I’m actually going back in two weeks to go visit. I’m taking my mom, which I’m so excited about. I haven’t heard anyone describe it that way, peeling the onion. At first with some of my friends, I was like, “I don’t think they like me.” I said that about one friend in particular. I bartended there at a pub and I was saying, “I don’t think she likes me very much.” And someone said, “Oh, no, she’s just very English.” And I was like, “Oh.”
D: Yeah, that’s the thing, because it’s the opposite in America. People like you quickly, but there’s not as much longevity. If I went back to London tomorrow, I could be there for two weeks and it would be as if I never left.
J: I feel that so deeply. I know exactly what you mean.
D: I was there for a week for someone’s birthday party. My friend Heather’s birthday party. I flew in on Sunday. And literally by Sunday morning, people are saying, “Darling, do you want to come to the country house next week?” And I’m like, “I don’t live here.”
J: Wait. So I’m curious. When you’re in London, where does that land on that spectrum of the coziness of Bluestone versus the hard and fast of New York? How do you feel when you’re in London?
D: London is a great city because it still has that Old World feel.
J: It does, yeah.
D: I always stay at Barclay. I’ve stayed there ever since I moved from London. Whenever I go back, I stay at the Barclay, I stay in the same room. I pull up and the guy that’s been there since forever always says, “Hello, Mrs. Medley, how are you?” This is just great. I like the way you roll. I don’t care if they told you I’m coming. I like it.
J: Yeah, it’s good service.
D: And I always get up in the morning and go to Hyde Park and watch when all the Queen’s horses come out and they walk. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, it’s a surreal experience. You expect to see a knight. maybe. London just evokes all that good Old World stuff.
J: It reminds you how young America is.
D: Yes. And nothing’s better than a good pub. People try doing the pub in America.
J: It doesn’t work.
D: It doesn’t work.
J: Because part of it is that you need to have a culture that is completely comfortable with everyone going out for like two beers at lunch.
D: Not only that, they always have a cast of characters at the pub.
J: Oh, yeah.
D: Remember the first time someone pushed over a jar. This old man, he’s like, “Have an egg.” It was the egg and the vinegar things. And now I love them.
J: I’ve had them too, and they are delicious. But I remember the first time I was bartending and someone ordered a pint of ale and I was like, “Where’s the ale?”
D: Or a lager and lime.
J: I love a lager and lime. But for the ale, you still have to f*cking pump it. I’m sorry, it’s the 21st century. What are you talking about?
D: And it’s black.
J: It’s a black, it’s also warm.
D: So bad.
J: I say out loud to my coworker, “Sorry, where’s the ale?” And the guy who ordered it goes, “Nope, an American is not pumping my ale. Get someone else.” And I was like, “OK.” And I had to walk away and I had to really earn my stripes.
D: Pub culture is a real thing. You could sit for hours and hear the stories and then someone always ends up singing at some point.
J: I lived there when I was 19 to 20, I was really young. And that was where I first started drinking and going out on my own as an adult. I miss that culture because that’s how I first learned to drink and socialize. It was so cozy and so low stakes, very safe and very neighborhood-y.
D: That’s right. I think that my bourbon would be great at a pub. I can see it easily on a pub shelf. It looks like it belongs in a pub.
J: Because it’s classy, but it’s not ostentatious, like a Don Julio 1942.
D: They just carry this on a voyage across the ocean. This could go in the bottom of the boat for everyone to drink. For people finding new lands and minerals and golds and silvers and fabrics to bring back.
J: I know. And I am having a hard time resisting. It is truly delicious.
D: I also want to say, I’ve been doing a lot of studying on it and Phoenix are all great at doing the mash and all that. And of course I’m trying to learn it all, but I’m more visual than the taste.
J: Which is important.
D: Very. I also think what’s interesting is you’re seeing bourbon come more mainstream. People are using it a lot more as a mixer. Tequila is the No. 1 best-seller liquor right now but bourbon is a close second in the world of bourbon and whiskeys. And I love the fact that it’s no longer just in the late-night drink. People are mixing it in all kinds of different ways. A lot of artisan drinks are happening with bourbon. And it’s really becoming forefront, people are doing bourbon cocktails as their pre-drink now before dinner. Which I love. I saw someone the other night, this guy, he set a piece of rosemary on fire and then he put it under a glass.
J: He smoked it.
