December 5, 2013 marks the 80th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition—certainly an occasion worth celebrating with a splash. That’s why we tapped party-planning experts for tips on how to host the ultimate Repeal Day soireé.
Set the scene: The speakeasy theme can start even before attendees arrive, says Erica Schnell, director of The Ice House & Crushed Ice Events in Louisville, Kentucky. “Give your guests a password,” to enter the party—and “create a ‘secret’ entryway at the venue, such as a side door or back door.”
Cue the music: Play a jazz-age soundtrack at your fete, or turn on a Cab Calloway Pandora station. Keep up the audio ambiance with your phone, too. “Change your ringtone to an old-fashioned car horn or early 20th-century telephone, and encourage guests to do the same,” suggests Jorj Morgan, Florida-based entertaining expert and author.
Use booze as décor: Dim the overheads, light lots of candles, and don’t forget about the bathtub, experts say. Filling the tub with ice and using it to chill bottles and brews is a natural reference to Prohibition-era “bathtub gin.” You can also creatively serve cocktails by providing paper bags or using teacups.
Finesse the cocktails: Choose gin and rye whiskey for mixing era-appropriate libations at your bash. Here are two must-make tipples.
Recipe courtesy Lynnette Marrero, cocktail consultant, New York City
2 ounces gin
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
¾ ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and hot water, mixed)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a coupe glass.
Recipe courtesy of Julie Reiner, as published in Craft Cocktails by Brian Van Flandern (Assouline, 2013)
2 ounces Rittenhouse Rye
1 ounce Punt e Mes sweet vermouth
¼ ounce apricot brandy
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Brandy-soaked cherries, to garnish
Place all ingredients except garnish in a mixing glass. Add large ice cubes and stir thoroughly. Strain into a martini or coupe glass. Garnish with brandy-soaked cherries and serve.