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April Showers Bring May Flowers …and Drinks!

We are on the brink of the summer season with BBQs, boating, picnics, camping, concerts, and just soaking up all the sunshine. May is the perfect time to start gearing up for the festivities in the months ahead, and what better way to do it, than to celebrate all of the many drinking holidays this month. 

Friday, May 3rd – International Sauvignon Blanc Day. This day was actually started by the country of New Zealand back in 2010. They would certainly be the country to do so too, as NZ produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the world. The French cultivated the first grapes in the Loire Valley of France – the name originates from the French words “sauvage” meaning “wild,” and “vignon” meaning “vine,” while “blanc” is the French word for “white.” The wine is crisp, dry, refreshing and typically has notes of tropical fruits. It’s best chilled and pairs well with a hot summer’s day, and seafood, fish, salads, cheese and even spicy foods, to help balance the heat.

Saturday, May 4th – Not just Star Wars Day, today also happens to be Kentucky Derby Day. This year happens to be a big one too – the 150th anniversary! If you’re not able to get out to Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY, the next best thing is to host or attend a Derby themed party! Ladies, get out your most fashionable hats, and men, get out those seersucker suits, turn on NBC and stock the bar with all the fixins’ to make the classic Mint Julep: Bourbon whiskey, simple syrup, fresh mint leaves, and ice. The Mint Julep originated in the southern US back in the late 18th century, but it wasn’t until 1938 that the drink was associated with the Kentucky Derby. Being super easy to create, it’s a drink that should be on your drink rotation well into the summer months. Per liquor.com, in a rocks glass, lightly muddle a few mint leaves with ¼ ounce of simple syrup. Add 2 ounces of bourbon and pack the rest of the glass with crushed ice. Stir until the glass is frosty on the outside. To be even more fashionable, you may choose to add a couple of sprigs of mint for garnish. 

Sunday, May 5th – Cinco de Mayo. The holiday in its purest form celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War. In Mexico, it is considered a fairly minor holiday, but in the United States? Well, that’s a different story. The holiday has evolved into a celebration of honoring Mexican culture and heritage, which has also become commercialized to a degree. Even so, it is a day to relish in all the phenomenal Mexican culinary goodies from guacamole to carnitas to tamales, and wash it all down with a Margarita, Paloma or Sangria! Plenty of local Mexican restaurants will be hosting opportunities to grab a bite and a drink, or have a few friends over to host your own party! Liquor.com provides an easy recipe to make your own classic margarita: Pour 2 ounces of blanco tequila, ½ ounce orange liquor, 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, and a ½ ounce of agave syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and salt rim. ¡Salud!

Tuesday, May 7th – National Homebrew Day. This holiday was officially created in 1988, by our US Congress. The American Homebrewers Association typically holds a “Big Brew” event on the first Saturday in May, (this year, falling on May 4th) with home brewers and hobbyists across the US and across the globe, participating in demos, learning new techniques and sharing ideas, and trialing new recipes. Here in Syracuse we have our very own Salt City Brew Club, and they will be getting together at Van Hassler Brewing in Liverpool, NY on the 4th to celebrate and collaborate with other fellow homebrewers. The group welcomes folks that wish to learn more about how to start their own home brewing. More details are provided on their Facebook group page under the events section. 

Tuesday, May 7th – National Cosmopolitan Day. In 1934, the first cosmopolitan recipe was published in the book “Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars,” written by Charles Christopher Mueller and it was originally made with gin. It wasn’t until 1988 when New York City bartender Toby Cecchini refined the drink by swapping out the gin for vodka. In 1999, the Cosmo hit the big-time when it became the defining drink on HBO’s Sex and the City series. Grab your girlfriends and hit up a happy-hour after work to celebrate this lovely pink drink, or mix up one at home, compliments of liquor.com: Add 1 ½ ounces of citron vodka, ¾ ounce Cointreau, ¾ ounces of fresh squeezed lime juice, and ½ ounce cranberry juice into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge for a little something extra.

Thursday, May 9th – World Moscato Day. Moscato originates in Italy from the Moscato Blanco or Muscat Canelli grape and is one of the oldest grape varieties in the region. Moscato can be light and dry, sweet and sparkling, or even made into a dessert wine, with colors ranging from white to rosé to red. It is also the 3rd most popular wine in the United States. Moscato wines also happen to be quite low in ABV for a wine, typically between 5-7% and is a popular wine to mix into cocktails or punches. Best served chilled, this fruity and floral wine is a great choice for warm weather. 

