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How to Throw a Retro Cocktail Party

Image: retro martini (ARA) Are you getting tired of the same old parties, and the typical menus of wine and cheese or beer and chips? Why not entertain your friends in a new way? Treat your guests to a retro-style cocktail party.

"A retro cocktail party brings back a simpler time," says Charlie Lapson, Hollywood designer and style guru for ShopNBC, an upscale TV and Internet retailer. "Cocktail parties were about gathering around and having a cocktail and conversation -- no VCRs no TVs, just a record on the hi-fi. It was a way to bring people together without being distracted by modern conveniences."

To set the scene for the party, "first turn back the hands of time and take a look at retro chic," advises Lapson, who suggests using a few decorations that will create a nostalgic mood -- think bright Ď50s colors. ShopNBC has a set of tinsel trees in lime green, pink and silver that will add some retro style to your living room or entryway. About one and one-half feet tall, the trees come with a set of sparkly ornaments that can be mixed and matched.

To add some additional Ď50s atmosphere, string up a set of Chinese lanterns. Keep the lights low, and scatter some candles around the room. Donít forget the music. Must-haves are selections from Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bobby Darin and Nat King Cole.

Invite your guests to show off some retro style: "For women, think Lucille Ball meets classy Jackie Kennedy," says Lapson. "Every fashionable lady would have been wearing a cocktail-length dress." Accent your outfit with a little retro bag like a beautiful silk satin clutch designed by Lapson (and available online from ShopNBC). For men, a blazer or jacket and skinny tie with a white shirt is the right look.

You canít have a cocktail party without a bar. To set up your bar area, drape a dining or kitchen table with a white cloth and accent it with a small lamp. Check ShopNBC for some affordable decorative table lamps such as a Peyton Tiffany or a Cathedral table lamp to help set the right mood. Set out an ice bucket with tongs, plenty of cocktail napkins, and maybe a bowl or two of warm salted nuts.

Youíll probably want to have glasses in a few different sizes: distinctive but affordable Mikasa etched-pattern glasses in cordial, goblet and shot glass sizes are available online at ShopNBC. Make sure to have some martini glasses and all-purpose wine glasses on hand too.

Cocktail preparation requires the right equipment. Youíll need a cocktail shaker, a jigger for measuring and a pitcher for mixing larger portions. Donít forget the pimento-stuffed olives, maraschino cherries and any twists that may be needed. For drama, have some frill-festooned toothpicks and swizzle sticks on hand.

Itís not realistic to offer an unlimited selection of cocktails. Just choose one theme drink, such as a martini or a sidecar, and then offer a few other choices, including one or two that are nonalcoholic.

Now for the food. No retro party would be complete without some tasty cocktail wieners or meatballs, eaten with the frilly toothpicks. You can supplement this with some cheese straws, an olive loaf and an assortment of spreads served with slices of cocktail rye. If you want to add a low-fat option, how about shrimp cocktail?

To be really authentic, plan some party games like clue or password. "The biggest part of the cocktail party was playing charades," adds Lapson.

Hereís one classic cocktail recipe to try at your next party:

1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce lemon juice (about 1/2 of a lemon)
2 ounces cognac

Chill a cocktail glass by filling it with ice cubes for a few seconds. Dump out the ice and rub the rim of the glass with a piece of lemon. Dip the rim in sugar and shake off the excess, set aside.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and the three ingredients listed above. Shake thoroughly into the prepared cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist.

Check ShopNBC for more cocktail party accessories and a whole range of housewares, clothing and jewelry:

Courtesy of ARA Content

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