Anyone who knows me, knows I love a good happy hour. Giant margaritas and cheap tacos? Yes, please. But what about cocktail hour in the home done with a little more sophistication?
The cocktail hour (which is essentially moved to a restaurant and called happy hour) was a staple of life beginning in the 1920s, and probably best recognized in the 1950s and 60s. You can always have your own private cocktail hour. You come home from work, a glass full of goody liquid, and a relaxing chair, perhaps some music in the background. Think:
“Honey, I’m hoooome.”
“Oh, dear, how was your day? Here’s your scotch on the rocks. I think I’ll have a Tom Collins.”
The above scenario could be envisioned either the man is coming home or the woman, and is greeted by their significant other at the door with a drink. How come people don’t do this anymore? (Not as many alcoholics?)
Or you could go the route of the cocktail party. You invite some friends over, mix up some cocktails, and serve some appetizers. It could be the precursor to a more elaborate dinner, or it could stand on its own with “heavier” appetizers.
If I had a bigger house, cocktail parties would be an established observance for me. As it stands now, the private cocktail hour is more likely to occur, with me walking in the door and saying, “Honey, I’m home!” Whereupon my fish stares unblinkingly at me and I pour myself a champagne juice drink or mixed drink. You make due with what you have.
If I were to envision a real cocktail party, I will be waiting for you in one of my 1950s dresses with martini in hand ready to serve you, or some other concoction of your choosing. There will be small cocktail napkins, a spread of food to nibble on, and music in the background appropriate for drinking, chatting, and satisfying one’s palate. Cocktail party attire required. Come on, it’ll be a swingin’ good time!
I have never been a fan of deviled eggs or casseroles, or pigs in a blanket, or onion dip, come to think of it. Those were all “authentic” foods served at a cocktail party in the 1960s. So I might have to cheat, and update the menu. A salad, a shrimp dish, a vegetable/fruit plate, and bowls of mixed nuts would be tasty little treats to nibble on throughout the night.
Though I would want to stick to a retro, original feel for the rest of the party. Oh, and except for the blatant sexism and racism. Yeah, those and the food I’d have to discourage.
What about music, you say? Well, I’m glad you asked, because the playlist would start off with the Rinky Dinks’ above, Choo Choo Cha Cha and would also feature:
- Nancy Sinatra – Tonight You Belong to Me
- Wanda Jackson – Rock Your Baby
- Lou Rawls – Scotch & Soda
- Perry Como – Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes, Papa Loves Mambo
- Astrud Gilberto – The Girl from Ipanema
- Tony Bennett – Boulevard of Broken Dreams
- Rosemary Clooney – Come On-A My House, Botch-a-Me
- Julie London – You and the Night and the Music, Sway
- Peggy Lee – Why Don’t You Do Right
- Chubby Checker – The Twist
Oh, and the booze! I almost forgot! Mix a new concoction for each guest, no premade pitchers of drinks. Manhattans, mint juleps, martinis, and old fashioneds are a few that were at the height of popularity in the cocktail party heyday. Have plenty of bourbon, vermouth, cognac, and rum on hand. Another drink to try:
- 1 1/2 ounces VSOP cognac
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
- Sparkling wine
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the cognac, simple syrup and lemon juice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass, top with sparkling wine and serve.
Sounds delicious, yes? It is. I highly recommend you go mix one right now. I’ll wait . . .
Of course, a good reference is always Mad Men. The clothes, the music, the food, and boy do they show a person what and how to drink, maybe a little too well. Maybe you yourself threw cocktail parties in the 1960s, or you remember your parents doing it, or even have seen photographs of cocktail parties your grandparents hosted. Whatever the inspiration, think how much fun it would be to revive this event now, closest to it’s authentic form as possible. Maybe you like casseroles and deviled eggs, go for it! Maybe you prefer sexism. Maybe the room would be filled with real smoke from all the cigarettes everyone would be puffing away on. If I needed cigarettes at my soiree I would provide candy cigarettes. (See: Contents May Cause Twitching)
I know good company would be welcomed, there would be deliciousness for your palate and your ears, and everyone would be encouraged to be on their best behavior. . .until the booze kicks in. Just don’t be surprised if my fish stares at you.