WWGD: What Would Gatsby Drink?
February 23, 2010 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Throwing a Great Gatsby party, and need some food ideas!

My book club did The Great Gatsby this month, and we thought it'd be fun to have a Gatsby-style tea for our get-together/discussion. It's a very late afternoon tea, so we're having some more substantial suppery foods as well as tea sandwiches and the like. It doesn't have to be totally authentic, but I'd like to catch the "feel" of the era/book.

I'm also trying to figure out what kind alcohol would have been served at an upscale party during prohibition. (Emily Post 1922 limits me to tea and chocolate but you know that saucy minx went to better parties than that!) We'll have tea, maybe pink lemonade (Gatsby is such a hot summer book!), and I'd like to have at least one alcoholic beverage.

I'm mostly looking for food and drink ideas, but decor, dress, entertaining tips, etc., are also welcome!
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
A champagne fountain would be appropriate I should think.

Also: eggs on both the west side of the room and the east side of the room. One side of the room's eggs will be classy and old-fashioned, the other side will be jazzy and glitzed up.
posted by Think_Long at 5:10 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is a great resource for entertaining in 1920s style.

As for drinks, I would serve champagne and champagne cocktails.
posted by sallybrown at 5:11 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've heard that gin martinis were the alcoholic beverage of choice during prohibition. It wasn't actually gin, but moonshine flavored to taste like gin. They were basically trying to turn something gross into something fancy (if I'm remembering correctly).
posted by a.steele at 5:13 PM on February 23, 2010

Best answer: mint julep (referenced heavily in chapter 7), an old fashioned

this might help
posted by nadawi at 5:14 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you like puns, you should serve T.J. Eckle-burgers.

Haha, get it?
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 5:15 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Ah, okay, this is from Wikipedia:

"Making alcohol at home became a very common practice during Prohibition. This home-distilled alcohol was referred to as “bathtub gin” in northern cities, and moonshine in the rural areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee."
posted by a.steele at 5:16 PM on February 23, 2010

Best answer: Plug in a green lightbulb.
posted by cirripede at 5:16 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you like puns, you should serve T.J. Eckle-burgers.

Oscar-Meyer Wolfsheim hot dogs!

If you can't already tell, I'm sort of a literalist.
posted by Think_Long at 5:18 PM on February 23, 2010

Eggs. At either end of the house.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you really want to be authentic, poison the alcohol. (NB: DON'T DO THIS.)
posted by sallybrown at 5:21 PM on February 23, 2010

Response by poster: These are seriously awesome ideas, I'm laughing my head off! I am TOTALLY putting a green lightbulb in a lamp! Keep 'em coming!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:27 PM on February 23, 2010

Best answer: "Meanwhile Tom brought out a bottle of whiskey from a locked bureau door. I have been drunk just twice in my life, and the second time was that afternoon" (Ch 2)

"'You McKees have something to drink,' he said. 'Get some more ice and mineral water, Myrtle, before everybody goes to sleep.'" (Ch 2)

"she had a bottle of Sauterne in one hand and a letter in the other." (Ch 4)

"Mr. Sloane wanted nothing. A lemonade? No, thanks. A little champagne? Nothing at all, thanks" (Ch 5)

"With a reluctant backward glance the well-disciplined child held to her nurse’s hand and was pulled out the door, just as Tom came back, preceding four gin rickeys that clicked full of ice." (Ch 7)

I'd say that gin rickeys are the most authentic. You could also mix up a Great Gatsby.
posted by Paragon at 5:31 PM on February 23, 2010

When everyone walks in you should be sprawled on a couch, looking bored out of your mind, preferably with another female companion.
posted by kylej at 5:36 PM on February 23, 2010

For food, don't forget the spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold.

For beverages you might consider gins and liquors and cordials so long forgotten that most of your female guests are too young to know one ffrom another.

Whatever you serve, though, you need to make certain that you juice a lot of oranges and lemons so that thanks to a machine and a butler's thumb you can end up with a pyramid of pulpless halves.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 5:42 PM on February 23, 2010

If you're really going for "bathtub gin", you can infuse vodka with juniper berries, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root (iris root), almonds , cocoa nibs, cassia bark, cubeb berries and/or grains of paradise (from here). I wouldn't boil it however, as that would evaporate a lot of the alcohol. I've had great success infusing vodka with all kinds of stuff by just letting it stand in a closed clear plastic container in sunlight for a day or so.
posted by halogen at 5:44 PM on February 23, 2010

Make sure you tell everyone who walks in that the green light means hope.
posted by rusty at 6:09 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Or just put label it, "the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us."
posted by cirripede at 6:21 PM on February 23, 2010

Best answer: Decorate everything in silver or gold. The color coding is the best part of the movie, I think, and the use of color in the book is deliberate as well.

Also, I really want to be your friend, because this is awesome.
posted by pecknpah at 6:45 PM on February 23, 2010

I have no idea where you'd get it, but how about a book with uncut pages?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

TJ Eckelburgers would definitely need to come pre-condimented with two pickles as big creepy eyes, probably with the pupils/glasses frames drawn in with mustard and ketchup.

If you go with champagne punch, put it in a big crystal punch bowl and float a Gatsby (Ken doll maybe?) in it.

I love this party idea, by the way. Please don't pick The Jungle as your next read.
posted by dr. boludo at 7:01 PM on February 23, 2010

you get books with uncut pages at really big used book stores with antiquarian stuff and estate stuff and whatnot, Belasco. there will be some moldy old edition of Alexander Pope that nobody ever cut that has (or had) a nice binding and they only want $2 for.

also, don't forget the freshly squeezed orange juice.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:16 PM on February 23, 2010

This is a tea? Cucumber sandwiches, on crustless bread. Serve gin Rickeys or some other form of cocktail from a teapot into teacups. Serve champagne punch. Older versions of Joy of Cooking have instructions for making checkerboard bread sandwiches with cream cheese-based fillings.
posted by theora55 at 10:24 AM on February 24, 2010

Jello was oddly popular as a "High-end" food at the time for it's supposed slimming properties.
posted by The Whelk at 2:04 PM on February 24, 2010

Response by poster: These were all great answers, I marked a few that I used. I decorated the table with daisies in vases and put a green lightbulb in a lamp in the far corner of the room. Several people contributed dishes, some authentic to the period, some just tasty. (I made mini-quiches (roquefort and spinach and mushroom) and cream cheese & bacon tea sandwiches; we also had crab tea sandwiches, three kind of cookies, coconut cupcakes, nuts, two rolled swedish cakes, fruit salad in ambrosia, and veggies with spinach artichoke dip.)

In addition to tea, I served Mint Juleps, Gin & Tonics, and one of the ladies brought homemade peppermint schnapps to stand in for bathtub gin.

I used my wedding china and silver, and one of the ladies owns an heirloom silver service that we served the tea from, it was gorgeous!

The party was an enormous hit! Thank you for all the help!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:36 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to add -- we all had so much fun researching period dishes and drinks and so forth that the next time we do a book that's either in a historical period or a foreign country, we will probably "theme" our book club gathering again!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 PM on February 28, 2010

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