A Congenial Table.

As we inch toward normalcy, the first thing on my ‘can’t wait to-do it list’ is visiting all our children and grandchildren.  After that, I am eagerly looking forward to the day I can call up friends and say, “Come for cocktails!”  I long to plan a party, dress up and raise a glass with my favorite people.

As I started to dream of my next social gathering, I wondered who the first person was to wake up one morning and think – I’ll just dig out the martini glasses, whip up some canapes, purchase copious amounts of ice and have the gang over for drinks.  One story is it all started with eggnog.

According to the Huffington Post, “The principal antecedent for the cocktail party comes from September 1890 when Mrs. Richard S. Dana introduced the concept of an ‘eggnog party’ in the society resort of Lenox, Mass., parties she would throw every autumn for years, when the goldenrod was in blossom.  Following the lead of the Lenox “cottagers,” it became the height of the Gilded Age fashion to host a party around a bowl of eggnog.”  

As much as I admire a beautiful punch bowl, I don’t think I would enjoy an entire evening consuming a dairy-oriented drink.  Luckily, apparently neither did Clara Walsh of St. Louis, Missouri.  In 1917, Clara gave a highly publicized party that captured the curiosity of the public.  She hosted a “Baby Party” during which adults drank booze from baby bottles.  Inviting over 50 of her closest friends for a one-hour party of drinking and merriment, she termed it a Cocktail Party.  There were Bronx cocktails (gin, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth and orange juice), Clover Leafs (gin, grenadine, lime juice and egg white, garnished with a mint leaf), highballs, gin fizzes, martinis and Manhattans.  I am curious how much staff she had for the occasion. The local newspapers showered her with praise and her inspiration spread quickly throughout the city. 

The gatherings I see in my mind’s eye harken back to the 50s and 60s.  Following World War II and the mass exodus to the newly sprouting suburbs, people were removed from the cities and bars and found ways to entertain their nearby neighbors and friends in their home.  

Entertaining at home became almost an obsession for some.  They perfected the art of the cocktail.  Out came the bowls of olives and nuts.  The party dress was renamed the cocktail dress and shelled peanuts were no longer simply peanuts, but cocktail peanuts.  Checking out the array of finger foods, you could pretty much count on the ubiquitous silver chafing dish brimming with warm cocktail weenies swimming in questionable red sauce!

As much as I love a dinner party, cocktail parties are much more hassle free to plan.  They don’t have my biggest dinner party stress of trying to schedule the dishes so they are ready at the right time.  Canapes can be made well ahead of time, giving me time to slip into something more festive plus no worries that the souffle will flop! It gives me an opportunity to use the sparkly stemware I have collected over the decades.  Some vintage, some not, I have been known as the woman with a glass for everything, a title I am happy to bear!  

So someday soon I will be gathering my favorite appetizer recipes, polishing up my stemware collection, and sending you a proper invite, even if the goldenrod is not in blossom.  Now I just need to find the perfect hostess apron…

C’est la vie.