Old-Fashioned Appetizers

by Lisbeth Booth ; Updated November 07, 2017

Appetizers, whether served as a first course or as finger foods at a cocktail party, are a colorful and enticing way to say "welcome" when you're entertaining. If you're hosting a retro-themed party or want to accommodate mature tastes, put some old-fashioned recipes on your appetizer menu. Classic appetizers like dips, canapés and bite-sized meat dishes will add a sense of vintage style to your next get-together or event. Because they rely on time-honored, basic flavor profiles, most of these tasty bites please kids' palates as well.

Dips and Spreads

Dips are a tried and true party appetizer favorite. One old-fashioned appetizer idea that is still around today is a crudités platter featuring cut-up vegetables, such as carrots, celery, snap peas, cauliflower and jicama, surrounding a dish of creamy green onion or dill dip. Hot dips like crab and artichoke dip or a hot cheese dip are also long-time favorites. Mousses and pates are spreads or pastes made with meat, and were on most appetizer menus in the middle of the 20th century. These were traditionally served with crackers, vegetables or a sliced baguette.


Canapés are little morsels of food served on crackers or toasted baguette slices. They became very common in the '50s and '60s, especially as an appetizer for cocktail parties. Old-fashioned canapés often featured ingredients different than those you'd see today, such as sardines, anchovies, pate, deviled ham, and bologna, often paired with cream cheese. One vintage canapé is rumaki, a Polynesian-inspired appetizer made with chicken or duck livers and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, then marinated and broiled.

Meat and Seafood

In years past many hostesses served meat and seafood appetizers. Shrimp cocktail, served with red cocktail sauce, is a true classic, as are other seafood cocktail salads like clam cocktail. Other old-fashioned meat appetizers include dry ribs, cocktail wieners and ham rolls. Some of the simplest appetizer fare consists of sliced pepperoni or salami on crackers with cheese spread and a garnish. Bacon has long been a favorite appetizer meat, often used as a wrapper to hold more complex appetizers together.

Other Retro Favorites

Deviled eggs, which are hard-boiled eggs whites cut in half and filled with a mixture made from the hard-boiled yolks with mayonnaise or creamy dressing, are a well-known old-fashioned appetizer than continue to be a mainstay at modern picnics and cook-outs. Cheese balls, a combination of cheeses mixed together for a cracker spread, and baked cheese straws are other classic appetizer options. For a truly retro appetizer, put together a platter of different colors of molded gelatin squares full of small pieces of fruit.


About the Author

As a professional journalist since 1998, Lisbeth Booth has worked as a writer and an editor at several magazines. Her career has focused on music and film criticism but she has also written about lifestyle topics such as parenting and home design. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Calgary.