Chapter 12Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

The fourth quarter (October, November, December) for a liquor company is the most important time of year. Crunch time. The play-offs. That's when cases are moved, products sold. If you haven't made your numbers for the first nine months, well then, you have one last chance—the holidays. That's when people drink. That's when people splurge. Office parties, gifts for clients, dinners out on New Year's Eve. Booze flows through America during that time, a coast-to-coast river of happy hours and parties. For liquor companies, average years can become good years and good years can become great years if you have a blowout last three months. Bonuses are made and jobs are saved in October, November, and December.

Back in the day, the Big Eighties in particular, liquor companies pulled out all the stops in Q4. Marketing dollars that had been stashed away all year were now released for one last push. Billboards went up. Slick ads in slick magazines came out. Parties and local trade shows were held for retailers, bartenders, and distributors. PR teams flooded the media with press releases offering holiday cheer cocktail recipes—featuring, of course, their brands as the perfect ingredients for the perfect drinks.

Far away from the corporate regulatory eyes, gifts were also given by local salesmen eager (or desperate) to make their year-end numbers. Some of these gifts were lavish. Hey, you want that minibike for your kid? Well then, you need to buy ...

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