How To Throw A Prohibition Party
Flappers, narcs, bootleg booze... It's time to party like it's 1929.
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We’ve teamed up with Canadian Club to throw our very own Prohibition-style speakeasy parties in Sydney and Melbourne this month, and we want you to come along. The first 20 people to email [email protected] with your name and city will win a double pass! But just in case you don’t win tickets, we wrote you this guide to hosting your own Prohibition Party, too.
The Roaring Twenties: a simpler time of fine clothing, gentlemanly banter, and alcohol bootlegging that flew in the face of harsh prohibition laws. According to statistics that I’ve just made up, four-out-of-five people wish they’d lived in the more dignified era of the Twenties at least once a day. But why simply wish when you can throw your own smashing Prohibition party, the likes of which your friends have never seen before? Here are seven simple steps to get you everything you need…
1. The first rule of a Prohibition party is…
Shhhhh! Keep the damned thing quiet; you don’t want the narcs all over you. Alright sure, it’s 2013 and alcohol is a perfectly legal (and totally delicious) affectation, and a mere party is unlikely to lead to a SWAT team raid on your house (unless you kids are playing your damned jazz music too loud, that is).
But in the spirit of prohibition, you’ll want to carve out an air of mystery and excitement for the event. Consider keeping it off social media, for example. Why not go old school and write out some badass paper invitations to send around to your mates? They’re fancy, a bit fun, have a certain degree of novelty value to them in a digital world, and your wishy-washy, non-committal mates don’t have the option of clicking ‘Maybe’ on them.
If you absolutely must have an event page online, try and hide the true nature of it so as not to not draw suspicion from the Five-Oh. You’re just having people over to appreciate the lunar light! Nope, definitely nothing untoward happening at your ‘Moonshine Appreciation’ evening.
2. Easy directions? Forget ‘em.
Nothing good comes easy, and during prohibition that was particularly true. Sure, you’re putting on a night of fancy-free frivolity for your near and dear, but damn it, they’ve gotta work for it! Just as speakeasies took to obscure underground locations to hide their business, so too must you make the event an adventure just to get there. Keep the location a closely guarded secret right until the very last minute.
Sure, your invitees will probably have a fair idea that it’s just going to be held at your house, but that tiny seed of doubt is important. To really push them over the edge, send out a long and needlessly complex series of directions, complete with ridiculously over-the-top landmark names. You might run the risk of losing the odd guest to frustrated hissy fits, but it’ll also weed out your real friends (who’ll get the champagne) from your sham friends (who’ll receive pain of a manifestly real inclination).
3. Using the front door? Absolutely not.
So you’ve sent your friends on the wildest of goose chases just to get to your house, and that’s great. The fun doesn’t stop there, though. Why, after going through all that effort, would you simply let them waltz up to the front door and ring the bell? You’ve got an entire house of entry points, so it’s time to get creative. Much like in the Prohibition days, where entrances were concealed down back alleyways or through otherwise nondescript storefronts, your party should also have a unique way of getting in.
Is there a back entry to your house? Use it! Is that back entry accessible via an alley? Even better! If time, money and engineering considerations aren’t an issue, the ideal method would be to dig a tunnel from your backyard to a nearby stormwater drain. If your tunnel-forging skills aren’t exactly elite, remember to shore up the roof of your new underground path: unexpected cave-ins are a real party dampener.
4. Dress the part
You’ve made all the preparations, you’ve invited all your friends, and the day’s finally arrived. As hosts, the onus is on you to step it up, so you’ve got to bring your A-game when it comes to being decked out in jazz-era finery. Yes, you might be funnelling people into your house via a dingy alleyway, but it’s that first smack of elegance as they walk in — that glorious juxtaposition between dank and opulence — that will really sell your Prohibition party as one for the ages.
Fellas, I’m talking the sharpest of sharp suits here: waistcoats, fine ties, suspenders, hats, pocket watches, everything pinstripe, the works. If you’re feeling bold, maybe even find a decorative cane to complete the outfit. If you’re looking sartorially superb, the rest of the night will fall into place accordingly.
Goodness me, put those calves away!
As for the women, it’s all about the flapper dress and feathered headpiece. Whether you go bright and vibrant or black and dangerous, the flapper dress is a prohibition staple. It’s light, it’s free-flowing, and above all else, it’s danceable. In fact, there’s your litmus test for any prospective outfits for the evening: if you can easily bust a Charleston in it, you’re good to go.
Who needs a functioning groin anyway?
Let’s not beat around the bush here: booze is the main selling point of most parties, and a party themed around a time where booze was legally frowned upon is certainly no exception. Prohibition saw alcohol formally outlawed across America, which naturally made people covet it all the more. Therefore, your choice of imbibing liquids should not be taken lightly.
You’re going to need proper alcohol. Liquor. Strong, smooth, sturdy beverages that can curl moustaches and ignite fires. The darker the spirit, the lighter the mood. Whisky is ideal, particularly if it’s from America or Canada. Canadian Club will forever be linked to the Prohibition era thanks to the philanthropic exploits of the infamous Al Capone, making it by far and away the go-to beverage for your roaring, raging, hootenanny-ing box social.
6. Keep ‘em entertained
Now that everyone’s in the house and suitably liquored up, it’s time to keep their attention on the party at hand… Prohibition style! This definitely ain’t your average pizza-and-beer function, and whilst it might work magnificently on the other 364 days of the year, the Spice Girls’ Greatest Hits isn’t going to cut it here. Musically, it’s jazz all the way, man.
The Roaring Twenties were also known as the Jazz Age, and musically you’re spoiled for choice here: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bix Beiderbecke and Bing Crosby were all at the height of their careers during this time, and a rotating playlist of all four will easily see you sail right through the night. In addition, games are an absolute must ’cause it’s simply not a Prohibition party without a casual poker or blackjack table. If you’re looking to spice things up even more, a rousing round of Mexicali is sure to get spirits up at a rate of knots. And if it all looks like it’s going south, just stand up furiously and flip the table… That’s always looked like too much fun.
7. When in doubt, know your way out
Every speakeasy worth its salt had a contingency plan in place for those moments when the fuzz came a-knockin’ unexpectedly, so your party must have provisions in place for any unwanted visitors. Those of you blessed with a fashionable cellar or basement are already well ahead of the game, should Eliot Ness pay a visit spouting some Volstead Act nonsense.
Of course, if you don’t have a cellar or basement, then it’s time to get creative. Remember: curtains are excellent and absolutely not at all obvious hiding places for a human or two. If you’ve got the time, install a lever that when pulled, instantly transforms your entire house of ill repute into a harmless pet shop. What kind of pet shop is filled with rambunctious yahoos and hot jazz music at 1am?
Cam Tyeson is a Melbourne-based writer, comedian, and overall extremely hip cat. He tweets anti-Wilson administration rhetoric at @camtyeson.