When I think of the ‘Roaring 20s’ I can’t help thinking about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel The Great Gatsby. And with the upcoming remake of the original movie, now is the perfect time to host a Great Gatsby themed party. The story is set in the roaring 1920s following the First World War. The novel takes place on New York’s Long Island and when you think roaring 20s—think garden parties; flappers; feather boas; jazz; ostrich feathers; Prohibition; Speakeasies; the Charleston; bathtub gin and gangsters.
What else do we associate with the Roaring 20s? The Roaring 20s wouldn’t be complete without: Fedoras; English Driving Caps; Zoot Suits; Wing inspired Tip Shoes; Model T Fords; Tabloid Newspapers; Mahjongg; Oriental Lanterns; Victrolas; Long Pearl Necklaces; Headbands and Cloche Hats.
This is an era that is rich with FUNtastic potential party themes.
1. Speakeasy Bar
2. Gangster and Moll Bash
4. Silent Movies
5. Jazz / The Charleston / the Black Bottom / the Lindy Hop
6. Prohibition “Bathtub Gin”
7. The Great Gatsby
8. Cotton Club / Ragtime Band
You could give your guests a password to use to get into your party just like the Speakeasy’s had and appoint a doorman to check passwords and have a gun check when they get inside. Have some fun and, on the invitations, instruct guests to search the personals’ section of your local newspaper for a number to call for further details, including the must-have password. No password, no admittance. (Remember to place the ad.)
ROARING 20s PARTY INVITATIONS
All these invitations can be easily customized by you online. Just click on the image and it will bring you to the actual invitation where you can make your changes.
ROARING 20s SLANG
Here’s some 1920s slang words for alcohol:
- coffin varnish
- white mule
- horse liniment
- monkey rum
- panther sweat
- rot gut
- tarantula juice
The 1920s was a prosperous era known by a few names, such as the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, the Age of Wonderful Nonsense, and the Age of Intolerance.
Prohibition was ratified on January 16, 1919 and came into effect on January 16, 1920. Some people might think that Prohibition outlawed drinking but it just made the manufacture, import, transport, export and sale of beer, wine and hard liquor illegal. It was enacted to reduce drunkenness, petty crime, wife abuse, and corrupt saloon-politics, but the opposite happened. Crime increased as people rebelled against not being able to drink alcohol. And numerous illegal bars were created to provide alcoholic beverages & gambling. So much for good intentions.
Unfortunately, for a foodie, Prohibition destroyed the last vestiges of fine dining in the United States for a long time. It increased the production of soft drinks, put hundreds of restaurants and hotels out of business and spurred the growth of tea rooms and cafeterias. We went from oysters on the half shell with champagne to fruit cocktail cups and sodas.
The 1920s was the era of the speakeasy (illegal bars) and led to the rise of gangsters like Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Bugs Moran, Moe Dalitz, Joseph Ardizzone and Sam Maceo. And you know if the mob was involved then Speakeasies were a lucrative business.
These “secret gin joints” were most common in New York, especially between 45th and 52nd street on 5th and 6th avenues, where almost every building contained illegal liquor. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia—Manhattans “21” club had four safety switches that could be used during a raid to short circuit and cut access to all of the doors that contained alcohol.
Dance clubs were enormously popular in the 1920s and they sponsored a large number of dance contests. People would practice long hours doing the Charleston, Lindy Hop and the Black Bottom to get a chance to compete.
The style of the time—Art Deco. It originated in Europe and became the signature design and architecture that marked the 1920s era. In the U.S., one of the most remarkable buildings featuring this style was constructed as the tallest building of the time—the Chrysler Building.
Fashion of that era made a major leap. Young, rebellious, middle-class women threw out the Victorian corset and slipped on the slinky knee-length dresses that exposed their arms and legs. Oh my goodness—bare flesh.
A new woman emerged in the 1920s. She smoked, drank, danced, asked men out, bobbed her hair, used make-up, was much more assertive, vocal and she voted. She worked the same jobs as guys and fought for laws against inequality. The older generations named them ‘flappers.’ Can you imagine what they would have thought about today’s fashion passion for flaunting the flesh?
In the novel, Gatsby and his friends dined in the finest New York clubs (Twenty One, Stork, Embassy, Surf, Yale and 51 ½ East Fifty First, trendy ethnic restaurants like Chinatown and had elegant catered dining at home.)
What were the gastronomic delights of the average American in the 1920s? Apparently we had a “sweet tooth with a taste for the exotic”–enter fruit cocktails, pineapple upside-down cake, Jell-O molds (think tomato Jell-O), tea sandwiches, fancy salads and chafing-dish recipes.
