Holidays and celebrations are often associated with distinctive drinks. What would Christmas
be without eggnog, or St. Patrick's Day without that distinctive drink called “anything
within arm's reach?” Some musing on this theme led to this article, in which I attempt to
take a journey through the year, punctuated by appropriate cocktails.
New Year's Day: I never overdo it on New Year's Eve; one needs to drive, often
under icy conditions and up and down hills where I live, and at parties the bubbly is often of
uncertain provenance. My hangover-free New Year's Day is hence the occasion for that first
fine wine of the year, to set the tone. You want a good bottle that gives you a real glow as
you set those rosy resolutions.
First up in our year of holidays is the celebration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr., the man who gave us the words “I have a dream” with such eloquence. The
Dream Cocktail is the natural choice for this day. In an ice-filled glass pour an ounce
and a half of brandy and a half ounce each of Cointreau (or triple sec) and anisette. Stir and
strain into a chilled glass.
Australia Day comes late in January, and considering the two centuries of fine
relations we've had with our antipodean cousins, we ought to share their occasion. For a
Barrier Reef, we use a cocktail shaker, adding an ounce of gin, a half ounce of
Cointreau, a dash of bitters, a dash of blue Curaçao and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, shaking
and pouring into a chilled highball glass. If you think this too cold a drink for January,
consider that it is high summer Down Under; close your eyes and imagine.
Groundhog Day-February 2: If the groundhog does not see his shadow and spring
seems imminent, we celebrate with the first dry martini of the year. If the groundhog sees his
shadow, we'd better get used to six more weeks of winter and prepare a Hot Toddy.
This requires two ounces of whiskey, rum or brandy mixed with a teaspoon of honey or
sugar. You fill the glass with hot water, stir, garnish with lemon and throw in a few cloves
and a cinnamon stick. Now go to your television, turn on the Australian Open tennis
tournament, and watch 'em sweat under that summer sun.
Since we've mentioned the Aussies already, it's time we gave the neighboring Kiwis their
due, especially considering all those fine New Zealand wines we have been enjoying of late.
New Zealand's National Day is Waitangi Day, the 6th of February. We will enjoy a
Daiquiri Kiwi on this day: an ounce each of rum, lemon juice, Cointreau, and Midori
with a half ounce of sugar syrup, blended with half a kiwi fruit and ice and strained into a
martini glass. Use the other half of the kiwi to cut garnishes.
Valentine's Day-February 14: Champagne (and don't stint) is ideal for this very
special day, but why not try a cocktail called Cupid's Potion? Fill a highball glass
with ice, pour in an ounce and a half of amaretto, a half ounce triple sec, a dash of grenadine
then fill with equal parts orange juice and sour mix. Shake them together.
The ideal drink for Presidents Day (if we actually can take time off from shopping to
commemorate Abe and George at all) is the Presidente. To an ice-filled glass add an
ounce and a half of rum, a half ounce each of dry vermouth and Curaçao, a dash of
grenadine and shake, straining into a chilled glass. The garnish is a lemon twist. If we really
want to be cynical about presidents, however, why not try a Watergate Coffee: an
ounce each of Kahlua and Cointreau topped with black coffee and whipped cream.
The Ides of March: Those Julius Caesar fans among us will want to commemorate
Julie's unfortunate final day in 44 BC. The Bloody Caesar (popular in Canada) will
accomplish this. One of the many spinoffs of the Bloody Mary, this drink rounds up the usual
subjects (if only Caesar had thought to do this) but adds clam juice in equal parts to the
Mardi Gras: The dates for “Fat Tuesday” vary according to the commencement of
Lent, but the drink of preference is obvious, the New Orleans Sazerac. A proper
Sazerac involves some care. You start by coating the inside of the destination glass with a
Pastis like Pernot, Ricard or better yet, some real (and recently legalized) Absinthe. This
requires pouring in and then pouring out a full shot of the Pastis; its final destination is your
affair alone. You fill another glass with ice, add two ounces of bourbon, a teaspoon of sugar,
and a dash of Peychaud's bitters, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Strain into the coated glass and
garnish with a lemon twist.
