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.
Mint juleps. Daisy’s choice of cocktail on a hot day. We made these earlier this week and served them up in an authentic mint julep cup.
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.
Turkeys. You’re seeing right. Time to roast up a turkey. Try this Sage and Onion stuffing from 1861, found in The Book of Household Management on vintagerecipes.net.
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.
Want to throw a 1920’s party, but more gangster/ flapper? Check out the speak easy party I threw last year here. It includes images of costumes, decor and the floorplan.
Just wondering but what type of lemon cake dd you make? Other than that thanks so much for the help can’t wait for my Gatsby party.
Hi Cody, I used this recipe from The Whitehouse Cookbook from 1887. Hope this helps!
CITRON POUND CAKE.
Stir two cups of butter to a cream, then beat in the following ingredients each one in succession: one pint of powdered sugar, one quart of flour, a teaspoonful of salt; eight eggs, the yolks and whites beaten separately, and a wine-glass of brandy; then last of all add a quarter of a pound of citron cut into thin slices and floured. Line two cake pans with buttered paper and turn the cake batter in. Bake in a moderate oven about three-quarters of an hour.
What is citron and where can I buy it?
Citron is the northern european languages word for lemon.
It is an ordinary lemon.
citron means probably candied lemon peel in this context…
What about a Alice-in-Wonderland dinner – served at giant tea table.
Mockturtle soup, first of course (Try Mrs. Beetons)
Mutton, Alice. Alice, Mutton.
Bread and Butterflies.
Did you see the “My Kitchen Rules” where they did “a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” with Asian food? Rub-bish.
I didn’t see the My Kitchen Rules (although I hear plenty via Twitter about the show. That’s enough for me!). I’m hoping next year to focus on the Alice in Wonderland theme. So many ideas to do! 🙂
I recently did a mad hatter themed party which went down a treat. Unfortunately the water board decided to dig up the outside of my house days before (bad timing I think), so I decided to put a rabbit in a rabbit hole on the door which I made and a sign saying “due to rabbit hole works, please use alternative rabbit tunnel to the left (meaning alleyway to left of house which led to courtyard at back). Apologies for any inconvenience caused – signed the mad hatter and everyone loved it. I made a two huge wall freezes of black card on to which I mounted playing cards placed at jaunty angles as if they were flying through the air. I had eat me signs on food, drink me signs on cans of tonic, bottles of gin and various directional arrows strategically placed i.e. Mad Hatters Tea Party etc. Everyone loved it. I was dressed as mad hatter, neighbour Emma was Alice, another friend was Cheshire cat, having lost a tooth literally days before. Other guest simply dressed up a hat with some playing cards. It was fab. People enjoyed it so much that I am now planning a 1920’s event.
Thanks for the ideas! Throwing a fall GREAT GATSBY GRAD GALA for my son and this was sooooo useful!
Hi Gina, I’m glad it helped. Hope it goes well- such a fun theme!
I’m doing a Gatsby Inspired wedding project, but I can’t seem to find the “Decor” typeface on FontSpace. The others came up by name, but not this. Would you be able to help me out?
I’m working on some print for a Gatsby themed wedding, and I’m in love with the typefaces you’ve chosen.
The only issue is searching “Decor” in FontSpace pulls up 700 pages! Yikes. Is there any way you could help
me locate it?
Hi Ms Taylor,
My team and I doing a concept dinner for our institution which is using the Great Gatsby concept. I found basically what i need to put in the menu but i’m having trouble in looking for soup. Is there any suggestion for soup? thank you.
I’m also wondering about the soup you suggested. Are there any vegetable dishes that were popular or bread options? Appreciate it.
I’ll have a look and see what I can find 🙂
I’m throwing a great gatspy murder mystery for my 50th birthday. This site has been very helpful. What murder mystery game did you use. Did it work well. Any chance of a copy.
Hi Tania, I used the game, How To Host A Murder – The Chicago Caper. It’s something you actually need to buy since it comes with a CD and the different player scripts. Was well worth it! I’ve thrown a few murder mysteries for dinner parties, and the ‘How To Host A Murder’ brand is my favourite.
This information really helped me with a school project I’m doing about The Great Gatsby. Thanks!
Glad it helped! 🙂
Hi i would like some help I’m throwing are 1920 50th birthday party need help with decor and food
We are hosting a 20’s murder mystery party on Black Friday (Ham and Turkey right after Thanksgiving…. are you kidding me… HAHA). But the Sausage and Mashed potatoes will be easy enough.
Thanks for the research …. the drinks hors d’oeuvres and deserts are all butt simple now that I have this information.
Thank you so much!!
Have an awesome party!
Love it! Nothing like the 20s. Although I didn’t see the Sidecar mentioned 😉
We are planning on having a 1920’s theme wedding next year and hoping this does’nt get to be too much for us. We are entertainers and do a lot of traveling.
We came up with this idea because of the fun that we would have.
Also our budget is low and dont want to go into debt over it. JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN!
Any suggestions for food that I can keep low scale but filling, in keeping with the theme?
Also, do you have a book on 1920s based weddings? If so I will go out and buy out right away!
Unfortunately I don’t have a book written (I guess I better get started on one!) But if you use The Original Boston Cooking-School Cookbook by Fannie Merritt Farmer (1896) and
Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide (1887) as a guide, there’s plenty of food and drinks that would’ve been served in that era.
VERY VERY HELPFUL. IM PLANNING A 25TH FORMAL DINNER GATSBY THEMED WHICH WILL LATER TURN INTO A PARTY AND I HAVE BEEN ALL OVER WITH SO MANY IDEAS. THANKS SO MUCH.
Glad it helped 🙂
Great Idea of partying like 1920 and keeping the menus of that era even I am thinking to throw a party like 1920
hi i love you ideas here, throwing a great gatsby speakeasy party for my folks 65th anniversary…….any extra ideas for that? it will also include a casino home made of course