D: He put the bourbon in and I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And then he added a lemonade or something, and it just looked so delicious. That’s very important too. We’re bringing it to the forefront. It doesn’t have to just be a bottle that sits on your bar when you have company; you can actually make a beautiful cocktail.
J: Absolutely. How do you like to drink it?
D: Well, I do like to have it neat. But I love an Old Fashioned. I love a Mint Julep. And I’ve started to mix it a lot with different fruits and things like that. The other night I had it and just poured a little bit of soda water with a tiny bit of Maraschino black cherry juice. But the black cherry, not the grape — the ones that are fake.
J: Like the Luxardo.
D: Yeah. And then a little bit of rosemary. Rosemary and bourbon go so beautifully.
J: They really do.
D: I shook it and I had that and it was delicious. I also like that a lot of people are doing this thing with an egg white. They put an egg white and shake it. It almost takes on a creamy texture. They’re beautiful cocktails. I see a book coming up.
J: Yes I see a big peacock on the front of a book. You can also do the frothy thing. If you don’t want an egg, you can do it — this sounds insane — with aquafaba, which is the juice from a can of chickpeas.
J: I had a cocktail with it last night and it was fantastic. It was actually a bourbon cocktail.
D: Yeah, there you go.
J: It was delicious.
D: I think you guys need a little bit of air conditioning here.
D: I am sweating to death.
J: It makes too much sound. We can open the door for a second and let some air in.
D: I mean, I have an appearance after this. Someone’s going to give me a stick of deodorant.
J: We can let some air in for a second.
D: Oh, my God. Thank God.
J: That really did help. What was I going to say? My whole brain just turned off.
D: It’s the bourbon.
J: It’s good stuff.
D: So we’re excited. We launched in November. We did a soft rollout and now it’s starting to really happen. We’re moving into all kinds of different states and distributors. This is not something for me that has to happen overnight. This is something that I want done right. If that takes a while, more power to it, it’s fine. Do you know what they say? The biggest successes are the slowest successes.
J: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s really special. It kind of just sounds in line with how you like to host, and with everything you do. It’s about the larger idea.
D: Correct. And you know what? It’s the old hare and the turtle, right?
D: And I believe in that. I just think slow and steady. You have to believe in what you’re doing, and I believe in this so much.
J: You should.
D: People didn’t get it at first. I got it immediately. I still get it. I love it. I love every time I see it somewhere. I just got a beautiful picture from La Goulue. They have it on their bar now.
J: Oh, that’s so nice. Your home spot.
D: Yes. And there’s a couple of restaurants that send me pictures all the time. It just makes me so deeply proud.
J: It should.
D: It’s the type of thing where you just have to believe in it and work on it slowly and keep your branding tight. A lot of time Housewives, and I’m not being negative about this, but they got their hands in too many pots. So I’m trying to build this, not only Bluestone Manor bourbon, but the branding around it.
J: Yeah. And keep that really nice and tight and authentic.
D: And you’re going to see a lot of the bourbon on the “Ultimate Girls Trip.”
J: Oh, that’s very exciting.
D: We do a whole bourbon Prohibition dinner that’s hysterical.
J: Oh, really? That’s going to be a good one. That’s very, very exciting. I’m sure you’ve been drinking a lot of bourbon recently because of this.
D: Well, not a lot. I don’t want to start any rumors. But I have sips here and there.
J: What are the other things you like to drink when you’re not in the mood for bourbon?
D: Well, you know. Do you need to ask me that? Do you not watch the show?
J: I watched the show. I guess the question was more: Has bourbon eclipsed all of those things?
D: No. Bourbon is my go-to. Bourbon is in my life all the time. But of course, you’ll try a different cocktail. Of course. I still love my Dirty Martini every once in a while.
J: Yeah, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
D: But I’m just excited about this as bourbon is part of a lifestyle brand.
D: I’m excited for people to have a little bit of Bluestone Manor. It’s like a clubby drink. I
J: It’s like your Goop almost.
J: I love that. What would you say if someone’s like, “OK, I’m going to get the bottle of Bluestone, I’m going to have people over for my Dorinda Medley dinner.” What are the other things they should do at their home for the party to fill that out.
D: Well, you mean entertainment-wise as far as a dinner party or what?
J: If they’re throwing a dinner party.
