Brand-new on the cookbook scene in 2003 (only a decade ago) were a series of cookbooks that are still bound to charm the aprons off of even the least cookbook-minded person. As for those of us who actually collect cookbooks, this series fairly jumps off the shelves and into our shopping carts! The books were from MQ Publications Limited in London, England and are such a delightful collection that you will want to own every single book in the series.
Meantime, let me tell you about them one at a time.
“RETRO COCKTAILS” is a ‘50s kind of recipe book filled with directions for making a wide variety of ‘50s’ style drinks, lavishly illustrated with a wide assortment of colorful definitely 50s pictures. Retro, you may know, is “in”.
A few years ago, I thought I had the original, novel idea of re-doing my kitchen in a 50s style. When I started out, accessories and the appliances were hard to find. But like everything in my life, when I decide to collect or buy something, it suddenly becomes an in-thing. We have had an old Wedgwood stove for years—I bought it about 30 years ago for $50.00. Now, old stoves are “in” again – the most popular and collectable of these being a Chambers stove. My aunt had one in her basement in Cincinnati. I can’t tell you how I coveted that stove! (When Auntie sold the house, the Chambers stove went with the house. We think the buyers may have purchased the house just to get that stove!)
Anyway, we managed to acquire an old, original yellow Formica table that is in fine condition, and since the retro look was in, it wasn’t too difficult to find new red vinyl kitchen chairs (I found them at Target!). I admit, however, I don’t even want a 50s refrigerator – those of us who lived through the 50s remember those refrigerators as being very small, with a freezer that was only big enough to hold a couple of ice cube trays.
However, I have been acquiring some other 50s things, such as cookie jars and cookie cutters, and an ice bucket, martini shaker and stirrers – things that I found listed in “Retro Cocktails” as being equipment you really need to have.
For, I’ve discovered, retro cocktail parties are also “in”! On the Internet, I found a number of suggestions for throwing a retro cocktail party, which include going to a video stores and renting some 50s movies to have on, without the sound – just for the atmosphere (think: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, How to Marry a Millionaire), and playing real records on a record player (or for a compromise, CDs of 50s artists doing 50s music).
Well, actually, we do have a record player and we also had a large collection of 50s LP albums. Who knew? We’ve just collected these things over the years because we liked them. I also have, still, a large collection of 45s records that I collected when I was a teenager. (Most of the old long-praying records, I gave to my son Chris when I moved to the Antelope Valley. I don’t know what he did with them).
One website suggested everyone dress up in little black dresses (for the ladies) and elegant suits (the guys) while the retro party menu should be based on canapés, crudites, nuts and cheese. Think: deviled eggs, stuffed celery, cocktail meatballs, onion soup dip (hey! I still serve these things at my parties!) Well, I guess I am just a retro kind of gal! However, for more ideas about what kind of cocktails to serve, check out your old cookbooks, such as the 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook. I also found a lot of ideas in a 1946 copy of Trader Vic’s Book of Food & Drink. Trader Vic suggests Chicken Livers with Water Chestnuts, Batter-fried Shrimp, Clam Puffs and French Roll Canapes. One of the websites I visited suggested olives – any kind of olives, or recipes using olives. Apparently, olives were a hot item in the 1950s.
However, to make your retro cocktail party complete, you need a copy of “RETRO COKTAILS” by Kate Moseley.
Inspired by retro diners, bars, and style, “RETRO COCKTAILS” is packed—not only with cocktail recipes—but all sorts of neat artwork from magazines and posters and advertisements of the 1950s. The publishers advise us, “This fantastic book is the complete retro cocktail guide, packed with great vintage images, archive advertising and fabulous cocktail recipes that are guaranteed to add real fizz to any party…”
“You can,” they suggest, “create a ‘50s ambience in your own home by serving drinks in fine crystal with linen napkins, or in colorful glasses accessorized with gaudy coasters, maraschino cherries, parasols, and swizzle sticks…”
This is such a fun book, you will want to read it several times – once to check out all of the neat recipes, another time to just enjoy the many wonderful illustrations. What wonderful names those 50s cocktails had—Moscow Mule, White Lady, Mudslide, Buena Vista, Acapulco Gold, Sparkling Bouquet, Pink Lady, Orange Blossom, English Rose, and a few more familiar names—Manhattan, Tom Collins, Long Island Ice Tea, Whiskey Sour, Martini, and Pina Colada.
You will also find a great assortment of alcohol-free cocktails that taste great. Check out recipes for Barbie Girl, Sunshine Sparkle, Amber Fizz, Apple Wise, Chinese Cheer or Bamboozle, Ice Tea Dance or Melon Mirage – these and other recipes are completely alcohol-free.
Also included in “RETRO COCKTAILS” are bartending tricks and tools of the trade, fascinating and fun facts about the names and origins of famous cocktails.
Kate Moseley is a home economist and food writer who enjoys devising new recipes that are fast, easy, and fun. She creates recipes for the British Woman’s Weekly magazine and is the author of “Quick Diary Cook Book” and “Eat Well, Live Well”. She lives in Wiltshire, England.
“RETRO COCKTAILS” by Kate Moseley, published by MQ Publications, originally sold for $16.95 in the USA. Originally reviewed for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, in 2003. Retro Cocktails can be found on Alibris.com starting at 99c. It is available on Amazon.com starting at one cent, pre-owned. A new copy is available on Amazon for $8.90.
Reviewed for you by Sandra Lee Smith. Happy cooking!