There is nothing like a good theme to set the tone for a memorable holiday party. From clothing, to music, decorations, food and drink, a theme helps tie together the main elements of a party and actually makes planning easier. Mad Men, for example, the Emmy Award-winning TV drama set in New York City during the 60’s, lends itself to a stylish retro theme.
As with any good party, the details matter. Guests can dress to impress in glamorous 60’s clothing. Retro decorations can be found on eBay or at thrift shops to help invoke the sophisticated 60’s vibe with minimal cost. Maybe you can find an old (or new) metallic Christmas tree and trim it with multi-colored light bulbs. Set out your best crystal glasses and your rarely-used linen napkins. Music is always important at parties, so make a play list of some favorite songs from the 60’s, such as hits by Sam Cooke, or research some new artists with a retro sound, like Ray LaMontagne.
There are numerous retro cocktails to choose from, so pick a few with different types of alcohol to assure there will be something for everyone, including some non-alcoholic choices as well.
VODKA GIMLET Serves: 1
2 oz - vodka of choice 1 oz - fresh lime juice 1 tsp powdered sugar ice lime, garnish
INSTRUCTIONS Combine the vodka, lime juice, ice, and sugar in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lime slices.
Recipe courtesy of DrinksMixer.com
OLD FASHIONED Serves: 1
2 oz bourbon whiskey 2 dashes Angostura bitters 1 splash water 1 tsp sugar 1 maraschino cherry 1 orange wedge
INSTRUCTIONS 1. Mix sugar, water and angostura bitters in an old-fashioned glass.
2. Drop in a cherry and an orange wedge. Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back end of a spoon.
3. Pour in bourbon, fill with ice cubes, and stir.
Recipe adapted from DrinksMixer.com
FRENCH 75 Serves: 1
1 oz gin 1/2 oz elderflower liquor 4 oz champagne 1 long, thin lemon spiral 1 cocktail cherry
INSTRUCTIONS 1. Fill cocktail shaker with ice, gin and elderflower liquor. Shake gin and elderflower liquor until well chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into a champagne flute
2. Top with Champagne. Stir gently, garnish with a long, thin lemon spiral and a cocktail cherry.
A non-alcoholic cocktail is a thoughtful touch along with an assortment of sodas and sparkling water for those who prefer to abstain. This recipe comes from Retro Cocktails by Kate Moseley.
AMBER FIZZ MOCKTAIL Serves: 1
4 oz orange juice (fresh squeezed is best) ginger ale
INSTRUCTIONS 1. Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice then half fill with orange juice.
2. Top up with ginger ale. Float a piece of pared orange rind on top to garnish.
You will want a few special appetizers to go with your swanky cocktails. These apps are easy to prepare and require few ingredients but are also sophisticated and impressive.
Recipe adapted from Chef Hank Shaw
ANGELS ON HORSEBACK (Bacon-Wrapped Oysters - A British appetizer popular in the 60’s) Makes 12 appetizers. Multiply recipe as necessary.
6 strips smoked thick-cut bacon 12 shucked raw oysters small, bite-sized, like the size you would eat raw * 1/2 cup cocktail sauce (homemade or store-bought) 3/4 cup freshly grated horseradish (or use prepared horseradish for a tangier flavor) Lemon wedges, for serving Special equipment: 12 toothpicks
Cut bacon slices in half. Place a skillet over low heat and add the bacon, cooking on both sides until slightly cooked but still pliable (do not let bacon get completely crispy or you won't be able to wrap it around the oyster). Or you can boil the strips of bacon until slightly cooked.
Let bacon cool, then place an oyster on the end and wrap so that the bacon completely overlaps it by at least one inch. Use a toothpick to secure in place.
When ready to serve, preheat your broiler and arrange prepared bacon-wrapped oysters on a baking sheet. Broil about 3-5 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp on top and oysters have shrunken slightly. Remove from oven and and place on serving platter. Top each one with a dollop of cocktail sauce and a generous pile of horseradish. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side - use the lemon - it makes a big difference!
* For variety replace the oysters with bite size shrimp or scallops.
Who doesn’t love a cheesy fondue? This is the perfect choice for a retro 60’s soiree.
PARMESAN FONDUE Serves: 14
1.5-2 cups milk 2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, cubed 1.5 cups grated Parmesan cheese ½ tsp. garlic salt Dippers for Cheese Fondue: granny smith apples, french bread, ham rolls and crudite
In a large saucepan, cook and stir milk and cream cheese over low heat until cheese is melted. Stir in Parmesan cheese and garlic salt. Cook and stir until heated through and pour into fondue pot. Serve with dippers.
Adapted from allrecipes.com
The yummy parts of a martini make the perfect cocktail party snack. Castelvetrano are plump Sicilian olives with glossy green flesh and a buttery texture. You can substitute another olive, but these are really special. From 101 Cookbooks 2018.
GIN-MARINATED OLIVES Serves: 4-6
12 oz drained, rinsed green olives ( preferably Castelvetrano) 2 serrano peppers, halved 1 medium clove of garlic, thinly slice slivered peel of one lemon 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1/2 cup gin 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano a few sprigs of dried thyme, or equivalent 1/4 cup of cubed feta cheese
Heat the oven to 350F. In a baking dish, just large enough to arrange the olives in a single layer, combine them with the peppers, garlic, lemon peel, olive oil, gin, oregano, and thyme. Give a good toss, and bake for about 30 minutes, carefully jostling once or twice along the way. Remove from oven, sprinkle with the feta cubes, and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serves 4-6.
Article originally published in Central Virginia Home Magazine Winter 2018. Click here to view full article.