Tuesday, 9 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Christmas Cocktail Party

So this is Christmas - must be time for my grandparents Christmas cocktail party. My maternal grandparents had a large home in Constitution Road, Windsor, Brisbane and every Christmas during the 1950s and before had a cocktail party for their friends - both family friends and business friends.
Unused invitation found in a box

This occurred in the week before Christmas, usually around the 20th December. Much preparation happened of course with my indefatigable grandmother once more directing traffic. Nan had a live-in housekeeper, Mary, who helped organise the food and of course serving the food at the party. Mary would be all dressed up in a black dress with white starched apron and a frilly cap on her head and always had a sprig of holly pinned to her dress when she served the guests.

Devils on horseback
The menu for the cocktail party always included: devilled eggs, cheese straws, Swedish meatballs, pinwheel sandwiches (I loved these), cheese squares & cocktail onions (coloured) on toothpicks, Devils on Horseback and Angels on Horseback. For those of you who may not know, devils on horseback were prunes wrapped in bacon and heated in the oven and angels on horseback are oysters wrapped in bacon and also heated. Yum!

Nan had a wooden tray affair - shaped like a mexican hat - with sections around the brim where savouries could be placed and a wooden pineapple thing with holes in it for the crown.  Very handy for putting the cheese and cocktail onions sticks - Mary would make sure everything was replenished.

Drinks - now that was the fabulous thing. There would be a large silver punch bowl with rum punch: this was her recipe - 1 bottle rum, 2 large bottles ginger ale, 4 cups orange juice (or pineapple) 2 oz fresh lemon juice, ice, slices orange & lemon to garnish in bowl. It was some punch - I remember it from the 1960s when I was allowed to taste it.

Then there were the cocktails, my grandfather's young brother Uncle Bill and my mother were in charge of the cocktails. Favourites were martini, gin & it, tom collins, and singapore sling. They all looked fabulous - lovely in glasses, lovely colours.

I was allowed to be at the cocktail party for one hour - from 5:30 to 6:30 - on show to the guests I guess. I used to have my own cocktail - a tall glass with ice, orange juice and grenadine - non alcoholic of course - the grenadine was a lovely red colour and made me feel quite grown up - I was probably 5 or 6 at the time.

The men all wore dark suits, some with bow ties, and the women colourful cocktail frocks. As the family was in the clothing business, I guess their friends were often also in that business. My favourite dress was one my grandmother often wore, dove grey lace over a taffeta under slip. She looked lovely. 

These Christmas cocktail parties carried on until the early 1960s when my grandparents retired to their beach house at Surfers Paradise. 

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