I have already alluded to St. Patrick's Day, which is invariably associated in the
popular imagination with the consumption of alcoholic beverages. So many cocktails have
Irish themes that is difficult to know where to begin. I have hence decided to pay tribute to
the Irish monks who were so instrumental in keeping civilization going during the dark ages.
To make an Irish Monk, fill a glass with ice, add an ounce Irish Whiskey, an ounce
of Frangelico, and stir.
April Fool's Day: A standard Bloody Mary will do here, but you tell your
friends it is a Virgin Mary and you make sure they drink several before you let on.
Confiscate their car keys as you see fit.
In the United States, April 15th is the most somber day of the year. There is indeed a
cocktail called the Income Tax, however, for those of you who need solace after that
forlorn trip to the post office. In a glass filled with ice add an ounce of gin then dashes of
sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, orange juice, and bitters. Shake and strain into a chilled glass.
Repeat as needed.
For those of you who feel a strong need to reaffirm your loyalty to the concept of a United
States of America after your April 15 blood donation, you only need wait until April 19 for
Patriot's Day. Celebrated as an official holiday in the New England states,
Patriot's Day commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord outside of Boston in
1775 that began the American Revolution. The Liberty Cocktail is ideal for this one.
In an ice-filled glass, add an ounce and a half of apple brandy, three-quarters of an ounce of
rum, a quarter teaspoon sugar syrup, stir and strain into a chilled glass.
On Easter, by all means indulge in the chocolate bunny, but before you march off
dressed to the nines on your Easter Parade, try a Fifth Avenue, a floater drink. The
bottom layer is three quarters of an ounce of crème de cacao. You float the same quantity of
apricot brandy on top, then top with a half ounce of milk for absolute wholesomeness.
Cinco de Mayo: Here you have a choice, depending on your commitment to this
cross-cultural celebration: Mexican beer or one of the many guises of the
Mother's Day: What better than a Mother Love? Over ice stir an ounce and
a half of Canadian whiskey with a half ounce of peppermint schnapps. Mom will love this
Memorial Day: We need something military to honor the heroes who have sacrificed
so much to give us the freedom to make silly cocktails (as well as freedom of speech, the
press, religion and all that). How about a W.W. II? You fill a glass
with ice and add an ounce each of vodka, triple sec and Midori melon liqueur, throw in a
dash of lime juice, fill with pineapple juice, and shake. If you still think the Russians are a
threat (and I do), try a W.W. III (which I have just invented): pour
equal parts vodka and bourbon into a glass, then go to some remote but unstable area of the
world and ignite.
D-Day: We always commemorate the 6th of June, so how about preparing a
Victory. In an ice-filled glass, add an ounce and a half of Pernod, three-quarters of
an ounce of grenadine, shake and top with club soda. You could of course throw all taste to
the wind and opt for a Dead Nazi, equal parts Jägermeister and peppermint
Flag Day-June 14: The only drink for this day is—no prizes for guessing—the
Betsy Ross. Over ice add an ounce each of vodka, amaretto and sour mix. Shake and
strain into a chilled glass.
Father's Day: For a Big Daddy, fill a tall glass with ice and add a half
ounce each of vodka, rum, tequila and whisky. Top with lemon-lime soda and garnish with
lime. Make sure Mom is around in case Pop cannot finish this.
Canada Day-July 1: The choice is clear for this holiday, the Maple Leaf:
over ice, an ounce of Canadian whiskey, a quarter ounce lemon juice, a teaspoon of maple
syrup, shake and strain into a chilled glass.
Independence Day: The Fourth of July is a floater, but if you make it with
care you ought to generate some fireworks. Three quarters of an ounce each of grenadine for
the bottom, blue Curaçao for the middle, light rum, vodka or milk for the top. That's red,
white and blue if you haven't yet figured.
