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1960s lessons on cocktail parties


The 1960s were the golden age of cocktail parties. Finger food on cocktail sticks and cocktails on tap make it easy for the host and fun for the guests. Many great cooks published cocktail party guides during the era and here are the top ten tips from those books.

Choose your guests – don’t just invite everyone and anyone. Choose your guests by who you think will actively participate, socialise and make the night an evening to remember. Invite people you think will complement one another, or who will be able to engage in interesting conversation.

Cocktail Spreads [Via]

It’s cocktail time [Via]

Don’t forget the cocktails – after all this is a cocktail party. So don’t just buy a variety of the usual drinks available at a bar, before hand look up recipes for interesting punch or cocktail varieties. Have a selection of old favourites and new ones to tempt your guests with.


Must-have cheese balls – in the 1960s it wasn’t a cocktail party unless you had cheese balls. These are made by rolling pieces of cheese into round balls and creating unique taste concoctions such as rolling the outside in herbs or chopped nuts.

Snacks [Via]

Everything in blankets – snacks wrapped in bacon were the epitome of 1960’s finger food, from olives to cheese, pickles and cooked meats. It makes a nice easy option to stick a cocktail stick in them as the perfect accompaniment to your cocktails. (The Huffington Post)

Cream cheese [Via]

Cream cheese – this is so versatile and was the 1960’s equivalent to humous. Use it in dips or for inventing new paté recipes or even as a sweet snack mixed with chocolate.

Mini sausages – these tiny cocktail sausages are just the ideal snack at cocktail parties. Served with mustard they’ll go down a storm with your male guests. You can also splits them in half down the centre and stuff with cheese and for the most popular – roll them in bacon.

Smokers? – in the 1960s smoking did not carry the health warnings it does today. So while guides from the decade recommend leaving as many ashtrays as necessary throughout your house, today this isn’t going to be necessary. Perhaps just be on the ready to direct your smokers to the back garden or balcony if any attend.

Toasting – this isn’t usually done unless you’re at a table for a special occasion, but during a cocktail party it’s a nice addition to the evening. It could be a heart-felt message about friends and family, or something funny with a joke or pun, or even a mix of the word cheers in different languages.


Shrimp cocktail dish, Cefalú, Sicily, Italy [Via]

Decoration – it’s not only about the food and drinks you serve, a good cocktail party is all about the location and decoration. Use coloured napkins to brighten up your food buffet, use interesting food picks of different shapes and sizes, find interesting shaped glasses that your guests can drink from. Also think about your surroundings, buy some flowers or bring some small topiary trees into the house.

Relax – top of the list is to make sure you get to relax during the evening too. Get super organised beforehand so that by the time your guests arrive all you need to do is circulate, mingle and catch up with your friends. Not forgetting to fix yourself a cocktail too!

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News