Halloween is tomorrow and that quintessentially American holiday is feeling a little less festive this year. Although I did have a very small party last weekend, and I certainly decked the halls with lights, decorations, and lovely Halloweenish dishware like tiny ceramic cauldron bowls, a big ceramic cauldron for punch, and a big white pumpkin soup tureen for sweet potato-tomato soup, the gloss of my favorite holiday had worn a little thin. A year and a half of pandemic without much of a break will do that to a girl!
That being said, nothing makes you feel better than a perfect recipe, and this is one of the more perfect ones I've invented. Inspired by a cocktail I made for my wedding (the "Fallen Apple"), this sweet little cocktail is easy to keep as a mocktail, or for grownups to spike.
Perfect Halloween Cocktail
This recipe can be made individually or as a punch. For the party I made a big cauldron of punch and let people spike as they wanted (or not). It feels VERY vintage and turns a lovely reddish shade thanks to the cranberry juice. A nice accompaniment to the casual Halloween party menu I put together (see below).
1 part sweet apple cider
1 part cranberry juice cocktail
1 part ginger ale
1/4 part alcohol (I like Winter Jack best, but other party-goers used apple pie spiced moonshine, spiced rum, bourbon, and applejack)
This basic recipe can be used to make punch (use a quart each of the non-alcoholic stuff and add 1 cup alcohol). If you're doing individual servings, it's about a third of a cup of each of the juices and ginger ale with 1 ounce of alcohol.
The drink is very sweet, so if you want to tone down the sugar, try substituting hard apple cider for the sweet cider, unsweetened cranberry juice for the cocktail, and/or a punchier ginger beer for the ginger ale.
Casual Halloween Party Menu
Sadly I did not get any photos of the food from last week's Halloween party! But I thought I would share the menu with you.
I've found one of the nicest ways to have a Halloween party that doesn't break the bank or mean hours of work is to select your treats by color instead of fussy things that look like decapitated body parts or ghosties and ghoulies. This is a hallmark of early 20th century parties, too. White, orange, and dark purple/black are usually lovely classic colors. A little green isn't remiss, either. Here's my simple menu from last week's party:
Veggies & dip
orange peppers, baby carrots, kohlrabi, cucumber, broccoli with ranch dip
red and yellow pears, russet apples, fresh figs, black grapes
Cheese & meat tray with crackers
sharp white cheddar, blue & cream cheese spread, pimento cheese, smoked mozzarella, BLACK specialty cheese flavored with lemon, sliced pepperoni and salami, Wasa rye crackers, long multigrain crackers, Raincoast raisin and rosemary crisps
Mixed nuts in the shell
Dark Autumn Salad
dark red leaf lettuce, dried cranberries, butter-toasted pecans, homemade balsamic vinaigrette, crumbled feta
Cocktail sausages in barbecue sauce
Vegan Smoky Sweet Potato Tomato Soup
onion, sweet potatoes, tomato paste, tomatoes, smoked paprika, pureed
New York Gingerbread
with blackberry maple jam and whipped cream
The other surprise hits of the evening were the salad (I heated frozen pecans in a little butter in a saucepan - so good!), the cocktail, and my friend Jess' amazing homemade blackberry maple jam with the gingerbread. Sadly we ate almost the whole jar, but I've got six other flavors from her to savor.
The seven people who attended had a great time grazing all the yummy things for the SEVEN HOURS we hung out. Lol. Party started at 4 pm and the last guests left at 11 pm. It was nice having a smaller party because I made less food, we were actually able to use real dishes, and we had some great conversations.
If you're more ambitious than I was this season, you can always check out my 2019 vintage party, or download last year's Halloween History Packet.
2020 Halloween History Packet
This full-color, 16 page PDF packet discusses all things food history and Halloween, including a basic overview of Halloween history, how Halloween has been celebrated in the United States over the decades, vintage and modern recipes, party suggestions, and a bibliography with links to historic digitized Halloween content.
This is a digital download. Once you purchase this item, you will receive an email with the digital file.
We are getting a little festive on Sunday night, going "trick or treating" in costume to a friend's very well-decorated house. What are your Halloween plans? Whether you're celebrating solo or with family or friends, I hope you have a lovely Halloween!
The Food Historian blog is supported by patrons on Patreon! Patrons help keep blog posts like this one free and available to the public. Join us for awesome members-only content like free digitized cookbooks from my personal collection, e-newsletter, and even snail mail from time to time. Don't like Patreon? Join with an annual membership below, or just leave a tip!
Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.