Thanksgiving Cocktails You’ll Be Thankful For
Thanksgiving always feels to me like the longest day of the year. While most folks choose to binge on food, the savviest among us know strong drink is the better option. How else do you survive a full day cooped up with family?
If you’re like most people, you’ve thought a lot about your Thanksgiving dinner menu, but have you considered your drinks menu? If not, I’ve got you covered with a selection of creative and coordinated seasonal cocktails curated by an experienced team of tipplers committed to helping you survive Turkey Day.
Morning: Clementine Bourbon Smash.
You know what they say: you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning. This eye-opener showcases those little orange clementines that suddenly show up in supermarkets this time of year. The recipe is simple. Juice three clementines then add a teaspoon of sugar. Pour a shot of bourbon into a rocks glass of ice and top off with the juice. Add a cinnamon stick as a festive autumnal swizzle. Or not if you prefer to keep things on the down low.
The gentlemen sitting around my fireplace enjoyed this cocktail. They did, however, suggest rimming the glass with cinnamon sugar. Personally, I think morning is too early for rimming anything, but to each his own….
Mid-Day: Rosemary Maple Bourbon Sour.
I don’t know about you, but by noon on Thanksgiving I’m usually starting to feel a bit anxious. There’s bickering in the kitchen, family and friends have started to arrive, and a cheese ball mysteriously appears. This is the time when one must fortify himself for what’s to come, so I turned to my tasting companions for an appropriate cocktail.
Their recipe makes two drinks and calls for three shots of bourbon—preferably Makers Mark—1 ½ shots of fresh lemon juice, and ¾ of a shot of dark amber maple syrup. Add the ingredients to a cocktail and then crush some fresh rosemary and add it to the shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for at least 15 seconds. Strain the mixture into a rocks glass with ice and add the pièce de resistance—a large sprig of rosemary. It adds a kind of St. Regis Hotel flair to the cocktail. Plus, rosemary has been used for centuries to treat stomach distress and relieve stress. Take a strong sniff and drink your juice, Shelby.
Afternoon: The New York Sour aka The Rudy G.
Thanksgiving afternoons are for football games that are usually so boring you have two choices: nap or drink. IMHO, this is the time to step things up and stir the pot. Bring out a bottle of bourbon and a bottle of red wine, preferably a Shiraz or a Malbec, and ask everyone to gather ‘round. Combine 2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey, 1 ounce fresh lemon juice, and 1 ounce simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, cover, and shake until the outside of shaker is frosty. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Gently pour ½ ounce of the red wine over the back of a spoon held just above the drink’s surface so the wine floats on top. Pick up the glass and give it just the teeniest jiggle. As the red wine slowly drips into the lighter-colored base of the cocktail it will begin to resemble the hair dye dripping down the face of disgraced former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani at that infamous press conference. Folks will either howl or scowl, but either way you will have awakened them.
This was one of the drinks my guests were somewhat dubious about. Bourbon and red wine? I swear it’s quite tasty and everyone agreed it is an appropriate segue into dinner, during which a red wine ought to be served. And yes, my drinking chums and I coined the name “Rudy G,” thank you very much.
Evening: Pumpkin Bourbon Smash
After dinner and before the tryptophan from the turkey begins to roofie you is the right time to try a pumpkin-flavored cocktail. It sounds horrendous, but is it any worse than a Jell-o salad?
The secret to this cocktail is the pumpkin spice syrup made with a cup of water, a cup of sugar, 8 ounces of canned pumpkin purée, and a teaspoon of pumpkin spice. Bring the mix to a boil and set it aside. When it cools, add 1 ounce to a cocktail shaker with ice, then 2 ounces of bourbon, and a quarter ounce of fresh lemon juice. Shake well and pour into a stemmed glass and top with a splash of chilled club soda.
At the count of three, my merry band of cocktail enthusiasts took a sip. Silence ensued. The fireplace crackled. Then, almost in unison we spoke the same words: “it’s not that bad.” It was actually kind of good and we could all imagine it served with a slice of pumpkin, apple, or pecan pie. One gentleman suggested it would pair nicely with a Parliament cigarette….
In closing, I want to remind everyone that Thanksgiving Day is indeed a marathon, not a sprint, and setting forth a full day’s drinks strategy will certainly help you make it to the finish line. It’s my hope that the drinks featured in this column might inspire you to sip something out of the ordinary this holiday. Or at least remind you to stock up on the booze because you’re gonna need it. Cheers! ▼
Rich Barnett is the author of The Discreet Charms of a Bourgeois Beach Town, and Fun with Dick and James.