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Retro Cocktail Party

If you’re looking to throw a retro cocktail hour this holiday season, we’ve put together everything you’ll need to pull it off!

12 Tips & Tricks for a Retro Cocktail Party:

  1. Invitations – retro and vintage style invitations (along with my absolute favorite find and where to get it)!
  2. Retro style holiday decorations
  3. Vintage appetizers that are easy to make and fun to share
  4. Sweets that any guest will love (#2 will become a family favorite)!
  5. Holiday cocktails that are making a comeback this year.
  6. Retro holiday dress ideas – costumes encouraged!
  7. The music – what to play and how to play it!
  8. “Old school” holiday party games (People were much more creative before electronics)!
  9. When guests ask “what can I bring”?
  10. Decorating the tree. (The aluminum tree, that is)!
  11. Photo fun – setting up a retro “photo booth”
  12. Holiday favors for guests – take home gifts that keep giving!

A retro dressed couple enjoying a cocktail on the couch at a retro cocktail party

Tip 1: Invitations 

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The first thing you’ll do is set the stage for your retro cocktail party, and this happens before guests even begin to arrive.  Start with a vintage looking invitation so your guests are clear up front exactly the type of party you are hosting.  Encourage 50’s and 60’s inspired cocktail attire if you want to get people into the spirit of the night.  Use a retro style invitation like the one below from Jennifer at Sugar & Spice on Etsy.  It’s absolutely perfect for a retro holiday cocktail party!

A retro inspired holiday party invitation with three people in vintage dress. The invitation encourages people to "dress in your retro best".

Jennifer’s work is beautiful.  Check out this invitation as well as all of the other fabulous creations in her shop!

Tip 2: Retro Style Holiday Decorations

Retro Christmas home decor is making a comeback, and it’ll make your space perfect for your party! Think bubble lights,  tinsel, bottle brush trees, aluminum trees, colorful Christmas balls, any vintage style Christmas decor you can find.  Don’t want an aluminum tree? (I know I wouldn’t choose one), for the party, simply use one on a tabletop.  So where do you buy retro Christmas/holiday decorations? Below are some of my favorite finds for vintage holiday decorations (including my favorite retro tabletop tree)!

How about clipping some 1950’s style holiday cards to a string and displaying them on your mantle? It’s the perfect old world holiday decoration! You can find some here on Etsy – super adorable, and something you can keep and use again! 

Bubble lights – perfect for that nostalgic feel! No more wondering ‘where can I buy retro Christmas lights’!

The iconic ceramic Christmas tree.  The perfect addition to any retro party – and they really are making a comeback!

An old fashioned Christmas banner for the mantle.

Old signage from holidays past:

Tinsel! This Brite Star Brite tinsel has been around for ages! (This one is fireproof – so I’d definitely choose this one or one that is).

Pick up a small aluminum or tinsel tree for a tabletop. There are much bigger versions, and they are upwards of $350.00. For me, that’s a bit much for a decoration. Try this tabletop retro Christmas tree – it’s a much more economical version!

Vintage Santa Claus salt and pepper shakers set up near your appetizers lend a vintage vibe!

How about retro Christmas ornaments? Place a few of these on your tree and some in a bowl as decoration and you’ve got a beautiful (and super easy) holiday decor centerpiece!

Retro Christmas stockings hung on the mantle are not only nostalgic, but tie up your vintage holiday decor, but they are reusable either as decorations again the following year, or as packaging for a gift after your party!

Don’t get caught up in thinking that every part of your home needs to be decorated like you’ve traveled back into the 1950’s, (although wouldn’t that be a hoot?).  Nods to the nostalgic will work just fine.  Light candles around the home, hang bright colored garland from the chandelier.  Wrap empty boxes in retro Christmas wrapping and make these “gifts” part of your decor.  Paired with what’s to come, the food, the drink, and all of the rest – it’ll all come together.

Tip 3: Putting together your Vintage Inspired Holiday Cocktail Party appetizers

When you have a cocktail party as opposed to a dinner party there is one thing you don’t need to provide, and that’s dinner.  That isn’t to say that heartier fare shouldn’t be available, but a sit-down event is something entirely different indeed.  Throwing a cocktail party is more about the gathering of friends with cocktails than it is about the food.  Regardless, food always plays an essential role in entertaining, and holding a vintage inspired cocktail party lends to retro Christmas food. Here are some easy (and some vintage retro appetizers):

  • Deviled eggs
  • Fondue – Huge in the 1960’s and always a crowd pleaser!
  • Canapes: Small, bread based appetizers such as deviled ham on toast or shrimp and tomato on a cracker
  • Swedish Meatballs – Still a popular party food today, Swedish meatballs are an easy party appetizer.
  • Fruit skewers – Fruit on sticks were popular!
  • Grilled cheese was popular and can be cut into smaller, appetizer portions to serve.
  • Meatloaf sliced and cut into bite sized pieces would also give an authentic, vintage vibe.

To get more easy retro vintage appetizer recipes check out this vintage 1950’s cookbook on Etsy – or this one from the 1960’s!

