Help me throw a 60s cocktail party!

My housemates and I want to throw a 60s-style cocktail party in a few weeks’ time. We’re thinking that we want a Rat Pack-style theme to the evening, so dinner suits with untied bow ties for the guys, cocktail dresses for the girls. Similarly, we’ll be serving cocktails and finger food, and we’d like some good music for the background.

Have you got any suggestions for how to make this party run well? Suggestions for drinks, food, music? Any way we could decorate the place on the cheap? Any gimmicks that we could use to really set the tone, keeping our theme in mind? What do you all think?


Go Tiki!

Tres cool. :cool:

You might also try your local public library (or an older relative) to see if they have any old entertaining books from that era. My grandmother had several cookbooks from then, and it was always fun to look through them.


Damn, Bosda, you made realises how much I need a monkey butler…

No monkey butlers HERE , but everything else you need. :cool: :cool:

Food, you say? There’s James Lileks book, The Gallery of Regrettable Food; see also Lileks’ Institute of Official Cheer at his website.

Music: beyond the most obvious picks (Frank, Dino, Tony Bennett), try mixing in some Coltrane, Nat King Cole (e.g., “Crazy Days of Summer”), Johnny Mathis, Nancy Sinatra, instrumental tracks from John Barry James Bond soundtracks (I recommend “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and “Diamonds Are Forever” for their grandeur and swank-itude, respectively), Dusty Springfield, perhaps a Noel Coward ditty or two, and at least one good compilation of “Space Age” music (contemporary alternative: Combustible Edison, which recreates that style pretty well). If you can find it, you could even mix in a bit from a 60’s comedy album… there’s a bawdy, blonde middle-aged female comedienne from that period who is now all but forgotten (and sure enough, I can’t remember her name now; her shtick was her very dated sex jokes and timely references to things like the Mercury Space Program) who would be a most interesting discovery for your party guests.

Food: check out James Lillek’s site (specifically, his “Gallery of Regrettable Food”) for period-specific recipies – many of which involve the use of Jello molds. There must be a few party finger foods there, though.

Needless to say, you will need a fully stocked bar, replete with accessories (cocktail shaker, strainer, etc.) and martini extras (stuffed olives, pearl onions, citrus fruits and peeler, Granny Smith apples, Angostura bitters, etc.) and a bartending book.

Good luck; it sounds like fun!

This can help.

Oh yeah, baby!

Check out Brini Maxwell, and if you’ve got the Style channel, then be sure to check out her TV show! (Brini’s a drag queen Martha Stewart who has a flair for 60s kitsch.)

And rent Down With Love (Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor), an OTT homage to all things swank.

If there’s anything in your place that would stick out like a sore thumb during the party, perhaps you could put it in storage or give it a 50’s-60’s makeover.

If there’s any home furnishings boutiques and antique/vintage used clothing/consignment shops in your area, you might want to check 'em out – for ideas, at least.

Great ideas so far - Scrivener, I especially like the music suggestions, and Bosda, I will be sure to stock up on swizzle sticks etc.

Took a look at the “Regrettable Food” cookbooks etc, not quite what I was looking for. I’d prefer food that’s edible. How about drinks ideas? What’s a mad-ass 60s cocktail that you like?

Drinks - Highballs, whiskey sours, Gimlets and Hurricanes
Food - cocktail weenies on toothpicks, cheese cubes on toothpicks, anything else you can skewer with toothpicks

I just purchased (huzzah, library sales) a book on Elegant Entertaining from 1965. If you need any advice on alphabetized subjects from Ashtrays (what kind to put where, for what occasion) to Yachting (actually it ends up with an entry called Zoo, which is a short collection of the types of twits you may have to entertain), I’m your girl.

Let’s see what Cocktail Parties has to offer:

“With less than 25 guests you should be able to manage without a waiter.” Hmm. Reassuring, but not very helpful.

Here we go “At a small cocktail party it is very chic to offer in addition (to the hard liquors) such as hot buttered rum, or mulled wine in the winter, or in the summertime a mint julep, Pimm’s Cup, planter’s punch, etc.” (Comment in parentheses is mine.) Pimm’s Cup is interesting and nice actually, but you’d be in winter right now right?

For food, it suggests stuffed eggs and cocktail sausages -actually it says those are kind of old hat, which suggests they’d be a regular sixties cocktail party fixture- and little sandwiches. Six to eight canapes apiece. I’d imagine that modern eaters would get through more. Somewhere else in the book she also mentions hot pastry shells filled with creamed chicken. I know you used to be able to get pre-made vol au vents that you could just fill and heat.

Oh, this is neat. If one of your friends will oblige, she says that at this time in Europe it is still fashionable in some circles to have a barker to announce everyone as they come in. That could definitely add atmosphere.

Peri, I like the look of those drinks. Where have gimlets been all my life?

Yep, Idlewild, I’m in Australia. Good pickup. The barker idea is brilliant. Don’t know if it would be practicable, but brilliant nonetheless…

I thought I’d seen you mention that somewhere. :slight_smile:

Good luck with your party, my housemates in Uni and I used to hold cocktail parties but never managed to attain much in the way of elegance. Certainly a lot of fun was had, getting dressed up in formal frocks and cocktail hats. Actually, I think the hats were the best part.

I don’t think ours will be particularly elegant either. We’re far too poor for the real Rat Pack style stuff, waiters and all, even in the waiters are monkeys. Should be fun though.

What do you mean by cocktail hats? Paper party hats, that kind of thing?

Cocktail hats. :slight_smile:

Rumaki. With the leftovers, I suggest stir-frying them with broccoli. I call this dish “rumaccoli” and it’s surprisingly tasty. Do take out the toothpicks before you fry them.

I could go on at length about music choices, but for something quick and easy, compilations are great. The UltraLounge series is pretty solid, plus each CD is themed in different ways. If you want to get more esoteric, the Easy Tempo compilations are largely by Italian musicians/composers with a hefty amount of songs from soundtracks to movies, as are the few Beat at Cinecitta comps. The Mood Mosaic comps are all over the place and have more esoteric themes to them. The Sound Gallery compilations of British library music are great. And there’s an interesting series coming from Japan these days called Cafe Apres-Midi that tends to be more Brasilian oriented, is sometimes hit-or-miss, and is a bit more costly. But cost and diversity-wise I say give the Ultra Lounge series a look.