D: The thing I always say about dinner parties, people get very frightened of dinner parties. And I think people have lost the art of the dinner party because they make it very complicated. The thing you have to remember about dinner parties is it’s about the people. And then creating a theme, creating a feeling. I love throwing a dinner party. And I can throw together a dinner party for 16 people and it’s nothing.
D: No problem. I always say it’s all about the back kitchen. So by the time my dinner party happens, it’s all done. I’ve done a lot of the prep, the table’s done. Anything that I can make beforehand is done. No one likes a hostess to be running around crazy in a dirty napkin, frantic. You have to be part of the dinner party. Because people get frantic, then they’re like, “What can I do? How can I help you?”
J: They feel like they’re imposing almost.
D: You want them to believe it just happened. It was flawless. What are you serving? Serving spoons, bowls are out to be plated. If you’re going to have people help you or a person help you, they know what’s going on. It’s like a symphony.
J: Oh, it’s orchestrated.
D: Yeah. Nothing’s random, but it should look that way. Hannah once said to me, “Oh, my God, Mom, I threw a party. It’s so much harder. You make it look easy.” Because you have to do it all beforehand. If I’m going to have a big dinner party, I’m not serving something that’s precious. I’m serving lasagna. Two lasagnas, one vegetarian, one plain. That’s made days before. And I’m serving a huge salad, some fantastic herb bread. And we’re done. I’m going to tell you something, I’m all about the buffet.
J: OK, thank you. Let people decide how much they want to eat because you want everyone to be well fed.
D: Also, too, it’s not even about that. There’s nothing more beautiful than putting everything out on nice china and serving things to put it all out. And there’s a lot of conversation that happens at the buffet table.
J: That’s so true.
D: If people want to get seconds, they go up and get seconds. It makes it a little bit more interactive. And then when people get up to get seconds, they change their seats. So I’m going to go sit by this one.
J: Oh, that’s a good move.
D: And an easier cleanup.
J: Oh, for sure. Were dinner parties something you loved as a little girl? When did you fall in love with them?
D: I grew up with no money. There were no dinner parties. There was just survival. Grab it and eat it as you can. That’s not true. My mother’s Italian, my father’s Polish. We were raised on food. and the celebration of food and the celebration of family. I think it’s why I love a linen closet so much. My mother has a closet in her dining room, and her tablecloths are literally separated by a vent, down to her baptismal tablecloth, the funeral tablecloth, the Christmas, the Easter, the everyday. Because that’s how they used to do it. We’ve had to redefine ourselves as women in so many different ways in the last couple of decades where we had to get super strong. But there is something very powerful about my mother who really took such control of her house and took such pride in it. That is a badass woman.
J: Obviously money helps make a dinner party lovely. But I think what you just described is the ethos wanting to bring people together and making this feel special.
D: I got some of my best Halloween plates at TJ Maxx; they had a skull on them. I bought every single one I could get my hands on. I think they were like $9 each. By the time I was done with it, it looked like this incredible dinner table. I put it on Instagram. My Halloween. It was Dracula’s dinner.
J: Oh, gorgeous. But that’s what I’m saying. It makes sense that you would be this way if that’s how your mother was approaching it as well, with this really intense care.
D: People know when you make an effort. It’s just about making people feel comfortable and loved and welcome and fun. No one likes a stiff dinner party. You got to have your music down. You have to make sure the candles are lit. You got to have your playlist. It bothers me when I go to people’s houses and they’re dragging through their cabinets, taking out bowls and stuff. It’s like taking fingernails down a chalkboard for me. Get that sh*t out beforehand.
J: Yes, absolutely.
D: And you don’t need a ton. I don’t think a kitchen needs to be overstocked. Just get your essentials.
J: And get essentials that you are happy with. I think that that’s why, like you said earlier, people are afraid of the dinner party. I think people are afraid of the dinner party as guests because we’ve all been at that one where the person shows up and they have a very rigid idea of how things need to be and how the night needs to go. You shop and you’re like, “Motherf*cker.”
D: As my mother would say, always be ready to set another plate. If someone shows up with two people, no problem, push over.
J: Always have enough bourbon. Always have enough wine.
D: Enough food, enough bourbon, enough wine. You can always add another plate.
J: It is this welcoming thing.
D: it’s a gift for people to come to your home.
J: I was going to say, it’s a gift to have a home that you can host people in and enjoy being in. It’s such a joy. I’m also someone who hosts, so you describe having people come to Bluestone, that sounds like heaven.
