Today’s blog post is brought to you by my friend Miranda. Miranda is a music addict and blogs at The Good Groupie. She’s got a few awesome series you should check out – #bestsongallweek and 5 Qs with the band, and my favorite post by her recently was 30 lessons I learned to become The Good Groupie. For her 30th birthday party she decided to say goodbye to her 20s in style with a roaring 20s themed party. Now, go grab yourself a French 75 or Sidecar and enjoy!
Click here for Part 2 of this post, which includes decor (with printables!), activities, and tips & tricks.
Halloween parties are my thing. In 2009, I held a small weenie roast in my backyard with just a few friends for Halloween, and the rest is history. It’s grown into an anticipated annual event attended by friends who cross not just city limits but state lines to attend. Each one has its own unique theme, and I have a blast coming up with new ways to surprise and dazzle my friends each year.
So as my 30th birthday drew closer, I found myself being asked, “What kind of party are you having?” Not if I was having one – what kind. I guess I’ve made an impression.
I had already contemplated hosting a game night party when friends started asking about a theme, so I decided celebrating the big 3-0 was the perfect chance to say goodbye to my roaring 20s and party like Gatsby. I upped the ante of my game night, combining my love of costume parties with a chance to use one of my favorite writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and his most famous novel for inspiration for the perfect party theme: a 1920s game night.
Want to throw your own 1920s bash? This one actually came together much easier than some of my Halloween themes! Here’s my tips and tricks on the basics of hosting this theme, plus the food, drinks and music that will make you feel like you’re partying at Gatsby’s in West Egg.
Credit: AJG Photography, Etc.
The Basics – Colors & Theme
I started planning my 1920s party by picking a color scheme. That might sound over-the-top, but I find that once I pick a theme and a few key colors for décor, everything else falls into place. Black and gold are a must for any 1920s party worth its salt gin – both are key in art deco designs. From there, white or red are great standard colors to add for accent. Because of some décor I found, I put a little spin on the colors and chose a pastel pink as my accent color.
You’ll also want to decide what aspect of the 1920s you wish to highlight for your party theme. The great thing about using this decade for a theme? It’s incredibly versatile.
- Birthday: Celebrating the same milestone birthday as me? Say goodbye to your roaring 20s. (Or use it for a 21st birthday theme – hello to your roaring 20s now that you’re of legal drinking age!)
- Game Night: Want to put a spin on game night? Play card games popular from the decade.
- Tasting party: Cocktail aficionado? Use the 1920s as a theme for your guests to sample a variety of cocktails featuring gin – the decade’s most popular spirit – or champagne. You might even consider sampling absinthe, if you’re brave!
New Year’s Eve: Looking to add a twist to your usual New Year’s Eve party? Invite everyone to your speakeasy!
- Halloween: Need a clever Halloween theme? Make it a haunted speakeasy – complete with a murder mystery your guests have to solve.
- Wedding or baby showers: Hosting a spring-time bridal or baby shower or an engagement party? Host an afternoon garden party and play 1920s lawn games.
The possibilities are endless!
Because card games were popular in the 1920s and I was already thinking of a game night party, I combined the two and invited my family and friends to our speakeasy for a night of drinks, h’or d’oeuvres and games.
Appetizers and h’or doeuvres were popular speakeasy fare in the 1920s – perfect party food! Bite-size foods give your guests the chance to sample lots of different things and easily munch on snacks throughout the night. Here are some items that were popular on speakeasy menus:
- Deviled eggs
- Shrimp cocktail
- Oysters Rockefeller
- Cheese platters
- Olive platters
- Mixed nuts
For my party, I opted to start with deviled eggs and shrimp cocktail, then branched out to appetizers I love. Using some helpful Pinterest tutorials, I created a cheese platter featuring cubed cheddar and Monterey jack as well as Brie and goat cheeses, then added black grapes and an assortment of stuffed olives from a local Mediterranean market to complement them. I also made a charcuterie board with dry and hard salamis as well as prosciutto, also featuring stuffed olives and marinated artichoke hearts.
