Retro Revelry

“Isn’t there something else?”
“Isn’t there something else?”

The bank holidays and clement conditions of late have put us in something of a party mood here at the Secret Library, so we couldn’t help but get a little distracted while using our Yorkshire Post archives for some research recently. The cause of said distraction was an article by Antony Derville from 30 June 1939, entitled ‘On Giving a Summer Cocktail Party’ – and we thought we’d share a few of his tips with you this week, in case you’ve any plans for a swanky soirée of your own anytime soon…

First, think carefully about your choice of date. Midweek is decidedly not the ‘new weekend’ for anyone over the age of 25. Derville suggests: “A Friday evening is the wisest choice, for then, with Saturday ahead, the men feel they can burn their boats and really enjoy themselves.”

Then there’s the matter of announcing your chic shindig: “The clever hostess issues her invitations just a week in advance (not two weeks before, or people will cease to look forward to the event; yet not giving only three days’ notice, for through this would be pleasantly exciting, there is more risk of it clashing with other engagements).”

And, whatever you do, don’t get blasé about the guest list: “The ideal arrangement is to have three men to every girl, for some of the men may be tired after their hard day’s work and prefer enjoying themselves in silence by the buffet.”

Speaking of the buffet, Derville recommends locating it on a table in the centre of the room – thus, “with a vase of the tallest flowers on it, screening off guests on one side from those standing on the other, a pleasant sense of mystery is created.”

A few bottles of gin and some fruit juice are the only beverages you’ll require. From these, the hip hostess can create just about everything that was apparently considered a cocktail in Leeds in the 1930s. But, just in case, “a bottle of sherry will be needed, too, for those few irritating males who take one sip at her concoction and ask if there is ‘something else’”.

If you were thinking of drinking something more exotic, however, we’ve had a snoop through some of our authentic 1930s cookbooks and found something rather offbeat for you from the pages of a publication called Requested Recipes. (If you ever want to have a peak yourself, you can find it in the Local and Family History Library at shelf mark: L 641.5 Y82.) We’ll leave you with the recipe now… Enjoy!


3lb. parsley, 1 lemon, 3 quarts water, 2 oranges, 1lb. raisins, loaf sugar, tablespoon cloves.

After the parsley has been thoroughly washed, put it into the preserving pan with the water. Cut up the lemon and the oranges in slices, removing the peel from one of the oranges. Add to the contents of the preserving pan, and bring slowly to the boil; then add the raisins. Boil all for three-quarters of an hour. Strain the liquor into a tub, adding a pound of loaf sugar for each quart. Stir until the sugar is well dissolved, and when cold, add a tablespoon of cloves. Cover and allow to stand for four days, stirring occasionally during that time. Then, turn the wine into a dry cask, placing a piece of calico over the bung-hole until fermentation ceases. After then, bung closely for a few weeks, then the wine is ready for bottling. Parsley has a very strong flavour of its own, but with the addition of orange and lemon juices, it acquires a flavour which is very palatable. The wine is inexpensive to make, and a good tonic.

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