D: It is. And so many times people come and they’ll be like, “We’re coming up this weekend, but we’re going to go to Jacob’s Pillow on Saturday.” Do whatever, you do you. They end up never going past. They come through the gates and they never leave until Sunday afternoon, of course. Another great thing for hosting and having guests and having people over, is set a cut off on the weekend. I don’t like lingerers on Sunday. By noon, I want everyone out. I do the good old brunch. It starts at 11 a.m. and by 1 p.m. I’m like, “Goodbye.” I do a hearty brunch, get them well fed. It’s usually everything from the night before. It goes into a soup for lunch the next day. Nothing gets wasted. Because I hate waste. And then at 1 p.m., I’m literally like, “Goodbye.” We’ve got to get those beds changed. We got to get BSM back in order. The lady’s got to get herself back in order again. I’m not a big lingerer. I don’t like people lingering around on Sundays.
J: I get that. Let’s do Saturday because we’re not doing it on Sunday.
D: Get there early Friday, spend all day Saturday, get up Sunday, recap what happened Saturday night, figure out who slept with who, who hates each other, who cried. I love the whole recap. And then at 11 a.m., I feed them heavily and then goodbye.
J: Oh, my God. You’re living my dream. You just get to bring a bunch of people into your house, have a bunch of gossip and drama. And then they leave.
D: Someone’s got to cry and someone’s got to sleep with someone. That’s the recipe for a good weekend, right?
J: Earlier, you said the only rule was that everyone comes to dinner at 6 p.m. Now we’re finding out the other rules.
D: What happens at Bluestone Manor truly stays at Bluestone Manor.
J: Except on this season.
D: Yeah, exactly. But I’m going to tell you a secret. Nighttime at Bluestone Manor does make you a little naughty. I don’t know why it brings out this sexiness in people. Even some of my most conservative friends come up and I’m like, “Is so-and-so dancing without her top on outside by the pools?” They’re like, “Yep.”
J: Especially if it’s friends who live in NYC. You never feel truly alone or unsupervised. And then you go somewhere where, like you said, it feels like you enter this world, this bubble.
D: You’re on 18 acres. No one can get to you.
J: Absolutely. I’m taking my top off.
D: So bourbon is a perfect sort of elixir for all things Bluestone Manor.
J: Yeah. Like you said, it’s a very cohesive brand, which is about having a nice home where bad things happen.
D: Naughty things happen. I don’t think bad is a good word.
J: Naughty is a much better word. A nice home where naughty things happen.
D: The great thing about Bluestone Manor is that you never know what character is going to walk in the door. I remember my friend Greg Cleo said to me, “I don’t know where these people turn up.” The craziest people show up. Come on in. Someone walks through the cornfields, I’m like, “Sure.”
J: That’s the beginning of a horror movie.
D: Can I tell you stories? It’s a true story, swear to God. One night I’m having a party. Swear to God this is true. So we’re having a great time. We’re all inside. It’s fall time and we got the fires roaring. We’ve all had dinner and now we’re all dancing and doing all that kind of stuff. And I have these beautiful, huge French doors that go out to the gardens. So my brother’s there and my brother, Johnny, is a big prankster. I’m standing in front of the French windows and this person’s banging on the windows. So my friend Mona, who’s in front of me, says, “Oh my God, someone’s banging to get into the house.” I said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s my brother Johnny.” And then Johnny walks to the door and says, “Hey, Dorinda, do you want another drink?” Literally I couldn’t move.
J: No, that’s so scary.
D: The person was plastered, at my window banging to get in. It was someone I didn’t know. We had to call the police. And he literally ran through the cornfields. Swear to God. And he got away.
J: That’s so f*cked up.
D: It was scary. Luckily, we had drunk enough that it didn’t overly affect us the next day. We were like, “It’s OK.”
J: There’s nothing like waking up after a night of drinking and being like, “Wait, that was actually so concerning.”
D: My friend Mona was like, “That was bad.” I’m like, “I know, but we didn’t do anything about it. We just got another drink and kept dancing.” I mean, the police are coming. Do you want a drink? That was really bad. The next morning I’m like, “Oh, my God, we could have been murdered.”
J: Once again, I think you’re a great host because you’re not letting it ruin the party. We got to keep the mood up.
