Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Throw Down: Mad Men Party

It's been well over a year since the last season of Mad Men finished airing, and fans like myself are dying to know when season 5 is going to start already. If you're getting the sweats waiting for your fix, or if you want to get your uninitiated friends pumped to watch it with you when that glorious day arrives, why not throw a Mad Men party?

The show revolves around high-powered ad execs in Manhattan in the early 1960s, their wives and their many lovers. Up until now, the late '60s have gotten all the attention with their psychadelic drugs, free love, protests, and forests of armpit hair. But the early '60s have a festive elegance to them. People were sometimes outrageously and comically misguided, but thinking was beginning to evolve into something we can get down with today. The era has the dramatic tension of rules about to be broken - and the sexual tension of strongly-defined gender roles. Frankly, that's what I look for in a party; drama and pretty dresses. And ladies, that early '60s silhouette flatters everyone.

Click here for a playlist of some of my favorite early '60s tunes. And click here for a gallery of costume ideas.


This is a bit of a tough one. The early '60s are not as kitchy as the late '60s. Instead, think of any items you may have inherited from your grandmother - like formal dinnerwear and serving platters. Using a punchbowl would be classic. Create a centerpiece using a princess phone or a vintage handbag and elbow-length gloves. String up Christmas lights - the extra-large teardrop shaped ones.

If you've got the space in your house, you could also set up a little coffee house area - as a nod to the beatniks. Get out your espresso maker and set out trays of baked goods. You could even set up a "stage" - one focused light on a barstool, cafe seating in the rest of the room, with chairs, little card tables and votive candles. You could invite friends to play some acoustic guitar or recite beat poetry.


I channeled my grandmother for this one, and tried to serve food as she would have. Deviled eggs, bar nuts, cheese and crackers, vegetables and onion dip (made the old-fashioned way - sour cream and onion soup mix out of the packet!), lasagna, and my Nonna's famous clam dip. This recipe appeared on a Ritz cracker box sometime in the late 1940s and my family has been making it ever since, with a few twists of our own added in over the years.

Clam Dip:
2 sleeves Ritz crackers, crushed finely
2 cans minced clams, including juice
one large onion, minced
one stick of butter, melted
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
salt & pepper
grated parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Combine cracker crumbs, clams & their juice, onion, butter, lemon juice and salt & pepper in an oven-proof pyrex bowl of ceramic casserole dish. Sprinkle oregano and parmesan on top, to taste. Bake 25-30 minutes until mixture is gently bubbling and is starting to brown on top. Serve with the other two sleeves of Ritz crackers, or with nice hunks of bread.

Featured Cocktail: (my grandparents' favorite!) Rob Roy

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