To round out my appetizers, I included a vegetable plate with hummus, made a batch of The Pioneer Woman’s stuffed mushrooms and finally got to make caprese salad skewers. Since I used a game night theme, I bought a pub snack mix and set a bowl at all three game tables. And, because it was a birthday party, my mom was kind enough to make me cupcakes (she makes the best cakes) which we decorated to match the party décor.
You will have no shortage of drink options with the 1920s as your theme! Keep things simple for afternoon parties or baby showers with iced tea and lemonade – two drinks you can easily customize with fun fruit or herb flavors. (Mint is always a good option!) For parties with a bit more “roar” to them, here are some popular 1920s cocktails and drinks to choose from:
- Gin fizz
- Gin rickey
- Mint julep
- Planter’s punch
- Bathtub punch
This party turned me into a gin fan – gin fizz to be exact. I opted to have a gin fizz bar, giving my guests the option between blackberry or wild raspberry gin fizzes. Both were a big hit and equally delicious. (And one party leftover I’m happy to have still!) I have a few friends who don’t drink carbonated drinks, and since the fizz part of a gin fizz calls for club soda, I wanted to make sure they had a drink option too. Planter’s punch, a rum-based punch that was found on virtually every speakeasy menu in the 20s, was the perfect fit. Though some recipes I found called for optional club soda, I chose to leave that out.
Making bathtub alcohol became popular once prohibition took effect, so if it’s feasible, you might consider filled your actual bathtub with ice and offering canned or bottled drinks, like soda, beer or champagne to play on that detail. Since it wasn’t for me, I filled one side of the kitchen sink with ice for my beer and champagne.
Absinthe, also known as The Green Fairy, was a powerful hallucinogenic spirit that gained popularity with expatriate writers and artists in France in the 1920s. The effects of ingesting it were so powerful that the U.S. banned it well before the 1920s – 1915, to be exact – but the (greatly exaggerated) legend of its hallucinogenic properties lived on. The spirit experienced resurgence in popularity in the 1990s, and it can now be on liquor store shelves, though it won’t be the same recipe from the late 19th and early 20th century. Still, it’s a fun spirit to serve for friends who are adventurous cocktail connoisseurs.
And if you’re a bit of a cocktail groupie like me, you’ve probably noticed a resurgence in moonshine’s popularity in the past year. Though they are not for the faint of heart, serving your guests a hint of moonshine, straight up, at your 1920s speakeasy might lead to some fun stories later. (Firefly is my favorite of the ones I’ve tried.)
Credit: AJG Photography, Etc.
Music is always the heart and soul of my parties. (As a music blogger, how could it not be?) And while I enjoy a wide variety of music and could listen to the likes of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Gershwin all day, I wasn’t sure my party guests would feel the same.
Using the hotly debated Great Gatsby soundtrack as a starting point, I compiled a playlist that mixed classic 1920s songs with electroswing (my new favorite genre!) and songs from the most recent cinematic incantation of Fitzgerald’s novel.
One party guest told me she could have listened to this all night, which thrilled me. My personal fave? “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” by Fergie.
That should get you off and running towards a roaring good time. Stay tuned for my next guest post where I’ll share décor and party activity ideas as well as tips and tricks to make your 1920s themed party a roaring hit with your guests.1
Miranda Enzor is a writer and blogger from Houston, TX. She currently writes The Good Groupie, a music blog for music fans, where she takes you backstage with up-and-coming bands, finds new music you’ll fall in love with, hosts a Rock Novel Reading Club and teaches you how to be a good groupie for your favorite bands. In 2015, Miranda launched Spooky Little Halloween, a blog for fellow Halloween junkies who believe in celebrating the magic of October 31st year-round.
PS. Don’t forget to check out How To Throw a 1920s Party, Part 2 if you missed it, it includes decor (with printables!), activities, and tips & tricks
PPS. Click here for more Party hosting tips and tricks.