The 1920s sizzled! Harlem was hot! Chicago was hot! The Cotton Club was open to whites and blacks and it was jam-packed every night. Jazz exploded! And Bessie Smith sang the Blues.
People went places and sang about them; California Here I Come, Carolina in the Morning, Chicago; That Toddling Town, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans, and Puttin’ on the Ritz.
A few recipes ideas for your Roaring 20’s party:
For hors d’oeuvres, set out celery sticks, breadsticks, olives, radishes, salted nuts, caviar, deviled eggs or shrimp cocktail.
Great Gatsby –
Chinese and Italian food were, ironically, the very definition of adventurous cuisine in the roaring 20s and extremely popular. You could serve spaghetti and meatballs or order in Chinese.
Want authentic recipes? Check out 
Here are a few excerpts of Mrs. Allen’s menus:
CLUB REFRESHMENTS AND PARTIES
The Afternoon Club Luncheon
Chicken Salad Sandwiches Coffee
Welsh Rarebit (chafing dish) Ginger Ale
Little Apple Meringue Pies with Whipped Cream Tea
Portsmouth Orange Cake Iced Coffee
Menus when the repast is somewhat more substantial
Clam Bouillon Whipped Cream Wafers
Chicken Salad Sandwiches Grape Conserve Sandwiches
Strawberry and Pineapple Salad
Maple Parfait Little Cakes
Cream Chicken in Cream Puff Cases Olives
Jellied Fruit Salad Nut Sandwiches
Chocolate Marshmallow Frappe Macaroons Little Decorated Cake
ROARING 20s BEVERAGES
You can’t forget the alcohol. After all it was Prohibition and what’s Prohibition without the hooch?
Between The Sheets
3/4 oz. each of rum, brandy, Cointreau; a splash of lemon juice or sour mix; blend with ice, strain, and serve up in a chilled cocktail glass
1 cup water
2 tablespoons orange Curacao
2 cups sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 quart California champagne
2 cups tea infusion
4 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons Medford rum
1 quart soda water
Make a syrup by boiling water and sugar for ten minutes. Mix champagne, brandy, rum, Curacao, lemon juice, and tea infusion. Sweeten to taste with syrup and pour into punch-bowl over a large piece of ice. Just before serving, add soda water.
2 oz. Whiskey or Bourbon, a splash of simple syrup, bitters, and Soda. Fill rocks glass with ice, add simple syrup, bitters, liquor, and soda, garnish with an orange slice and cherry.
1. Fill a tall glass or silver tumbler with crushed ice
2. Put 2 sprigs of fresh mint in another glass
3. Add 1/4 oz. of water
4. Add 1 tsp. sugar
5. Muddle ingredients well. (Don’t know what this means? Check )
6. Add 3 oz. of bourbon
7. Stir gently, but thoroughly
8. Strain into glass with crushed ice
9. Garnish with fresh sprigs of mint
1 oz. vodka; 3/4 oz. each of amaretto, triple sec, Southern Comfort, & sloe gin; splash of orange juice; dash of lime juice. Shake with ice & pour into a tall glass.
Stir well with cracked ice:
1 1/2 oz white rum
1 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 teaspoon grenadine
Strain into chilled cocktail glass and drop in a maraschino cherry.
Fill your metal washtub with ice and mini bottles of gin, then put flasks, boxes of candy cigarettes and chocolate cigars out on the tables. Keep the lighting low and have black and white tablecloths to get the feeling of a speakeasy.
ROARING 20s COSTUMES
Roaring 20s Costumes for Women
Flapper Dresses, evening dresses, long pearl necklaces, fans, feather boas, headbands with feathers, long cigarette holders, beaded shawls, seamed stockings, cloche hats, bobbed hair and don’t forget the flask in the garter.
Zoot Suits, Black or white ties on a black shirt, spats (white canvas or vinyl shoe covers.) fedoras or gangster hats. Don’t forget the gangster gun.
Have a “Swankiest Costume” contest complete with photos and a photo booth to send a party keepsake home with your guests. Teach your guests the Charleston. Screen a silent movie, play poker or craps or teach them Mahjong. Here are the basics for the game.
Take a look at the trailer for The Great Gatsby for more ideas and have a fabulous party.
I am half of the design team at Chocolatte Designs. It’s a family design studio of chocoholics–hence the name. My background is eclectic. I’ve taught whole-brain thinking and I have a background as an accountant and a graphic designer. I’ve walked barefoot over hot coals twice now and would do it again in a heart-beat. I love creating, whether it’s cooking, quilting, writing or designing. And I love forensic accounting and reading who-dun-its.
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