Tip 4: Retro Sweets & Treats for your retro cocktail party for the holidays:

Stick with the iconic sweets and treats of the past! Some of the most iconic desserts of the 50’s & 60’s were Chiffon Pie, Baked Alaska &  Pineapple Upside Cake. I’ve linked to a couple of my favorite recipes for these desserts below.  Another popular dessert – Jello!

Holiday Baked Alaska – Betty Crocker

Photo of a Baked Alaska dessert on a white cake stand with sparklers.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Pineapple upside down cake on a plate with pineapples and cherries on top.

Now, if you want to kick up that dessert portion of your cocktail party even a little more, set up a retro vintage candy bar like people used to see in pharmacies and corner stores.  Provide candy cane striped bags for guests to transport their treat home!

Lastly – ice cream was a very big deal in the past – so arranging an ice cream sundae bar would be a fun addition!

Tip 5: Holiday cocktails that are making a comeback this year!

Retro cocktails have never been more “now”.  They’re classic cocktails that people are turning to more often than in recent years. My top 3 are below, and you can find the rest on my website as well!

Hot spiked apple cider in glass mugs in front of twinkly lights

Spiked apple cider has been a long time standard at the holiday cocktail bar! This is the only recipe you’ll ever need for this iconic cocktail – and it couldn’t be easier to make!  You put it all into a slow cooker and call it a day!

Christmas Punch (with Bourbon) Punch was a big deal in the 50′ & 60’s and no retro vintage holiday cocktail party would be complete without a punch bowl! 

Woman holding a glass of red punch

I’d be remiss if I didn’t list the Classic Brandy Alexander Cocktail!  It’s the perfect Christmas drink – and is even part of my e-book Holiday Sips (just in case you are looking for even more cocktails for the holiday season!

Brandy Alexzander cocktail on a wooden table topped with cinnamon

TIP 6: Costumes encouraged! Retro holiday dress would be fun to add to your invitation to your retro cocktail party!

Your theme party will really hit a home run with guests in retro attire! It’s pretty easy to put an outfit or retro costume together.  Thrift stores are a treasure trove, open grandma’s closet and you might find some gems, or  simply order something special to wear. (Thrifting for something would be my personal go to).  Put together your own retro look with the help of this article on Rebel’s Market.  If you are someone who wants to just order up a look – here are a few I’ve found that would work:

TIP 7: Music for your retro cocktail party

The biggest tip here is use vinyl! Perhaps you know someone who has a portable record player you could use, or you could pick one up pretty inexpensively on Amazon.  Pair the record player with some classic holiday tunes and right there you’ve set the stage for a retro holiday gathering!

TIP 8: Retro party games for your retro cocktail party 

Before cell phones became “a thing” people actually interacted when they were together.  Can you imagine?!  Leave a basket for electronics near the front door and ask guests to step back in time a little to enjoy each other.  Party games in the 50’s and 60’s were actually popular.  Some favorites were:

TIP 9: When a guest asks “What can I bring“? use one of these ideas to help get them into the spirit of your retro cocktail party:

  • Favorite retro dessert
  • Old vinyl holiday records
  • Ingredients for their favorite retro cocktail
  • 10 Trivia cards about holidays in the past to use during game time

TIP 10: Rocking Around the Christmas Tree:

Put up your tabletop tree and leave it to be decorated when guests arrive! Adorn it with lights and leave it alone until the party starts!  How do you decorate a retro Christmas tree? Easy! Bright glass or satin balls, tinsel, and bubble lights and candy canes!

TIP 11: Set up a retro inspired vintage photo booth for guests!

What fun would it be to add a little photo prop area to your party? The props for your holiday photo booth would be simple! Here are some ideas you can use for your own holiday cocktail party photo booth:

  • Vinyl records
  • Vintage inspired sunglasses
  • Soda fountain hats
  • Signs with 50’s or 60’s sayings

TIP 12: Holiday take-home favors for guests at your retro cocktail party seal the deal!

They are not required by any means, but a take-home gift always tells your guests that you really loved having them come to your home and share time during a busy holiday season.  Here are just a few ideas of what you could do for your guests as a parting gift for the night:

  1. Set up a candy bar with “penny candy” and provide festive bags for them to take their treats home in.
  2. Give each guest a homemade baked good to enjoy the next morning.  Coffee cake was popular back in the 50’s and 60’s.  If you don’t have time to make your own – buy a good quality one, cut it into squares, and wrap three pieces for each guest in a cellophane bag tied with a pretty ribbon!
  3. A set of retro inspired wine charms to remember the night!

Your Retro Cocktail Party is going to be rad!

Use these 12 tips, and get to planning your easy vintage Christmas inspired holiday cocktail party! I can’t wait to see pictures!



PS: Want more holiday entertaining??  Check out these posts!

Holiday Cocktail Recipe Roundup (Top 5)

Hosting a Small Holiday Gathering

Holiday Pantry Prep

Top 10 Gifts For The Holiday Hostess

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