Start the Holidays a Little Dirty

The holiday season is approaching, and it’s time to perfect those seasonal cocktails. Our new book titled Friday Night Cocktails is the book everyone needs to solidify cocktail knowledge and a foolproof menu.

Friday Night Cocktails is for anyone interested in a well-made, non-fussy, homemade mixed drink. The 52 drinks (plus numerous variations) are made with common ingredients that readers can easily keep on-hand. Including old stand-bys (Gin & Tonic) as well as new takes on the standards (Blood Orange Margarita), the book’s message is “try something new, but be mindful of the tried-and-true.”

Join AJ Dean (co-authors AJ Hansen & Dean Burrell) as they share their writing process, their go-to cocktails, and more. Stick around for a classic, holiday cocktail recipe from Friday Night Cocktails!

Friday Night Cocktails is an accessible cocktail book. Its recipes incorporate ingredients that are in the average person’s pantry or home bar. How did you both discover the tone you wanted the book to have?

AJ Hansen: With our 52 cocktails, we're offering a mix of the known and the new. We wanted to keep it light and not take ourselves too seriously. A good example that comes to mind is our "Clementine Wallbanger," inspired by the Harvey Wallbanger. It features Galliano, an herbaceous Italian liqueur and fresh squeezed clementine juice. While Galliano isn't something you might find in every pantry, it makes this Wallbanger variation come to life and is a nod to a sweeter, creamier version of a 70s classic. But, even when we're playing with unique ingredients like Galliano, we thought about how they could be used in multiple ways. So, while there's the Clementine Wallbanger, there's also a twist on the old-fashioned for those who love whiskey (like me).

Dean Burrell: For the text and headnotes, the thinking was “nothing is broken here that needs to be fixed.” Meaning, there’s a lot of effort these days to make cocktails that are “new” or have exciting presentations—the next new thing. But, while others are pinching eye droppers and clipping nasturtiums to enhance the presentation, I’d rather be sipping. A Friday night cocktail is a break from performing for someone else.

Describe how the book is organized.

AH: The essence of the book hinges on the ritual of enjoying a cocktail at the end of the week. Our aim was to capture the simplicity and joy of crafting a drink and tracking how these Friday night experiences evolve over a year. Envisioning someone preparing these cocktails in succession, transitioning from one recipe to another, influenced a lot of our choices. As autumn and winter roll in, our cocktails lean more towards the darker liquors. Bourbon, Cognac, and winter fruit liqueurs become predominant, which aligns not just with broader sales trends but also with my personal preference. As spring emerges, gin takes center stage, and by summer, tequilas, rums, and other tropical flavors dominate, reflecting the warmth and vibrancy of the season.

In the end, the book’s organization is pretty simple. It's about the 52 Fridays in a year, broken down by season. Some folks might dive in every week, others might just pick it up when they feel like it. Either way, "Friday Night Cocktails" is just our way of sharing how the year feels to us, taking you through the seasons with a drink in hand.

DB: Yah, that pumpkin pie spice would’ve been a head-scratcher in May.

Friday Night Cocktails introduces modern takes, but knows the cocktail classics to leave alone. The Mai Tai (page 126) stands out. How is this your homage to the Bay Area?

AH: There are countless variations of the Mai Tai, each with its spin, ranging from simple to complex. But when it comes to making a cocktail at home, it's not always about chasing the newest trend or concoction. Sometimes, the magic lies in crafting something familiar, consistent, and timeless. Our Mai Tai is a testament to that philosophy. It's a drink you can whip up from memory, returning to its comforting familiarity time and again.

DB: People are fascinated by Tiki culture. The tropical warmth, the sandy beaches, and those stunning sunsets over the ocean! I just love that this mainstay drink has its origins in . . . Oakland? Didn’t see that one coming.

What is your favorite cocktail from the book?

AH: How to choose? Different cocktails serve different purposes for me. There are those I'd sip frequently, ones I'm most proud to serve, and those that simply bring me happiness to make. At the heart of this book though is the ritual of making a cocktail for oneself and savoring it at the end of a week. For me, the ultimate drink for that is the Manhattan. It’s a classic for a reason and there are a million variations to try in your spare time.

DB: Which week is it?

Meet the Author

AJ Dean is a big believer that time-honored traditions are important and that rituals, no matter how simple, are a healthy part of our lives. He began mixing cocktails at an early age and today, decades later, reveres the many aspects of spirits, both supernatural and distilled. Ever a student of art and photography, AJ Dean resides in both New York and San Francisco.