Elegant Entertaining :: Jazz Age inspired Cocktail Party

Rather taken with the notion of throwing a cocktail party

with a jazz age theme,

after researching the history of cocktails for our series

and finding lots of wonderful inspiration from the 1920s.

Martinis, jazz, a devil-may-care attitude, treasure hunts

 and lots of dancing.

Sound like fun?

We'll be needing the right setting for our cocktail party,

and I'm thinking Tivoli House,

built in the 1920s on Sydney's beautiful harbour

may just do the trick.

Yes, plenty of room for dancing

and the piano will be fabulous for the jazz musician.

Now this era was all about the youth movement.

Tossing out the sensibilities of the Edwardian ideals

and the reasons they saw as folly for going to war,

the young generation was really more interested in kicking up their heels.

As a celebration of the spirit of her new-found freedom,

the New Young Woman of this decade

loved nothing more than to fill the hours between

afternoon tea and the theatre with

the amusing diversion of a cocktail party.

So our party shall start at the cocktail hour - at 6 pm.

And finish at 8, in time for the evening theatre performance.

In the early 1920s, the wealthy young generation of England,

the most audacious of whom earned the title the

Bright Young Things

,

and largely had nothing else to do,

thought it most amusing to play out characters in fancy dress theme.

Especially for cocktail parties.

This fast set included Cecil Beaton, Nancy Mitford & Evelyn Waugh,

with Noel Coward sometimes part of the group.

So they shall form our muse.

Which, ironically for us,

means that our fancy dress, a Jazz Age theme itself,

is right in keeping with their notion of dressing up for a party.

But it doesn't have to be too literal.

It's more about embracing the sense of freedom, spirit, glamour

and embellishment of the era.

If there is one word to sum up a Jazz Age cocktail party,

it would be

extravagance

.

Perhaps turban wrapped hair fastened with glittering brooches...

...figure-skimming dresses of rich fabrics, glittering with sequins...

...or voluminous ropes of beads + pearls,

trailing feather boas and long gloves for the girls.

If a little is good, a lot is better.

And for the boys...it's the elegant dandy,

with satin bow ties,

black suits...

and a debonair air.

This is the part where I always get distracted....!

Back to our party plans, however.

The entrance to our 1920s house is aglow with

 fancy lights.

And the sultry notes from the double bass are calling us to the dance floor.

All that dancing means the guests will be getting hungry.

What shall we serve?

Remembering that this is after afternoon tea,

but isn't dinner,

some of those newly-fashionable, eaten with the fingers,

hors d'oeuvre & savouries will be suitable.

Stuffed

anything

(mushrooms, olives, crepes)

will be in vogue.

And seafood - crab, lobster, caviar - too.

This is all about excess.

And then there will be cakes.

If ever there were a decade dedicated to the sweet life,

the 1920s were it.

Available again in plentiful supply after the war,

sugar was consumed with gusto,

with ladies journals extolling fabulous new recipes with each issue.

Finally,

after all this,

the guests will be served little morsels of Welsh Rarebit.

And the all important cocktail?

What shall that be?

The drink of the decade: the martini.

But stirred, not shaken (just hold on, Mr Bond)

and made with a

lot

of vermouth.

In fact, some recipes from the 1920s

call for equal amounts of gin & vermouth.

First sweet, or Italian, vermouth was used.

Then as the decade progressed,

the dry, French vermouth was increasingly used,

which lead to the original term

"dry martini".

Did I mention a treasure hunt?

They were very popular during the Jazz Age parties,

with items either hidden in the host's house,

or even in the surrounding streets,

with witty clues handed out to guests to keep them guessing.

This would be a fun idea to include & a fabulous way to break the ice.

Giving guests "favours" became wildly fashionable

in the 1920s,

beginning with flowers for the ladies,

but then becoming more elaborate with gifts of silk cushions,

cigarette cases, feathered fans & porcelain figurines.

So perhaps the treasures on our hunt could be little cellophane bags

of dark chocolate almonds - that's decadent & delicious!

So here's a toast to the flamboyance of the Jazz Age,

the absurd antics of the Bright Young Things,

and the fun that can be had with a cocktail party inspired by it all.

images ::

sequin dress

//

tivoli house

//

1920s inspired photo shoot

//

flappers

//

bright young things

//

green dress

//

turban headband

//

black + gold dress

//

striped dress

//

3 gentlemen

//

man in dinner suit

//

tivoli house

//

double bass

//

couple dancing

// recipes from

mrs beeton 1923

//

jazz club

//

lady drinking martini

// martini artwork blue fruit //

tivoli house

//

black velvet dress

//

louise brooks

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shoe

//

carten sisters

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louise brooks