As a spirits publication, we get a lot of pitches from PR agencies asking us to feature their product for a never-ending series of “Official XYZ Drinking Day”. For July, aside from the generally recognized National holiday, July 4th / Independence Day, we were pitched on National Mojito Day (July 11), Bastille Day (July 14), National Daiquiri Day (July 18), and National Tequila Day (July 24). That’s a lot of drinking days packed into just a few weeks.
The thing is, most of these holidays (aside from Bastille Day) are completely made up. To be fair, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were once made up holidays, created by the greeting card industry to help sell more of their products. These days caught on and are now ACTUALLY observed.
Now almost every major spirit and cocktail has its own “National Day”, and it’s so easy for just about anyone to create their own “National Day” that it no one really observes any of these fictional drinking occasions. For example, let’s just say that we love Game of Thrones (which we do) and think that it would be fun to create a day where people sit and watch episodes of the popular HBO show and play a drinking game, knocking one back after every time the character Hodor says “Hodor“. Sounds fun right? Well, all we’d need to do is submit this day with Chase’s Calendar of Events. You have to pay McGraw-Hill (the publisher) a fee as well as a renewal fee for each year you want the event to appear in the book. The deadline for the following year’s publication is always Tax Day (another real reason to drink).
Beyond the extreme saturation of these fictional holidays, there’s the issue of the concept of drinking holidays all together. Many of the OBSERVED drinking holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, Derby Day, Cinco De Mayo, Independence Day, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve are generally marked by over consumption. St. Patrick’s Day is known unaffectionately among bartenders as “Amateur Night” and is often marked by gratuitous intoxication, violence, and illness. Ask any bartender about their last St. Patrick’s Day and the way they’ll describe it sounds a lot more like terrorist bombing in the Middle East than a celebration.
Now, we know that the intent of liquor companies isn’t any of this. The reasons for all of these made-up holidays isn’t to get people to drink themselves silly, it’s to create awareness of spirits and cocktails that perhaps they haven’t tried, or have forgotten about. Is National Martini Day a good reason to have a martini? Perhaps, but with so many “national” spirit days that go virtually un-observed, there really isn’t room for a true spirit-related holiday. A better way to go about all of this is to perhaps look at the holidays that we do all actually observe and explore how we can use these holidays as an opportunity to drink differently (and by that, we don’t mean more).
We live in a time with more choices in spirits than there have ever been. When I was first old enough to go into a liquor store, there were three options in tequila, now there are rows and rows. The same goes for gin. Explore Cachaca because the World Cup is in Brazil? Great. Have a bourbon drink to celebrate the Kentucky Derby? Absolutely (we suggest a well-made mint julep). But the flood of these fake XYZ Drinking Days needs to end. Spirit companies need to tell their PR agencies to stop trying to push them, and consumers should scoff at them. They’re diluting the message and distracting brands from the job they need to really do: explain to consumers why they should be venturing out of their “safe and familiar zone” to try something new. You don’t need a “national day” to do this, you just need to understand consumers, who are willing and interested to try something new, but they need to know how best to drink it, and why.