Bastille Day-July 14: Before you start to think that a “Bloody” might work, there is
a better cocktail to represent this fine day in history. To make a Guillotine, over ice,
add three quarters of an ounce each of vodka, tequila and mentholated schnapps. Shake and
strain into a glass, and voilà, you get that splendid light-headed feeling.
No one works much on Labor Day, but to commemorate the American worker what
could be more appropriate than a Hard Hat? Over ice pour two ounces of rum, a
dash of lime juice, a teaspoon of sugar, and fill up with club soda.
Columbus Day presents something of a quandary: make the drink Italian to celebrate
Chris's homeland, or make it Spanish to commemorate the people who gave him the three
ships. Why not both? For an Italian Stallion mix an ounce and a half of scotch with
half an ounce of Galliano. For a Spanish Fly mix equal amounts of tequila and
amaretto over ice. Set sail and discover a new world.
Halloween presents a number of possibilities for aptly named drinks, but I am
choosing the Black Cat. In an ice-filed glass pour an ounce each of vodka and cherry
liqueur, then fill with equal parts of cranberry juice and cola. Please leave the glass on the
table when you go to answer the door, however.
Election Day is the perfect occasion to enjoy a Politician Cocktail. This is
essentially a White Russian followed by a Jägermeister shot: “Starts off
clean, ends up dirty.” For the White Russian, fill a glass with ice, add an ounce of vodka and
an ounce Kahlua, fill with milk or cream, shake and pour into a fresh glass.
Thanksgiving's drink is the Turkey Shoot, a floater. The bottom is three
quarters of an ounce of bourbon. On top of this float a quarter ounce of white crème de
The 30th Day of November is the birthday of one of the greatest defenders of our
right to drink ever to have raised a glass. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill also raised
his voice in the cause of all our other freedoms. Churchill was a great fan of Pol Roger
Champagne and the family that produced it; when Winston died in 1965 the house placed
black ribbons around the labels of all the champagne it sold in the UK. In 1984 Pol Roger
released its Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. A few hundred dollars will get you that
special bottle. Find that special someone with whom to share it, but make them pay half.
December 7th, 1941 may indeed be, as FDR told us, “a date which will live in
infamy,” but, as we always commemorate this day, it also has an appropriate cocktail. To
make a Pearl Harbor, into an ice-filled glass pour an ounce each of vodka and Midori
melon liqueur, fill with pineapple juice, shake and garnish with pineapple slices, then settle in
to watch From Here to Eternity.
Just five days later, we celebrate the 12th of December. Some of you readers already
know why some of us do this; you others will have to do research. Here's a hint, however:
the beverage is Jack Daniel's and you drink it with two cubes of ice.
We move on, of course, to Christmas, during which eggnog is the obvious choice.
But this is a pain to prepare and the commercial versions are forgettable. The Virgin
Mary might apply thematically, but it lacks the requisite kick. The Three Wise
Men may fill the bill, however. Here we ask the sage advice of Mr. Johnnie Walker, Mr.
Jim Beam and Señor Facundo Bacardi in equal amounts. If you want the drink to be strictly
secular and seasonal, however, you might try a Jack Frost: equal amounts of Jack
Daniel's and peppermint schnapps. I also like the Snowball: equal proportions of
brandy, peppermint schnapps, and white crème de cacao. Ho, Ho, Ho.
Our year ends with New Year's Eve and once again with the admonition “Drink
responsibly.” Champagne never does it for me on New Year's Eve; the drink is more a 5pm
aperitif in my book. I like the idea of a quiet New Year's Eve with that special lady. For
that purpose, I suggest the Velvet Dress: an ounce of brandy mixed with half an
ounce each of cocoa liqueur and triple sec, then filled out with heavy cream. Drink it before
midnight so it doesn't count against your diet for the coming year.