Appetizers / Bits & Bites / Cooking / Recipe Index

Mad Men & Martinis: Our Housewarming Party

The moment we closed on our home, I started imagining our housewarming party. I was immediately stuck on a Mad Men theme for three reasons:

  1. The 60s is such a fun era, my second favorite (after the Prohibition era).
  2. It really speaks to us as a couple and to our home: we’re both in advertising and our new place is on Madison Avenue.
  3. While I love theme parties, I know not everyone else does and this is a very easy theme when it comes to dressing up. There is a wide range of styles over the course of the decade – you could go housewife style or mod style. Guys in a pickle could just throw on a skinny tie and be done with it. (I also included some outfit inspiration from the show on the back of the invite.)

The Decor

We didn’t go crazy with decor. The point was to show off our new housey, so I didn’t want much to get in the way of that. I did, however, want just a few party touches.

I found these balloons at Flying Tiger for about $2 each. I love that it created a nice moment at the window, drawing people to that end of the apartment. They would also work really well as a photo wall backdrop, but I was trying to avoid people clustering in the front of the apartment.

Two small theme-related things we did were candy cigarettes (which doubled as party favors) and an office-style phone. I also updated our letterboard to highlight a Don Draper quote from the show.

We tried to order vintage magazines and a mini typewriter from Amazon but didn’t realize til placing the order that they weren’t Prime-able and we no longer had time. Best laid plans. Also, I had planned to recreate the Sterling Cooper logo on our front door, but my makeup appointment ran long and I didn’t have time. It would have been a nice touch but oh well.

The Attire

I was so impressed seeing everyone’s interpretation of the 60s! There were lots of fedoras and plenty of teased hair.

We awarded best dressed at the end of the night, gifting our winners with surprise grab bags ($4 each) from Flying Tiger.

I, myself, went late-60s and wore a bell sleeve mini dress that I paired with huge earrings and cat eye sunglasses. I also got my hair and makeup done to really make the look. The dress and shoes were already in my closet, the sunnies were under $10, earrings came out to about $30 (cashed in some of my Baublebar points), and the updo was DIY Express at Drybar, which means I came with it already washed so it was only $65 for a wedding-worthy ‘do. That means I only spent around $100 for the look, which is less than most of the dresses I had been looking to buy.

The Food

I was so happy to serve food at this party because it was my first chance to break out all our wedding gifts! At previous theme parties, I’ve matched the food to the theme but decided against that route this time. I didn’t think anyone wanted jello molds. I tried to pick all items that could be made in advance or required very little prep work. I also took a little help from the store. A combo of homemade, semi-homemade, and pre-made is the best way to go.

The party was called for 5 pm so the savory food needed to be enough to fill people up. I did a mix of dips and heavier pick-ups:

  • Pimento Cheese: (my own secret recipe): served with two different types of crackers (tomato soup crackers from Trader Joe’s and Melba toast)
  • Jalapeño Lime Almond Dip: this pre-made dip from Trader Joe’s is surprisingly delicious – especially considering there’s zero dairy in it. I passed it over several times, thinking it looked too healthy. I finally tried it, figuring if I hated it, I’d only be out $3. I became addicted. I served it with tons of crudités (cucumber, multicolored baby carrots, radish, snap peas, and bell pepper). It was bright and colorful and a nice light alternative.
  • Everything Bagel Dip: I got this recipe from the Trader Joe’s website and it’s genius. Simply mix sour cream with everything bagel seasoning and fresh chives. Add some extra chives on top to garnish. I served with veggie chips and pretzel thins. So easy. So good. This will be at most parties I throw from now on.
  • Bloody Mary Shrimp: This is my twist on the oyster shooter. Fill shot glasses (or these adorable, on-theme mini martini glasses I found at Party City) with Bloody Mary mix (I found a great sriracha Bloody Mary mix at Whole Foods), a vodka floater, and a cocktail shrimp. Very easy and a nice wow factor.
  • Cuban Skewers: I’ve made these toothpicks layered with cournichons, ham (or prosciutto) and Swiss cheese before and knew they had to make an appearance. They can be made the night before and are easy for guests to grab and go. I served with Dijon mustard.
  • BLT Pinwheels: I took this recipe (basically just mix cream cheese with ranch dressing, spread on a tortilla, add bacon/lettuce/tomato, roll up, and slice) from a blog. I loved the flavor but didn’t think it sliced super well.
  • Spring Rolls: I am not opposed to including a fully pre-made app. Chicken spring rolls from a Trader Joe’s took 20 minutes in the oven right as guests were arriving and had enough flavor that no dipping sauce was even needed.
  • Sriracha BBQ Meatballs: This was another recipe from the Trader Joe’s website and was sooo easy. Simply cook frozen meatballs in the microwave while warming some of their sriracha bbq sauce on the stove. When the meatballs are done, toss with the sauce and top with fresh chives.

We also needed a few sweet items. Dessert is usually where I take the most help from the store because baking just ain’t my thing.

  • Sea Salt Brownies: This is one of my faves from Trader Joe’s. They are perfect. I have served them at almost every party I’ve hosted.
  • Gummies: I just love gummies. I served up a trio of them for guests to grab.
  • Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes: These weren’t reeeeally strawberry lemonade cupcakes. Recipes for that exist, and I’m sure they’re great. Instead I made strawberry cupcakes from a box, frosted with lemon frosting, and topped with the most fun sprinkles by Amy Sedaris for Fish’s Eddy.

The centerpiece of the spread was the ‘tini station! We turned our breakfast bar into a martini bar. Turns out, classic martinis are super easy to make and require very few ingredients, but a setup like this makes a statement. We laid out glasses, jiggers, booze, garnishes (lemon twists and blue cheese stuffed olives), and instructions for making classic gin and vodka martinis. We tied it to Don Draper’s two wives as a fun reminder of the theme.

We also offered a mocktail since we had a couple pregnant guests – and whaddaya know, that worked with the theme too, since Peggy was secretly pregnant in season 1! This drink was guava juice, lime, and mint. The flavors went together so well that a few non-preggo guests starting drinking it, too (with some vodka or tequila added). Pregnancy or not, a pre-prepared cocktail is always a good idea for a party and helps keep things nice and tidy by limiting the number of options.

The party was a hit! It was nice to show off our space, since it was such a labor of love, and I love that people got so into the theme. This may be the last big party we throw (without hiring any staff to help) because it’s definitely a lot of work. It was totally worth it, though, and I think we did it right!

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