The roaring '20s were a glamorous time in America, as the passing of Prohibition forced the party underground into secretive bars and nightclubs known as speakeasies. Booze and music flowed freely in these thriving illegal establishments. Hosting a 1920s-themed party is a decadent way to celebrate a birthday, bridal shower, anniversary or even a wedding. Chic decor, swinging tunes, vintage fare and potent cocktails will add to the glamour and sophistication of this vintage affair.
Set the Mood
Send out Art Deco-inspired invitations with the pertinent info for your soiree. If creating your own invite, use artwork from old "New Yorker" magazines for inspiration. Create a secret password for guests to use to enter the party, reminiscent of the clandestine speakeasies of long ago. Request that guests dress in 1920s costumes to add to the overall allure of your party. Flapper dresses worn with strings of pearls was a standard female look of the time, while men always wore dapper suits topped off with a fedora.
If It Ain't Got That Swing
Considered the Jazz Age, the 1920s featured brassy bands blaring high-energy music from all parts of the country. Musicians such as Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong were famous American acts of the era. The performer Josephine Baker took center stage in Paris. Put together a playlist that includes these legendary entertainers. If space permits, create a dance floor so guests can dance the Charleston or the Black Bottom, popular dances of the time.
As the '20s was all about the booze -- or lack thereof -- make your bar your focal point. Decorate in dark colors, such as black and brown, and accent with gold to mimic the look of a darkened vintage bar. A gathering of small cocktail tables instead of one large table adds authenticity to your speakeasy. Paint vases or old liquor bottles gold, and use them to showcase peacock feathers in lieu of flowers; place these on tables as centerpieces. Use vintage musical cases to adorn your party space and to bring in the musical element of the era. You can also use these cases to store party favors such as personalized miniature liquor bottles or boxes of candy cigarettes.
Gin and champagne were the booze of choice throughout the '20s, but you can offer a variety of tasty concoctions while still keeping in theme. Manhattans are made with whiskey and sweet vermouth, while the Dark and Stormy is another libation that fits in with the '20s and is created by mixing rum with ginger beer. Pour liquor into retro crystal decanter bottles to add drama to your bar, and create personalized vintage-looking labels to adorn champagne bottles featuring the name of your speakeasy.
Serve retro appetizers to complement all the booze that will be flowing. Fill shot glasses with chilled shrimp, and garnish with a dollop of cocktail sauce and a small wedge of lemon. Crab cakes and stuffed mushrooms graced the table of many a 1920s party-goer. Other offerings include tiny sandwiches piled high on silver serving platters. Round out the fare with bowls of warm spiced nuts adorning the cocktail tables.
Candi Canncel is a writer covering food and drinks, travel and lifestyle. Her work has appeared on Food and Wine Travel, Craft Gossip, Belltown Local and other publications. She also teaches cooking classes and hosts food/wine seminars.
Masha D Trujillo/Demand Media