D: He didn’t get in. We don’t need to stop the party. Let’s not get a little ahead of ourselves there.
J: Bluestone Manor: the grounds might not be secure, but the building is.
D: Isn’t that a great story?
J: That’s incredible.
D: Literally, when my brother came around the corner.
J: That’s drama.
D: This is f*cked up.
J: Yeah, that’s f*cked up. That’s not OK. I would think someone’s pranking me.
D: Well, it wasn’t.
J: You took on Bluestone Manor, this super-historical place.
D: Well, I didn’t take it on. What happened was, I grew up in the Berkshires. I don’t know if you knew that.
J: I did.
D: My great grandfather came over from Italy to work on it as a mason. My grandfather worked on it as a mason. When I was growing up, one of the big activities that we used to do on Sundays is go for a car ride and go look at all the places that my grandfather built, worked on. So I’m an expert at a stonewall. I can show you the best dry stone walls ever. So that was our big thing. Go get an ice cream and wander around the Berkshires looking at houses that my great grandparents’ built. So one of the houses I loved, it wasn’t called Bluestone Manor, was this house on the hill, my mother would say. My relatives would leave symbols in their masonry work as a sign that they were there. So I still have that. I knew all those people. They used to play poker with my grandfather.
J: That’s so gorgeous.
D: So when I was growing up, I would say to my dad, “I love that house. One day I want it.” That house was abandoned for a while. I’m probably going to get arrested 20 years later, but we used to walk the property and just go look at it and be fascinated by this house. And I used to tell my dad, “I want to buy this house; one day we’re going to live there.” And Richard bought it for me as a wedding present six months before we got married.
J: Oh, wow.
D: So that was his wedding gift.
J: And then you restored it together?
D: We restored it together. We opened it back up in 2009, and unfortunately, he passed away in 2011. So he didn’t really get to enjoy it as much as he wanted to. He loved it up there. You have to be a creative to like it. It’s that kind of place.
J: That’s what I was going to ask. I think it’s so special that you still have this house that you made together.
D: I’m just amazed, to tell you the truth. Hannah said it to me. Hannah said to me, “Mom, it’s amazing that Richard’s been gone for 10 years. And you’ve actually owned the house on your own longer than you owned it with Richard.”.
D: Owning a house is one thing, but maintaining a house and running a house is another. And I made a vow to myself when Richard left that if I can’t run the house the way Richard ran it and in that condition, I just don’t want it anymore. Because nothing’s worse than trying to keep something that you no longer are meant to keep. It’s bad luck, I think.
J: Absolutely.What I’m curious about is when you’re restoring a house like that that has so much history and you so clearly have so much love for, what were the things that you wanted to add to it? Maybe add is the wrong word. What did you want to bring to it, incorporate to it, and also, like, what did you want to maintain?
D: When we moved into the house, I wanted to live in it. I say this to everybody that buys a house: Don’t be so quick to renovate it or whatever. Because if you live in a house, you’ll figure out what you want out of the house and what the house wants of you. And it takes about a year. These things you think, “Oh, my God, I need a sunroom, a bowling alley,” you’ll never use it. We lived in it for a solid year with the kids. I have two stepchildren and Hannah. And it really came to me how we live, we’re going to live in it. And also, I was very conscious, because it was built in 1902, that I wanted to renovate it but really restore it. I didn’t want it to walk in and be like, “This doesn’t make sense.” I wanted people to believe that it almost was like that.
J: Like it wasn’t this new home.
D: I told Marshall Watson, my interior decorator, when he first came up, I said, “I want it. Frankenstein meets Marilyn Monroe meets early 20th century.” He’s like, “I don’t know what that means.” We’ll figure it out because that’s where we’re going.
J: You’re like, “This isn’t a suggestion. This is what we’re doing.” What are your favorite little touches in the house?
D: I love all the hand-lacquered walls. I just love a good lacquered wall.
J: Yeah. You don’t see that that often.
D: No. And one thing about lacquers, it’s expensive, but you do it once it lasts forever. That’s the good news. It’s a good investment. I love crazy wallpaper, so I have everything.
J: The peacock, I’m dying for it.
D: I have every closet wallpapered. I have ceilings wallpapered.
J: I love wallpaper.
D: I love wallpaper. And I have the foil wallpaper, the stuff that’s really old.
J: Is it textured?
J: I grew up in a wallpapered house and I miss it.
