A Very 60s Bar

Mad Men style bar

I invited some girlfriend to “come for a drink” before we went to a movie the other night.

I put “come for a drink” in quotes because the book that was my guide for the evening, Entertaining with Elegance published in 1966, specifically states that’s what people say when “carefully avoiding the fateful word ‘cocktail,’ which is, furthermore, very seldom served any more.” Writer Genevieve Antoine Dariaux goes on to say, “Nevertheless, I give cocktail-parties, you give cocktail parties, we give cocktail-parties — and we may as well do it with elegance.”

I like her.

First off, she had this amazing title: directrice of the haute couture house of Nina Ricci. Also, she doesn’t pull her punches. In the “Wine” section of her book, she notes: “Because the only way to get to know wine well is to drink a lot of it, it is therefore quite difficult to become a connoisseur of wine in Britain.”

She is both practical and a little snotty.

I told my friends to expect a 60s style bar setup. That might have brought something glamorously Mad Men to mind, but in reality, it’s extremely basic. In fact, Madame Dariaux mentions many times not to bother with fussy sweet drinks — everybody prefers their drinks basic and dry.

Here’s are her tips for setting up your very 60s bar:

  • The basic liquors to serve are: vodka, gin, vermouth, sherry and scotch. (The latter I substituted for bourbon because I drink bourbon. The scotch might hang around forever.)
  • There was no mention of having beer or wine around.
  • Basic mixers included: tomato juice, orange juice, soda water and tonic. Noticeably missing are the sugary sodas that are standard for bars these days. I normally have Coke, Diet Coke and ginger ale on hand at parties.
  • For garnishes and flavoring agents, Dariaux suggests setting out bitters, maraschino cherries, olives, cocktail onions, sugar and lemons. The cocktail onions turn your martini into a Gibson. I felt really weird asking for them at BevMo.
  • Having one specialty drink is a “very chic” touch. That surprised me as I thought they were a fairly modern development.
  • Set up your bar on a trolley or even the top of a chest of drawers. (I desperately want a bar tolley now.)
  • If you have fewer than 25 people, you can probably manage without a waiter.
  • Don’t forget to scatter ashtrays throughout the house! (I did not do this.)
  • Keep food basic: nuts, olives, little sandwiches, maybe something sweet, maybe not — if you do, opt for petit fours or candied fruits. Note: These are those toxic-looking fruits that appear in fruitcake — not dried fruits, which is what originally came to my mind. I couldn’t find candied fruits — I should have thought to look on Amazon in advance.

Btw, I “splurged” and bought tonic that cost $1 more than the cheap kind I usually buy. The fancy tonic was a hit! If you have a gin/vodka tonic crowd, I recommend Fever-tree tonic. Everyone said it tasted noticeably better than the average tonic.

Oh, and I updated the food suggestion and presented a “Spanish salad,” which consists of Marcona almonds, Catalonia olives, and small squares of feta, all sprinkled with paprika. Put out toothpicks so folks can spear the feta. It looks fancy, and it’s so easy.

Stay tuned for more on my featured 60s drink!

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  1. maggiemayflynn

    I never knew the word “cocktail” went out of style for a while. It’s certainly back now. Also glad to have the name of that tonic!

    • Retroette

      It’s a funny thing, right? Where in the world did this aversion come from? And happy to supply the name of that tonic! Go forth and sip especially delicious gin and tonics!

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