How to Throw a '60s-style 'Mad Men' Party


'Mad Men' has inspired clothing collections, bar trends, and makeup lines. But there's a world of difference between retro-themed and bona fide authenticity, and a show as painstakingly researched as 'Mad Men' (which premieres its new season this Sunday night 9 ET on AMC) deserves a party with some accuracy. Yahoo! Shine spoke to food historian Francine Seegan, Lesley M. M. Blume author of Let's Bring Back, and Rebecca Federman, culinary collections librarian at the New York Public Library for insight on what a '60s party would have really looked like––all so your 'Mad Men' party can include a few more authentic details than frozen daiquiris and a conga line.

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President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy attend a White House Ceremony February 19, 1963 in Washington, DC. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers) President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy attend a White House Ceremony February 19, 1963 in Washington, DC. …What Would Jackie (or Julia) Do?

"Across the country, Jacqueline Kennedy was huge," says Francine Seegan. "The Kennedy White House epitomized glamour and elegance," adds Lesley M. M. Blume. "Everybody was looking to Jackie Kennedy to see how she entertained and emulated her."

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But what party in a suburb, small town, or shoebox city apartment can stand up to the most glamorous Francophile hostess in the world? Enter Julia Child. "Jacqueline Kennedy made it seem like it was impossible, too hard, too sophisticated," says Seegan. "But then Julia Child was kind of like, "Yeah, we can do it. Come on!" For an appropriately glamorous '60s party with Francophile flair, pull out your copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published in 1961, and fire up the stove for Julia's Beef Bourguignon or Coq au Vin. Pillbox hat optional.

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Start Early
Sixties parties wouldn't have started fashionably late. "They would have eaten what we call 'baby dinner,'" says Seegan. "You see the RSVPs that are left over, 7 o'clock was pushing it." If you're looking to be authentic, six-thirty is the sweet spot.

Clear the Floor
Popular cookbooks and women's magazines of the '60s all agreed on the way to host a cocktail party: "pull your chairs out of the room," says Seegan. "It makes for a livelier time." Keep guests on their feet for a short party to encourage mingling. Queue up a playlist that starts cool with mambo and bossa nova and (if you want to kick it up a notch) builds to Elvis, the Beatles, and Motown classics. Lay out time-period appropriate cocktail nibbles, like fondue, Swedish meatballs, stuffed eggs, or a platter of olives. Then "the host and hostess can use the excuse to walk around with some other special platter, maybe something hot out of the oven," suggests Seegan. Feel free to make introductions and draw out shy types while you circulate with your tray of cocktail croquettes.

Caviar stuffed eggsCaviar stuffed eggsRecipe: Caviar-Stuffed Deviled Eggs
from Better Homes and Gardens, Serves 6

6 eggs, 1/4 cup light mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon prepared mustard, 1 teaspoon vinegar, salt, ground red pepper, 6 teaspoons red and/or black caviar

1. Place eggs in a single layer in a medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to come 1 inch above eggs. Bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat so water is just below simmering. Cover and cook for 15 minutes; drain. Run cold water over eggs, or place them in ice water until cool enough to handle; drain. 2. Peel eggs. Remove top quarter of egg; carefully remove yolks. Cover hollowed egg whites; set aside. Place yolks and egg tops in a bowl; mash well with a fork. 3. Add mayonnaise or light salad dressing, mustard, and vinegar; mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon mashed egg mixture into hollowed egg whites. Top each egg with caviar. Garnish with chervil, if desired.

GettyGettyPolish Your Silver
"The host and hostess would have taken the presentation of the table very seriously," says Blume. "Anything that was the best version of what you had in the house would go out." While modern entertaining celebrates a certain off-the-cuff chic--think of the Barefoot Contessa snipping garden flowers for her rehabbed barn--the 1960s was all about glamour and elegance. For a dinner party, haul out your wedding china, fine glassware, and your grandmother's silver. Add a few thoughtful details, like handwritten place cards, menus, and small bouquets of flowers at each place setting. "You're showing the best, most glamorous version of yourself to your guests," says Blume.

Gin gimletGin gimletRecipe: Gin Gimlet
adapted from Drinks Mixer, Serves 1
1.25 oz gin, 1 oz Rose's lime juice, 1 twist lime

Pour the gin and lime juice into a mixing glass half-filled with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the lime wedge.

It's All About the Cocktails

"Cocktail hour was a really, really big deal before dinner parties," says Blume. "People would absolutely stagger to the dinner table sometimes." "You can't not have your cocktail," echoes Seegan. "That was the most important part." James Beard's 1965 cookbook, Menus for Entertaining, notes a small cocktail party requires "scotch, bourbon, martinis, gin and tonic and sherry." For true '60s imbibing, expect your guests to toss them back, with Beard's book budgeting four cocktails per guest during an hour and half to two-hour cocktail party. Seems like a lot, but weren't drinks smaller then? "A shot is a shot," says Seegan.

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Cook To Your Strengths
Julia Child's cookbook wasn't the only game in town in 1961. "It's the year after the I Hate to Cook Cookbook came out by Peg Bracken," says Federman at the New York Public Library. "So you have all these different kinds of cookbooks from the 'you know you have to cook but you don't like to'--which maybe is Betty's angle" to the finer points of French cuisine. Know where you'd like to fall on the spectrum. More excited to mix up stingers and gimlets? Keep dinner simple but still time period-appropriate with steak diane. Ambitious achievers can make Julia Child--and Jackie Kennedy--proud with something more grand.

Steak dianeSteak dianeRecipe: Steak Diane
from Eating Well, Serves 4

1 pound boneless strip steak, such as top loin or New York, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed and cut into 4 portions,
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 cooking oil, 3 cups mushrooms,1/2 cup brandy, 1 15-ounce can reduced-sodium beef broth, 1 teaspoon butter, softened, 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1. Season steaks on both sides with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and salt. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add the steaks and cook 3 to 5 minutes per side for medium. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. 2. Add mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring, until golden brown and beginning to release their juices, about 3 minutes. Add brandy and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Add broth, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, 8 to 10 minutes. 3. Meanwhile, combine butter and flour in a small bowl to form a paste. When the pan sauce is reduced by half, whisk in mustard, then gradually whisk in the butter-flour paste a few bits at a time and cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low. Return the steak to the pan along with any accumulated juices. Turn to coat with the sauce and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Top the steak with the sauce and sprinkle with chives.

Say Goodnight

What host has not struggled to end a party as guests linger on while your pajamas call to you? If guests have had one too many gimlets to miss the subtleties of social mores, a more direct tactic is called for. Who better to advise on the gentle art of kicking out than Letitia Baldridge, etiquette expert and Jacqueline Kennedy's White House Social secretary whose advice is included in Let's Bring Back. "I always jump up like a jack-in-the-box a half hour after the party was supposed to end and announce dramatically [...] 'Well, it's time for everyone to go home and get a good night's sleep. The most important people in Washington are right here, in this room tonight, and if they are not in good shape for handling the government's problems tomorrow, none of them will be solved!" It always worked. The guests felt they were indeed that important." Some things never change: Flattery will get you anywhere.



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