D: We restored a lot of the old molding. Stanford White just did such a beautiful job. When you walk through the door of a Stanford White House, you walk through the door like it’s an entrance. He was incredibly talented about, first of all, making the houses that moved with the day. So you really do find yourself in the correct room according to the day since he followed the sun.
J: That’s so interesting. So you follow the natural light through the house during the day.
D: Find yourself sitting in rooms and you’re like, “Yeah, I think I should sit in this room because now it’s nighttime.”.
J: Oh, my God.
D: And the moldings are beautiful. And the stone work’s beautiful. The house has depth. For me, it lives and breathes. I haven’t been there now for two months. I long for it.
J: You’re craving it.
D: I long for it. I said to my mom this morning, “I can’t wait to get up to BSM on Friday.”.
J: Oh, you’re going on Friday?
J: Hearing you talk about it and stuff, it’s impressive to me that you incorporated the bourbon and this potential line into it. There’s such a vulnerability to that because it is so personal to you.
D: Well, that’s right. I think you’re going to see it with the mash-up that’s coming out in June. First of all, we were in Covid and I hadn’t really seen anybody for six months. And then I had eight girls come up and stay for eight days. I’ve never had anyone stay at Bluestone Manor for eight days. Certainly not people I don’t know.
J: You want people out on Sunday at noon?
D: Yes. It was hard for me to give up control of that.
J: I can’t imagine.
D: At one point, I think there were 100 people and production on my grounds and hot air balloons landing in the back. Which was actually good for me and healthy, but it made me a little crazy, too. Because I run the house in such a way that not everybody understands it and they may take it as me being super strict or overly controlling. Which I am a bit, I have to admit.
J: Nothing wrong with that.
D: You’re going to see that I really have to give up the loss of control.
J: I mean, that makes sense when I was watching the trailer. I think I’d have a panic attack having eight people in my house, let alone production for that long.
D: It was wild. It was originally going to be four. And then because of Covid and stuff, we couldn’t find another place. I think we were going to go to the Miraval at one point, but there was no staff. People just weren’t taking big groups. Hence we have an incredible show coming out.
J: That’s so exciting.
D: It’s exciting. Have you seen the trailer?
J: I’ve seen the trailer.
D: Everybody’s got to watch the trailer. It came out today.
J: It’s incredible.
J: Watch the trailer. It is incredible. I think the first episode will be out by the time this comes out, which they should also watch. I just think that it’s really commendable that you let all these people in. This is so gorgeous. That’s so impressive to me.
D: Well, people love Bluestone Manor. One of the things that I learned from being put on pause is that, obviously people were sad that I wasn’t on, but people really missed Bluestone Manor.
J: Yeah, it’s a character.
D: They mourned it. They were like, “No more you. No more Bluestone Manor.” No more Len, who’s been with me for 16 years helping me up there and in New York. She is part of the house, too. I mean, she runs the house. I don’t really, really run the house.
J: That must be such a trusting relationship, too, to have that connection with her running the house.
D: Of course. You’ve got to have people in your house you trust.
J: Absolutely. As we move towards the end, as Bluestone Manor — the bourbon — moves across America and hopefully across the pond as well, how do you think people should drink their first glass of Bluestone Manor?
D: I got to tell you, I think you just need to sip it straight.
J: Sip it straight for the first one?
D: I don’t even know if I’d put it over ice the first time. I’ll just put a nice little splash in the glass, smell it, swirl it around, and just take a nice, slow sip of it and tell me what you think. From there, build it out.
J: I think that’s a beautiful way to start.
D: Drink it and think about all the fun you’re going to have.
J: That’s gorgeous. This was such a pleasure. Thank you so much for being here.
D: Thank you as well. I appreciate it. And get the bourbon at bluestonemanorbourbon.com.
J: We will do that.
D: And you can find out where it is in your local area.
Thank you so much for listening to “Going Out With Jake Cornell.” If you could please go and rate and review us on whatever you’re listening to this on, that would be really gorgeous for me in a huge way, so thank you.
And now, for some credits. “Going Out With Jake Cornell” is recorded in New York City and is produced by Keith Beavers and Katie Brown. The music you’re hearing is by Darbi Cicci. The cover art you’re probably looking at was photographed by M. Cooper and designed by Danielle Grinberg. And a special shout-out to VinePair co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for making all of this possible.