Monday, May 13th – World Cocktail Day. Today is a global celebration of cocktails, and marks the publication date of the first definition of a cocktail on May 13, 1806 by author and editor Harry Croswell of the New York tabloid newspaper The Balance and Columbian Repository with the definition being: “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” Cheers to that!

May 13th-May 19th – American Craft Beer Week. This is a week to celebrate and show love to all of those in the craft beer industry – especially your local breweries and brewers. The first celebratory week occurred in 2006 and with the rise and popularity of craft breweries, the week-long holiday has only continued to grow and expand. Participators are encouraged to visit and support local craft brewery businesses and are even encouraged to try a style or brew they normally wouldn’t – therefore expanding ones horizons! 

Thursday, May 16th – National Mimosa Day. This drink gets its name from a plant called the Mimosa, a tropical plant originating in Asia and Africa, which produces yellow flowers, thus the drink’s color resembles the flower’s color. A popular choice of beverage at brunches and bridal showers everywhere, this is a simple cocktail made of orange juice mixed with champagne. No ice, just chilled and served in a flute, it’s both light and refreshing! 

Friday, May 17th – National Pinot Grigio Day. Pinot Grigio grapes share genetic traits with Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes. Our very own Finger Lakes region is a well-respected and well-known producer of Pinot Grigio wines. Best served chilled, this dry to semi-sweet white wine is light-bodied with a pronounced acidity and notes of pear, apple, and sometimes citrus or melon. It pairs well with white-sauced pasta dishes, chicken dishes, or seafood. 

Saturday, May 18th – World Whisky Day. This day even boasts its own website: www.worldwhiskyday.com “invites everyone to try a dram and celebrate the water of life.” The website also has information pertaining to types and variations of whisky, info on an array of distilleries to visit, articles on women in the industry, facts, history, and much more. Also, fun fact, the spelling of “whiskey” and “whisky” depends on where the beverage originates! Whiskey with an “e” refers to the drink from the US and Ireland. Whisky without an “e” refers to the drink made in Japan, Canada, or Scotland. Even the plural versions are different: Whiskey becomes whiskeys and whisky becomes whiskies.

Tuesday, May 21st – World Chardonnay Day. A very new holiday, its inaugural year was 2021! The holiday is meant to showcase and celebrate the Chardonnay grape while also providing information and education on cultivation, growing, and production of the grape and its wines. The varietal originated in the Burgundy wine region of France, but can be found worldwide – notably in our own Napa Valley here in the US. Its one of the most popular grapes in the world. You can find this wine aged, oaked, unoaked, and sparkling. Typically on the drier side, with a medium-body, lemon, apple, butter, vanilla, and pineapple are just some of the notes that are common amongst the different varieties of Chardonnay wines. They are also very versatile when it comes to pairing with almost any dish at the dinner table. 

Wednesday, May 22nd – World Paloma Day. Did you know that the Paloma is the national drink of Mexico? This refreshingly bright citrus cocktail is one of the best mixed drinks out there! If you’ve never had a paloma, this writer vehemently recommends that you try one, STAT. While the origin of the drink is a bit of a mystery, the first grapefruit soda was created in 1938, and at some point in Mexico, someone mixed tequila, lime and grapefruit soda, and the rest is literal history. You can make your own version by mixing together 2 ounces of blanco tequila with ½ ounce of fresh lime juice in a highball glass. Add ice, top with grapefruit soda, and give it a gentle stir. Add a lime and grapefruit wedge to garnish. Recipe courtesy of nationaldaycalendar.com. You can also make the drink with grapefruit juice instead of the grapefruit soda, just mix together the tequila, lime juice and grapefruit juice (1 oz), and top off with a little soda water to provide a bit of fizz.

Saturday, May 25th – World Wine Day. With so many white wines already discovered this month with their own holidays, perhaps pour yourself a glass of red today! 

Thursday, May 30th – National Mint Julep Day. We already covered this cocktail, but sure, why not? Throw on that Derby Day hat, and pour yourself another! 

Cheers to all of this month’s festivities and our summer ahead!

Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!