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Recipes: A retro cocktail party menu with snacks and classic drinks

Puffed pastries, spiced nuts, champagne cocktails, gimlets, and more will get guests in a festive mood.

Photograph by anthony tieuli; food styling by Sheila jarnes/Ennis inc.

Weary of chips and salsa with ballpark-quality beer when you have friends over on Friday nights? Go a little retro (and ask your guests to dress up a bit). The throwback snacks and classic drinks we’ve assembled here are all you need for a relaxed and swinging time. Just add your own great music — the albums of elegant Ella Fitzgerald (whose birthday is April 25) make a swell place to start.


Makes about 16 roughly 9-inch straws

1½    cups finely grated pecorino Romano or other aged hard cheese

1         teaspoon granulated onion powder, optional

Pinch cayenne pepper

1         sheet frozen all-butter puff pastry, thawed just enough to unfold without cracking, but still cool


4        teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper

With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a bowl, mix the cheese, onion powder, if using, and cayenne, and set aside.

Place a parchment sheet on a work surface and unfold the puff pastry on it. If necessary, trim pastry to a 12-by-8-inch rectangle, or place a second parchment sheet over it and gently roll it to that size (take care not to press too hard) and remove the top parchment sheet.

Brush 2 teaspoons oil evenly over the pastry. Sprinkle it modestly and evenly with salt and black pepper, and half the cheese mixture. Position a parchment sheet over it and gently press to help cheese adhere, then remove parchment. Flip the assembly over so the cheesy side is down and remove the parchment sheet. Brush with remaining oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and remaining cheese mixture. Replace parchment, and gently press again.

Remove the parchment sheet and, with a knife or pizza cutter, cut the pastry crosswise into ¾-inch strips (you should have about 16). Working one at a time, hold a strip at each end and twist in opposite directions into a spiral (the dough will stretch slightly as you twist, which is fine), and position it on the prepared baking sheet. If necessary, gently reposition the strips so they’re about ½ inch apart (if they start to untwist, retwist as necessary and gently press the ends onto the parchment to stick) and bake until well puffed and medium brown, 15 to 20 minutes, gently turning the straws over halfway through baking time (do not overbrown, or the cheese can taste bitter). Cool the straws on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, transfer them to a wire rack to cool to room temperature (they’ll crisp up as they cool), and serve the same day.



Makes about 3 cups

If you don’t have bourbon, substitute another whiskey (though not Scotch), amber or dark rum, or water.

1½    tablespoons granulated sugar

2        teaspoons granulated onion powder

1¼    teaspoons dried thyme, crushed to fine powder

¾      teaspoon granulated garlic powder

¾      teaspoon ground coriander

¾      teaspoon ground cinnamon

Kosher salt and freshly, finely ground black pepper

2        tablespoons bourbon or other whiskey (see note above)

1         tablespoon light brown sugar

1         tablespoon butter

½      teaspoon vanilla extract

3        cups raw pecan halves (about 10 ounces), lightly toasted and cooled

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a large bowl, mix sugar, onion powder, thyme, garlic powder, coriander, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and set aside. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, bring the bourbon, brown sugar, and butter to a boil, swirling pan to blend, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and swirl to mix. Add the pecans and toss or stir to coat the nuts evenly; cook to evaporate moisture, about 1½ minutes longer. Pour nuts into the bowl with the spices and toss or stir to coat them evenly. Spread them in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet and rest for at least 30 minutes for the coating to dry fully. Serve or store the nuts in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.



Makes about 30 pieces/serves 10 (3 pieces each)

If you’re buying ham at the deli counter, select a rectangular variety and have it sliced a little on the thick side for easier rolling and better-looking rolls. I used slices measuring about 6½-by-4 ½ inches; smaller slices may not yield 5 pieces per roll.

½ cup whipped cream cheese (about 3½ ounces), at room temperature

½ teaspoon pressed or grated garlic (about 1 small clove)

Salt and pepper

1⅓ cups grated sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, at room temperature

1/3 cup very finely chopped celery (about 2/3 medium rib)

¼ cup very finely chopped mixed fresh tender herbs, such as parsley, mint, dill, chives, scallion greens, or celery leaves


6 slices high-quality deli ham (about 8 ounces), preferably rectangular

Chives, for garnish, finely chopped or cut into lengths of 2 inches or more

In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, garlic, a pinch of salt, and pepper to taste. Add the cheddar, celery, and herbs, and mix to blend (you should have about 11/3 cups).

Lay the ham slices lengthwise on a work surface and spread about 3 tablespoons of filling on each, leaving a 1-inch border at the top and a ½-inch border on the other sides. Starting at the bottom of each slice, roll into a tight, neat cylinder. Place the rolls on a plate, cover, and refrigerate until the filling is firm, at least 2 hours. Cutting on the bias, trim each end; bias-cut each trimmed roll into 5 evenly sized pieces. Arrange the pieces on a serving plate with a cut side up, sprinkle with the chopped chives or arrange 1 longer piece of chive on each to garnish, and serve.


Ella Fitzgerald albums I love include “Ella and Louis” (with Louis Armstrong),  “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook,” “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook,” “Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife,” and “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas,” which is Christmas to me.
Ella Fitzgerald albums I love include “Ella and Louis” (with Louis Armstrong), “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook,” “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook,” “Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife,” and “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas,” which is Christmas to me.Anthony Tieuli


Makes 4 cocktails

4        sugar cubes

Bitters, such as Angostura

Chilled champagne, prosecco, or other sparkling wine

4        lemon zest twists

In each of 4 champagne flutes, place 1 sugar cube. Sprinkle each with 3 drops of bitters, then slowly top with champagne until flutes are almost full. Gently run 1 lemon twist around the rim of each flute, add it to the cocktail, and serve at once.



Makes 2 cocktails

1         tablespoon sugar or 2 sugar cubes

Bitters, such as Angostura

1         thin slice, halved, plus 2 twists of zest, from 1 medium orange

2        maraschino cherries, optional

2        lemon zest twists

5        ounces bourbon, rye, or blended whiskey

Ice, preferably cracked or small cubes

Chill two Old Fashioned glasses. In each glass, muddle 1½ teaspoons sugar or 1 sugar cube, 3 drops bitters, an orange slice half, 1 cherry if using, and 1 lemon twist until the fruit is mashed and the sugar has started to dissolve, creating a syrupy liquid. With a spoon, remove the mashed fruit and lemon twist.

Add 2½ ounces (5 tablespoons) bourbon and a few ice cubes to each glass, and stir to blend and chill the liquor. Run 1 orange twist around the rim of each glass, drop it in, and serve at once.


Makes 2 cocktails

If Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice tastes right to you, substitute 1 ounce of it for the fresh lime juice and simple syrup. Adapted from a recipe by Stephen Brockman.

Ice, preferably cracked or small cubes

4        ounces gin

2        ounces fresh lime juice

1½    ounces simple syrup

Thin slices lime or cucumber, to garnish

Fill a large glass or cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the gin, lime juice, and simple syrup, and stir to blend and chill the liquor.

Strain half the mixture into each of 2 chilled coupe, martini, or rocks glasses (in the last case, with a few ice cubes), depending on preference. Garnish each glass with a lime or cucumber slice and serve at once.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.’’ Send comments to cooking@globe.com.