Small Holidays, Big Drinks

Mint Julep
Mint Julep Flickr-GrizDave

Move over, Cinco de Mayo, New Year’s Eve, and St. Patrick’s Day. Restaurants are thinking beyond traditionally boozy holidays to research offbeat ones and even make up their own.

Smith restaurant in Seattle knows the fun of a good off-holiday. The neighborhood restaurant celebrated its fifth annual Canada Day on July 1 with poutine, fireworks decorations, and the aptly dubbed Winnipeg, a $6 cocktail made with house-infused cinnamon whiskey, Amaro Averna, and black pepper tincture. This, followed by countless renditions of “O Canada.”

Restaurants that link beverages with alternative holidays are carving an attractive niche, as they separate themselves from established drinking days like Cinco de Mayo and New Year’s Eve. Silly holidays, like Sunglasses Day in June, can introduce props and costumes. Sport days can build repeat business: the Kentucky Derby, held the first Saturday of every May, has steadily inaugurated itself as the day to imbibe iced tea and muddle Mint Juleps. Even unenthusiastic days, like tax day on April 15, have become a reason to clink glasses.

Cocktails for non-traditional holidays are a great way to engage guests and boost business during off peak hours, says Jennifer Schubert, bar manager for the Manhattan location of Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, a brand that often commemorates offbeat holidays and drinking occasions.

For the World Cup, Davio’s in Manhattan and Philadelphia served a Balotelli Neroli named after Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli. The striking drink had blood orange liqueur, Aperol, fresh orange juice, and bubbly prosecco. In honor of the summer solstice in June, Davio’s whipped up a cool and refreshing cocktail with gin, Aperol, lemon, and more prosecco, topped with a zesty grapefruit garnish.

Schubert says unconventional holiday beverages also lend themselves to creative marketing via social media. A prime example is Seattle’s Best Coffee, which offers a free coffee to the 20 percent of Americans who go to work on Black Friday, and runs the promo largely through its Facebook page.


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