No one reading this knows it—not the peach schnapps makers, not the orange juice outfits, not the folks who actually drink Fuzzy Navels—but National Fuzzy Navel Day was almost a thing.
I was awarded the date by National Day Calendar, which makes decisions, such as whether the avocado deserves its own 24 hours, from that hotbed of cultural adjudication: Mandan, North Dakota (pop. 21,769). I was told they receive 20,000 applications a year and only approve 30. I felt both proud and incredulous. Who knew the Fuzzy Navel was so deserving?
But then, what drink isn’t a national treasure these days? I, like most booze journalists, am inundated by emails from publicists entreating me to honor National Margarita Day, National Rum Day, National Martini Day and on and on. Mostly, I delete these while gnashing my teeth. But, like the man disturbed by the constant stream of sirens racing past his home, I finally could not ignore the racket. I had to walk out the door and look at the burning building myself.
National Day Calendar isn’t the only outfit out there declaring that once perfectly innocent days are now fake national holidays, including the recently celebrated Whiskey Sour Day (August 25) and National Strawberry Rhubarb Wine Day (the third Saturday in July), which was, bizarrely, the first day National Day Calendar ever declared.
It is, however, the most prominent. The company began in 2013 as a hobby. “We knew there was a National Popcorn Day,” says Alice Anderson, one of the founders. “We looked into it and found out there were other national days, and we thought it would be a fun thing to put them together. It turned into such a monster that we either had to turn it into a business or we had to dump it.”
National Day Calendar’s application form is fairly simple. I identified myself and made a brief case for the Fuzzy Navel’s importance. I expected to be shot down, but 20 days later, I received the happy news. I later learned that my proposal, like all others, was put before a four-person committee. Victors must earn a unanimous “yea” vote.
“We do not approve anything that we do not feel has a broad appeal,” Anderson explains.
But National Fuzzy Navel Day—October 9th, to commemorate the anniversary of the first newspaper mention, in 1979, that I could find of the drink—was not to be. Unbeknownst to me, fame bore a price. There were two packages offered, one for nonprofits and small businesses (that would be me) and one for corporations. The former cost $3,500, the latter started at $20,000. In exchange for this outlay of cash, I would have received inclusion on the calendar; social media mentions; a digital proclamation sent to 20,000 media outlets; and, best of all, a framed certificate.
I must say, I felt pretty good about myself when I learned that the mighty Goslings rum had gone through the same process to establish Dark ‘n Stormy Day, around the same time, and was still waiting for approval. Goslings wants June 9, the date the company first established a trademark on the Dark ‘n Stormy cocktail name. “We were surprised when a little research revealed that establishing a ‘holiday’ like this was possible,” E. Malcolm Gosling, the company’s CEO, tells me.
Still, it’s perhaps just as well that NFN Day (as I like to think of it) wasn’t realized, because I’d prefer to remain on good terms with my fellow liquor reporters. “I detest industry-created ‘days,’ and try to avoid writing about them if at all possible,” says Tony Sachs, a spirits and cocktail journalist who writes for Huffington Post and Robb Report, among others. “I hate them so much that I won’t even drink, say, a Margarita on National Margarita Day.”
Robert Haynes-Peterson, a spirits writer at AskMen and Liquor.com, is only slightly less hot about the topic. “Rarely have I incorporated special ‘days’ in my editorial for a couple of reasons,” he says. “The most obvious being that there are an endless number of these ‘days’ and most are pretty obscure/manufactured/eye roll-worthy.”
It’s hard to blame them. From a reporter’s point of view, National Days are pretty cynical items. Most are little more than ploys to generate press and get cash registers ringing. With National Day exhaustion having set in among the media, would my $3,500 have gone very far?
“It’s hard to say where writers draw the line on these holidays,” says Jenna Gerbino Kaplan, a publicist who has worked with bars such as Death & Co., and liquor companies like Grey Goose and Bacardi. “But if Harvey Wallbangers already have their national day of recognition—it’s November 8, by the way and lots of publications have eagerly covered the holiday—why shouldn’t Fuzzy Navels?”
Kaplan is not unfamiliar with National Day publicity blitzes. She says that, by now, clients expect her to pitch such holidays for press coverage. But she has learned that all days are not created equal. National Rum Day and National Tequila Day have greater media recognition than, say, National Irish Coffee Day. “A few of my pitches did result in coverage,” she says, “but I wouldn’t say it’s particularly impactful.”
Still, liquor manufacturers see enough value in the gamble to hitch their wagon to a National Day star. If Goslings lands its day, the company plans happy hours, social media challenges and would maybe even coordinate a record-setting, global, simultaneous consumption of Dark ‘n Stormys. Meanwhile, Tom Baker, one of the creators of Mr. Black, an Australian coffee liqueur, has placed his chips on National Coffee Day.
“National Days are an interesting phenomenon,” says Baker. “They’re easy to hate, especially when seemingly everything has a day. But if it breaks someone out of their repertoire, and motivates them to swap their vodka cranberry for a mezcal coffee Negroni and experience a different way to drink, is it really a bad thing?” (Full disclosure: Mr. Black partnered with PUNCH on content that promoted National Coffee Day.)
Baker’s viewpoint faintly echoed one I had heard from Anderson, when I asked her to explain the continuing popularity of National Days: “So many of them are fun things,” she said. “And people are looking for some fun. We live in a very serious world.” It is the best argument for the damn things I’ve heard.
Since enough people in enough sectors of the booze world seem to be willing to play along, what is the future for National Days? According to Anderson, “National Days are not going to go away.”
She’s probably right, though perhaps not exactly in the brand-specific way she intended. These days it’s hard to track which days are officially ordained by National Day Calendar or its competitors and which have been plucked out of thin air and added to the calendar by the power of free will.
Rachel Harrison, a New York-based publicist who has represented many prominent bars and liquor brands, tells me, “Sometimes, I’ll pick a day and declare it myself.”
Well, then. By the authority I vest in myself, I unilaterally proclaim National Fuzzy Navel Day. It’s today.