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  • Writer's pictureKhalid Williams

Navigating the Parallel Universe of Drinks Holidays

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

A Candid image of me celebrating "climb your big ass on a piano and make Johnny Walker Black cocktails while throwing fake 100 dollar bills" day. It's coming up on June 31st .

The time is 6 am. It’s a Thursday, and it’s prime time for anybody who makes drinks and the hottest day of the week for those who create online content.

I wake up ready to take on the world and make an impact in my industry. Clearly, the first thing I do is check Instagram, and there it is: Some slick and stylish cocktail account with 100,000 followers has gotten thousands of likes because they’re celebrating a drinking holiday. There’s a cocktail, smiling people and comments full of sycophants who are just as excited that February 31st is Clarified Oak Aged Macadamia Nut Amaro Day. I scroll through a few more posts about this day that clearly any bartender worth their Hawthorne strainer should know about before getting out of bed. It is much harder to face the world now.

I think about how my bar could get in on this Clarified Oak Aged Macadamia Nut Amaro Day action. Clearly, the entire world is marching to this beat and I am just now starting to hear the drums. I’m overcome with one part excitement, one part curiosity and a bunch parts of anger that I’m not involved in some way, plus confusion about who the hell even decided that today is Clarified Oak Aged Macadamia Nut Amaro Day. I begin a frenetic rush to style my bar and social media channels so they look like I’ve been celebrating it since it was first discovered, which I obviously have not.

It seems like I’ve been left out of a cool club. I feel that yucky feeling that I’ve fallen victim to since high school. I call FOMOSTDEE: Fear Of Missing Out on Something That Doesn’t Even Exist in the first place. The holiday didn't matter in my world last night. This morning, a few posts have me in a morning stew of inadequacy masked as apathy. Remember in high school when we acted like we didn't care to hide the fact that we cared oh-so-much? That.

The wonderful world of made-up drink holidays is one that, if done correctly, can be a goldmine for bars and restaurants. But if not executed properly, it can result in a lot of wasted time, energy and resources — not to mention the FOMOSTDEE(plain old FOMO ain’t gross enough to do the feeling justice)..

To avoid that, I present to you some ideas that will help solidify your establishment’s position around events. First things first: planning is everything. If you find out that tomorrow is National Margarita Day, you probably need to just sit it out this year. A classy and smart play is to wish those who are celebrating well in a post towards the end of the day: you show awareness to the world outside your establishment while not losing focus on what’s going on inside your own four walls (and the real-time experience is always the most important thing, no matter how large the metaverse looms.)

1. Download an accurate calendar of drinking holidays. There are many sources and sites, but my annual calendar favorite is over at Thirsty by Tara Fougner. Make this the easiest problem to solve: Follow this calendar and ignore all others. Make a decision about what holidays you will create a special program for, and DO NOT DEVIATE!! One well planned feature per month beats seven chaotic hack jobs figured out the morning of. 2. No New Product!! Figure out your holiday strategy for the season and plan new menu rollouts around them(this goes for the traditional holidays as well). The products used should jibe with a future menu item or they will collect dust in the liquor cabinet. "We can sell it" is never an acceptable thought process if it can be avoided-the product should sell itself because it's written down on a menu (a menu that you actually direct your guests to!) 3. If you’re going to do it, go all the way: Don’t hem and haw. If you’re celebrating National Chardonnay Day, every human in your building must know it. This is more important than dressing up the building or having 1,000,001 new items. Make the feature part of the language spoken that day. Go all in on a one-day reinvention, even if it’s only adding one showcased glass pour of wine. 4. Clearly define the roles of staff and brand reps in writing with dates of execution. These things take extra work, and it’s discouraging if your staff finds out at the last minute that they have to take down decorations after close. If staff has a role and voice in the planning process, they're more likely to buy in and be enthusiastic. A bar lives and dies on the staff's level of enthusiasm. 5.. Keep the menus digital and make swag bags in advance. nothing should be left over. Not one piece of paper. Nary a koozie. Just like your fridge at home, leftovers only take up space and get moldy. If you have leftover swag, do a social media blast at the last two hours of service and watch the happy faces pour in. These freebie seekers may not spend any money-but you will absolutely have humans leaving your building with a smile, making it more likely that they return to spend dollars 6.. Partner up, Promote in conjunction and Prioritize Staff. There is absolutely a brand that wants to lend support in return for highlighting their product in your feature. When planning, seek out spirits that want to help with promotion and swag. Give the staff a reason to be involved and reward staff that promotes the event on their personal pages. 7.. Inform, Apply, Review, Repeat. If any team says “I didn’t even know about this,” somebody messed up, and that "somebody" is the person in charge. Even if you gave the info, its your job to make sure it has been received and is being applied.

There will always be a gap in the perspective of drinking holidays within the team: the bar manager sees it as an opportunity for exposure and fun, the owner must calculate the risk of sinking resources into an underpromoted initiative, and the staff simply wants to be given purpose and be a part of the creative process. A consistent and intentional blend of wholesaler and brand support with staff excitement can take National (Insert Beverage Here) Day from stressful to profitable and from frustrating to fun.

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