alcprofxmas2015header-copy It’s the holiday season once again, and as in previous years, the festive spirit seems to have snuck up on us while we were sipping delicious cocktails. All at once, the hallways of Alcohol Professor central are covered in colored lights and holly, there’s mistletoe dangling from every doorframe, and pine needles keep ending up stuck to our clothing. We’re wistfully winding up another long year of writing and imbibing, deciding what drink-themed apparel we’ll wear to the big holiday party, and trying to ignore the fact that we still have to finalize our New Year’s Eve plans.

But before we adjourn for a few days to gather and gift with our friends and family, it’s time to honor one of our favorite traditions, wherein I don my Ghost Of Christmas Past outfit and dive into my alcoholic archive in search of topical materials.

In previous years, we’ve looked at Bourbon’s historical ties to the holidays, at classic Whiskey advertising, and offered up a pair of pieces covering holiday liquor promotions. So this time around, I’ve decided to pull together a selection of imagery that can be broken down by category, and showcase all the different aspects of Yuletide that companies capitalized upon through the 20th Century.

Queen Anne, 1963

Queen Anne, 1963

Obviously, Santa Claus is a ubiquitous commercial icon, sure to produce an immediate association in consumers’ minds. So it’s only natural that every year, when December rolls around, distilleries and breweries are happy to employ the little old St. Nick to hawk their wares. Of course, part of the fun of Santa is that there are endless different ways to portray him. The traditional approach is a standby…

Jack Daniels, 1953 Budweiser, 1950 Boswell's Ale, circa 1920s Dewar's, 1935 Dewar's, 1936 Dewar's, 1938 Vat 69, 1935 Vat 69, 1935 Guinness, circa 1950s

…But some companies have preferred to simply utilize the classic red-and-white costume.

Black & White, 1964 J&B, 1971 Johnnie Walker, 1978

Others have dressed up stars of stage and screen, celebrating the spirit with well-known celebrities.

Phil Silvers for Smirnoff, 1956

Phil Silvers for Smirnoff, 1956

And sometimes, they didn’t even do anything more than showcase Kris Kringle’s disembodied hands, leaving it to the audience to fill in the rest of the story.

Three Feathers, 1949 Byrrh, 1935 Bailey's, 1988

Thankfully, though, Dewar’s failed in their attempt to create a craze for creepy Claus masks.


Dewar’s, 1937

Christmas trees are a natural element for inclusion in promotional campaigns – instantly identifiable, a visual cue that cuts right to the chase and lets the audience know what time of year what season we’re celebrating.

Hunter, 1950 Johnnie Walker, 1984 Schlitz, 1960 Old Sunny Brook, 1951 Passport, 1975 Seagram's VO, 1962

Wreaths are another item of decor that have proven to be an irresistible piece of Christmas ads across the years.

Old Taylor, 1964 Old Forester, 1950 Schenley, 1942

While some agencies went farther afield, and utilized mistletoe as a key part of their advertising.

United States Brewers Foundation, 1951 Old Forester, 1947

Christmas carols, likewise, conjure up immediate associations in the minds of viewers, and some distilleries cleverly used lyrical cues to get their message across.

Old Grand Dad, 1974 J&B, 1978 Chivas, 1983

While others simply depicted carolers in full wassail, spreading good cheer with song and sippables.

Vat 69, 1963

Vat 69, 1963

But of course, when it comes right down to it, the single most popular approach in seasonal alcohol advertising has been the giving, receiving, and opening of gifts. Many companies produced special holiday gift boxes, in an attempt to woo prospective buyers. And truly, as we’ve recently pointed out ourselves, liquor is always a wonderful item to pass along to your loved ones (and not a bad one to get for yourself, either).

Seagram's, 1936 Early Times, 1963 MacNaughton, 1971 Windsor, circa 1960s Seagram's 7, 1969 Old Crow, 1964 Early Times, 1969 100 Pipers, 1973 Seagram's VO, 1943 Schenley, 1962 Four Roses, 1949 Old Charter, 1971 Seagram's VO, 1973 Haig, 1936 Fleischmann's, 1969

Four Roses came up with a particularly clever spin on this pitch – after all, if one bottle makes a great gift, why not buy and give three at a time?

Four Roses, 1955

Four Roses, 1955

And as good as giving feels, one can’t discount the thrill that comes from looking under the tree and discovering the perfect present.

Jack Daniels, 1954

Jack Daniels, 1954

Even so, and as enticing as the gift of drink can be, one must always keep one’s wits, and judge the situation wisely. For example, one should be careful in accepting refreshments from demonic children in seasonal regalia.

Early 1900s greeting card

Early 1900s greeting card

And in case your holiday celebrations do get out of hand, one should make sure to stock up on essentials to ensure you’re able to cope with the morning after.


With that, I’m afraid I must conclude this round of boozy reminiscing – it’s time to rejoin my coworkers, get back to arguing over the exact ingredients that go into a perfect gingerbread cocktail, and deal with other vital matters. There are presents aplenty to wrap, trees to finish trimming, plum puddings to prepare, and a precious few days remaining ’til we hang out the stockings and fall asleep listening for the sound of hooves on the roof.

So on behalf of all of us here at the Alcohol Professor, I’d like to thank you on coming back with us on this trip back through time.

And we offer our sincerest wishes that no matter what holidays you recognize, and whatever your beliefs, you enjoy a season that’s merry, bright, and full of delicious drinks!