How to Throw a 'Great Gatsby' Party, Menu and Decor Ideas Included
There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.
Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York — every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.
At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.
-The Great Gatsby, F. Scott. Fitzgerald
image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Let's pull it all together, shall we? Below are the drinks and food mentioned throughout the book, as well as links to recipes around the web.
Champagne. Alcohol was prohibited in the 1920's, but it still was around. Just remember they served them in wide brimmed champagne glasses, not the flutes that we use today. If you don't want to buy glass like these Casablanca Champagne Coupe, try a package of 40 Plastic Champagne Glasses for a larger party.
Claret. A dark rosé wine from Bordeaux, now no longer around. The term Claret de Bordeaux now means a fruity light red wine that's easy to drink. For this party, in it's place, try any rosé wine. Crittenden & Co (links to Dan Murphy's, my local Australian store) makes a nice rosé that's well priced for large dinner parties (~$5 a bottle).
Sauterne. A sweet dessert white wine. Serve it at room temperature and not with sweet desserts (goes well with cheeses). This is a pricier wine (the lowest I could find was $30 a bottle) but can be served just as dessert itself.
Tea. In the novel, tea is served with the lemon cakes when Gatsby and Daisy meet at Nick's house. You don't have to throw a big dinner party to celebrate The Great Gatsby out in cinemas. Host a small tea party instead. Try orange pekoe, black tea or green tea.
Gin rickeys. A freshing combo of gin, lime and mineral water. Try Gourmet Traveller's version.
Lemonade. 'He was profoundly affected by the fact that Tom was there. But he would be uneasy anyhow until he had given them something, realizing in a vague way that that was all they came for. Mr Sloane wanted nothing. A lemonade? No, thanks. A little champagne? Nothing at all, thanks...' Try Sweet Kiera's meyer lemonade recipe here. Looks deliciously refreshing!
Cordial. If you just don't drink, are the designated driver or are throwing this party for a below 18 year old (or 21, whichever your legal drinking age is), cordials make an appealing and tasty alternative. In the case of the book, they were probably used as mixers.
Oranges and Lemons. They were used as juice, but make tall towers with them as centrepieces. Be inspired by these more ornate styles from the blog Interiors By Patti, or go fresh and modern and be inspired from TheKnot.
Baked Ham. Try Chatelaine's spiced baked ham recipe. My old Chatelaine cookbook that's been lugged around the world with us, makes the description more elegant, by placing maraschino cherries (which were introduced in the 1920's) in the centres of the cut diamonds in the fat, and placing strips of kumquats into the cuts, so try combining the two.
Hors d'oeuvres. These are essentially, finger foods that you eat before a main meal. The list is endless on what you serve, and are quite simple foods, often just displayed on platters.
Here's some ideas.
Oysters Rockefeller from Serious Eats
Crudites with dips
Salmon Mousse on sliced bread
When I threw my 1920's party last year, I needed it to be, for the majority, finger food as we were playing a murder mystery game. This was the menu I planned (based on an 1920's italian speak-easy)
Salads. Salads were very popular in the 1920's, according to Food Timeline. Try ones that would've been around in Gatsby's time, like this Waldorf Salad from Yum Sugar, or the Candle Salad. Although popular in the 50's, it originated from the 20's (and yes, in my opinion looks quite phallic.) Also, any molded salad (think foods stuck in Jello) was the go. And finally, don't forget the Caesar Salad! Yet another 1920's invention.
Pastry pigs. Known also as pigs in a blanket. Try Buttery Books version.
Pig sausages. 'Most of the time I worked. In the early morning the sun threw my shadow westward as I hurried down the white chasms of lower New York to the Probity Trust. I knew the other clerks and young bond-salesmen by their first names, and lunched with them in dark, crowded restaurants on little pig sausages and mashed potatoes and coffee.'
Pork sausages, you'll find them in the grocery store. Makes for good finger foods. To make it daintier, slice them and poke toothpicks in for serving/ easy handling.
Mashed potato. Naturally, goes with the pig sausages.
Lemon cakes. Served with tea at Nick's. I made these recently, and used The White House Cookbook's Citron Pound Cake recipe found on gutenberg.com, replacing the brandy with white wine and using fresh grated lemon rind and lemon juice.
Cold fried chicken. A meal between Tom and Daisy, served with cold ale. Try the recipe I made here. If you're serving it at a party, make it finger bite sized and keep them hot in a buffet server (if you throw more than one party a year, you need one! Cheap enough, I bought mine for around $30-$40.)
Writing up invitations, place cards or menus? Try out these fonts.
The official font for recent The Great Gatsby movie by Baz Luhrmann, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, is Atlas Regular and Atlas Solid.
Looking for free 1920's Great Gatsby fonts? Try these from fontspace.com
For a more feminine 1920's font (free), for a tea party
If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, you're coming into the right weather to host your Great Gatsby party outside. Too cold but have a greenhouse or outdoor room by chance? Having walls makes decorating easier! Especially if you want to string hundreds of fairy lights to create that romantic 1920's glow.
Alcohol flows in The Great Gatsby, so don't forget to make the bar your main focus.