The Cocktail Calendar
New book spotlights one cocktail for every day of the year
By Craig Manning | Dec. 3, 2022
Calling all cocktail adventurers: Are you looking to concoct something new from what you have stashed in your liquor cabinet? Are you getting fatigued with your usual go-to cocktails? Do you want to wow your friends and family this holiday season by becoming a master mixologist with a repertoire of drinks they’ve never even heard of?
Enter: Cheers! Cocktails & Toasts to Celebrate Every Day of the Year, a brand-new cocktail recipe manual hitting bookstore shelves this holiday season. From New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve, author Philip Greene has hand-picked a calendar-year’s worth of cocktail recipes for you to try. (You’ll even find a drink idea for February 29, even if you only get to make that one every four years.)
There are no repeats, and every drink has a connection to its corresponding day, even if those connections aren’t always what you’d expect. Greene takes readers through the whole experience with wit and palpable expertise, including a brief story or explanation for why he chose each and every cocktail in the book.
Greene is no stranger to cocktail literature. Cheers! Is Greene’s fourth book about drink culture, following To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, The Manhattan: The Story of the First Modern Cocktail, and A Drinkable Feast: A Cocktail Companion to 1920s Paris.
Greene is also a cocktail columnist for The Daily Beast, though his actual day job has nothing to do with mixology at all. For the past 13 years, Greene has served as trademark attorney for the United States Marine Corps, which means he’s responsible for managing the 765 (and counting) trademark registrations of the Marines brand, from the eagle, globe, and anchor emblem to the slogan, “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.”
From Petoskey to Casablanca
Greene has ties to northern Michigan, though he currently resides in Washington, D.C. To Have and Have Another brought the author to the upper part of the Mitten, due to the fact that Ernest Hemingway famously spent the first 22 summers of his life in the Petoskey area at a family cottage on Walled Lake. Greene’s daughter went on to attend Interlochen Arts Academy, and now, he and his wife are building a new house in Northport where they will eventually retire. (Greene and his cocktail expertise have also appeared in the pages of Northern Express before.)
While writing about cocktails is old hat for Greene at this point, Cheers! represents a bit of a departure from his past work.
“The first three books were about Hemingway, the Manhattan, and Paris, so they were all deep dives into a particular subject matter,” he says. “And for those three books, I consider myself the subject matter expert. I don’t think anyone on the planet knows more about Hemingway and what he liked to drink, or what they were drinking in Paris in the 1920s, or the history, folklore, and impact of the Manhattan. This book was fun because it was a very shallow dive. It has 366 topics, 366 drinks, and an associated quote or toast with each one.”
How does one go about picking a different drink for every single day of the year? For Greene, that question was the fun of the book, and it allowed him to play by an ever-shifting set of rules for what was significant—or significant to him—about specific days and dates.
“Sometimes, I’d take an event—like, ‘On January 23 in 1943, Casablanca debuted,’” Greene explains of his process. “There are a lot of movie buffs out there who love the movie Casablanca, but I happen to know, because I’m a cocktail geek, that the French 75 is featured in that film.”
As such, the French 75—a cocktail featuring London dry gin, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, chilled champagne, and a lemon peel garnish—appears in Cheers! as the cocktail of the day for January 23. In addition to the cocktail recipe and some background information about Casablanca—and about how the cocktail figures into the film’s narrative—Greene also included a verbal toast and a mood-setting piece of music to go along with the drink.
“So, this drink was really perfect for the book,” he says of the Casablanca cocktail. “What’s your toast that day? ‘Here’s looking at you kid,’ of course. And what song should you listen to? Obviously, it’s ‘As Time Goes By.’”
Film enthusiasts will find other movie-themed cocktails in the book, for classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Shawshank Redemption. But Greene also honors major historical milestones (the nomination of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court), pop culture trivia (the day in 1975 when Bruce Springsteen appeared simultaneously on the covers of both TIME and Newsweek), holidays (the Christmas Day cocktail is fittingly a favorite of famed holiday crooner Bing Crosby), and more.
The structure of Cheers! gave Greene ample opportunity to fit mentions of lots of his favorite things into the book, from music to film to sports and beyond. Ultimately, though, he says the most fun part of the process was researching possibilities for the days on the calendar where ideas didn’t immediately occur to him. That research led to some wild stories—and some of Greene’s very favorite cocktail picks in the book.
“There’s this little town called Nederland, Colorado, just west of Boulder, and there’s a hilarious story in the book, for March 6, about how that town has something called the ‘Frozen Dead Guy Festival,’” Greene says.
“In 1980, this Norwegian family, their grandfather died, and they brought his cryogenically frozen corpse to Colorado because they wanted to open a cryogenics facility in Nederland. Well, some locals weren’t happy about the possibility of having this potentially thawing dead guy in their midst, so they brought a lawsuit, and the court ordered that, ‘By March 6, you’ve gotta get him out of here.’ Well, somehow, popular support reversed on the matter, and money started pouring in to keep the guy there and build an actual cryogenics facility for him. And to this day, the frozen grandfather is still there. So every year, the town of Nederland celebrates Frozen Dead Guy Festival, where they have casket races and log rolling and polar plunges.”
To go with that narrative, Greene chose a drink called “Corpse Reviver No. 1,” which features one ounce of Cognac; half an ounce of apple brandy, Calvados, or applejack; and half an ounce of sweet vermouth, shaken with ice and served in a chilled cocktail glass. The drink comes from a 1930s cocktail book, which instructs that the cocktail should “be taken before 11am, or whenever steam and energy are needed.” It’s a good drink, Greene says, made better by the story it’s paired with.
“I liked the idea of telling this crazy story that you might never hear about,” Greene says of the Frozen Dead Guy Festival narrative. “Why not read about it while you’re fixing yourself a drink?”
Cheers! Cocktails & Toasts to Celebrate Every Day of the Year hits store shelves on December 6. Learn more about the book and its author at philipjgreene.com.
Tips for Cocktail Crafting
Given that there are 366 cocktails featured in Greene’s new work, it’s no surprise that the book calls for quite the variety of different spirits, mixers, auxiliary ingredients, bar tools, glassware, and other items. It can all be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a fully-stocked liquor cabinet in your kitchen already. While the book includes a helpful chapter on essential bar tools and ingredients, we asked Greene to share a few other tips to get you started on your cocktail-making journey.
Don’t use your fanciest spirits: “You don’t have to break the bank on expensive spirits,” Greene says. “If you’re making beef stew, are you going to buy ribeye steak or filet mignon? No, you’re going to buy something good, but something that’s a little less premium because it’s going to be blended with other ingredients anyway. The same is true with cocktails.”
Get the right bar tools: “Again, you don’t have to break the bank, but if you’re garnishing a drink with a lemon peel, you really want to have something like the peeler I suggest [in the book],” Greene explains. “With that garnish, you want to get just a really thin shave of the peel. If you use a knife and you take too much of the peel, you might get too much of the pith, which is very bitter and is not going to help the flavor of the drink. It’s just so much easier to make drinks with the right tools, and they’re not expensive.”
It’s up to you whether to use the brands specified in certain recipes: “Sometimes, where I mentioned a specific brand in the book, it’s because the bartender who created the drink wanted to use that particular brand,” Greene says. “I wanted to be faithful to that.” With that said, less picky mixologists can swap in other brands as preference or availability dictates.