1920s food & old school cocktails fit for Gatsby


F. Scott Fitzgerald fans — and, perhaps especially, Baz Luhrmann fans — are rushing to the box office today to see the latest hyped-up period drama, “The Great Gatsby.” And with Hollywood favorites Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan playing Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, there’s a good chance starstruck moviegoers are going to leave the theater with some serious 1920s nostalgia.

Thankfully, we have just the thing to fill your desire to temporarily be a part of the Roaring Twenties. No, we haven’t figured out a way to party in 1920s Paris with the great artists of the decade a la “Midnight in Paris,” but we do have the next best thing: food and cocktails.

What to eat

Photo credit: Antonis Achilleos; Real Simple

A typical 1920s party would, of course, involve hors d’oeuvres. Finger foods like deviled eggs, tea sandwiches, salted nuts, shrimp cocktail and canapés were often served. We’ve got you covered on the deviled eggs with this list of top 10 deviled eggs recipes, and we recommend indulging in canapés like these smoked salmon and egg canapés and these artichoke-olive crostinis. Tea sandwiches can be as simple as PB&Js, turkey and cheese, or cream cheese.

The 1920s era also marked the shift toward processed foods and purchasing ready-to-cook products at the grocery instead of making everything from scratch. Manufactured foods introduced during this decade included Wonder Bread, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Popsicles, Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Velveeta Cheese, according to Bon Appetit.

Cakes gained popularity around this time as well, with home bakers experimenting with everything from pound cakes and spice cakes to red velvets and devil cakes — a Betty Crocker booklet dubbed the ’20s “the beginning of the real cake era,” according to “Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads.” You can actually find the original Waldorf-Astoria red velvet cake recipe from the 1920s on

What to drink

With Prohibition in effect, partygoers took to speakeasies and home parties. Distilled spirits, especially gin, were very popular since winemakers were forced to turn their vineyards to juice grapes and breweries either shut down or switched to manufacturing soft drinks or non-alcoholic beer. Those who used to sip on wine or beer would weaken the stronger liquor drinks by mixing them or watering them down.

Want your own Gatsby-like cocktail? Try one of these seven classic drinks from the Roaring Twenties:

Champagne Punch

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons orange Curacao
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 quart California champagne
  • 2 cups tea infusion
  • 4 tablespoons brandy
  • Ice
  • 2 tablespoons Medford rum
  • 1 quart soda water

Make a syrup by boiling water and sugar for 10 minutes. Mix Champagne, brandy, rum, Curacao, lemon juice and tea infusion. Sweeten to taste with syrup, and pour into punch bowl over a large piece of ice. Just before serving, add soda water.

Old Fashioned

  • 2 oz bourbon whiskey
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 splash water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • 1 orange wedge

Mix sugar, water and angostura bitters in an old-fashioned glass. Drop in a cherry and an orange wedge. Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back end of a spoon. Pour in bourbon, fill with ice cubes, and stir.

Mint Julep

  • 4 fresh mint sprigs
  • 2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
  • 1 tsp powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp water

Muddle mint leaves, powdered sugar and water in a collins glass. Fill the glass with shaved or crushed ice and add bourbon. Top with more ice and garnish with a mint sprig. Serve with a straw.


  • 3/4 oz triple sec
  • 1/2 oz cognac
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

Mary Pickford

The Mary Pickford cocktail was named for the silent film star and co-founder of United Artists.
  • 1 1/2 oz light rum
  • 1 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/2 tsp maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 tsp grenadine syrup
  • 1 maraschino cherry

Combine the rum, pineapple juice, maraschino liqueur and grenadine in a shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Bacardi Cocktail

  • 1 3/4 oz Bacardi light rum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp sugar syrup
  • 1 dash grenadine syrup

In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine all of the ingredients. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Bee’s Knees

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  • 2 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz honey syrup
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve.