9 Alcoholic Beverages to Bring to Thanksgiving

From aperitifs and wine pairing to digestifs and beers, we’ve got Thanksgiving covered

Thanksgiving is, for many, a full-day feast. So we’ve compiled a list of our favorite alcoholic accompaniments to bring. They range from aperitifs to serve as everyone arrives and snacks on hors d’oeuvres, to the classic digestif as the perfect close to the evening. In between, we’ll have suggestions for wine pairings and the best way to insert a little spirit into the festivities of the day.

1. Aperitifs, an Exceptional Beginning!

An aperitif is an alcoholic concoction used to stimulate the appetite. It is often dry rather than sweet, and usually lower in alcohol content. It allows guests to ease into the event. If you are attending a Thanksgiving, this is a great way to show off your bartending skills while the host is prepping for the main event.

There are many different aperitifs out there. Of course, there are the classics like vermouth or sherry. But there are also cocktails like fizzes, spritzes, and martinis. The most important thing for Thanksgiving is keeping it light. So here are two of our favorite recipes.

2. Vodka Cranberry Sparkler

Vodka sparklers are super simple cocktails with equal parts vodka, club soda, and juice.

Serve over ice in the glass of your choice, and garnish with a toothpick with three cranberries. You can also up the soda and limit the vodka to lighten it up. If using pure cranberry juice, make sure to mix with simple syrup to add sweetness. With the ratios, it is easy to mix up a little or a lot!

3. Classic Gin Gimlet

A bit more complicated, but worth the time. This one is refreshing for those celebrating Thanksgiving in warmer climes. Although gimlets are usually made with gin, they can easily be made with vodka if you want to play bartender and offer more than one aperitif. There are a lot of gimlet variations, but this is one of our favorites.

Gimlet Kamikaze Cocktail Martini Glasses

Gimlet Kamikaze Cocktail Martini Glasses

2 oz. gin

3/4 oz. fresh lime

1/2 oz. simple syrup

If you are feeling a little 007, you can shake it up—or, simply pour each ingredient over ice into a chilled glass and stir. Garnish with lime wheels or a lime twist.

4. Wines to Pair with Turkey

Festive Thanksgiving Dinner and White WinePairing food and wine is an art. If you are bringing a bottle, try a Chenin Blanc. Flavors vary from passion fruit to peach, and you can find them ranging from dry to sweet. Keep it a little on the dry side, and it will even pair well with the cranberry sauce.

For the red lovers at the table, nothing pairs better than a Pinot Noir. We are partial to the ones from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Their bright silky tannins and hints of earthy mushroom flavor make them a natural pairing for turkey and stuffing.

5. Wines (and a beer) to Pair with Ham

Finding the best wines to pair with ham is a bit more of a challenge. On the sweet side, there is the honey ham which needs a bold, acidic wine.

A Riesling fits the bill here. Its distinct aroma, usually composed of apple, peach, pear, or apricot, will stand up nicely to the sweet/sour of honey-baked ham.

For a smoked ham or for those partial to red wines, a Grenache will pair well. A good Grenache will bring spices like star anise and cinnamon and fruity notes of raspberry and strawberry. Its flavors balance the smoky flavor of ham perfectly.

For the beer drinkers of the group, consider arriving with a six-pack of an ale. Although not the most traditional of beverages to bring to Thanksgiving, beers pair surprisingly well with ham. A beer like Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale will highlight the sweetness of the ham and bring out different aspects of its flavors. Other options include pilsners, which pair well with a variety of Thanksgiving dishes. And any of the wheat beers pair well with honey-glazed ham.

6. Dessert? Don’t forget the Bourbon!

Sweet Pumpkin Pie and  Bourbon with Whipped CreamIt doesn’t matter what type of pie is on the menu--bringing the host a nice bourbon will set it off. Add it to the whipped cream to complement apple pie, or pour a shot to pair with a pumpkin or pecan pie. (Here are some of our favorite bourbons for the holidays.) 

7. Bourbon Whipped Cream 

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon

Whip the cream with a hand mixer, or if there are children, let them try a hand whisk, while slowly adding the confectioners’ sugar. Regular sugar can be used, but as it is coarser, let it dissolve in the cream before whipping. Once the sugar is incorporated, fold in the bourbon. Chill before serving.

8. Digestifs, for a Flourish of a Finish!

Although the serving of a digestif has gone out of fashion, Thanksgiving dinner is a perfect time to revive the tradition. Digestifs are exactly what the name implies: a drink to aid with digestion after a heavy meal. Traditionally, they are served in small glasses and taken like a shot (grappa, for example) or sipped (like French brandy). Many new herbal liqueurs perfect for use as a digestif are showing up in the U.S. We suggest Cannella Spirits Amaro Cannella, a bitter liquor with cinnamon, coriander, and over 20 other botanicals.

9. Bring Something Special

No matter what you bring, make it memorable! Try a regional wine, beer, or spirit. If trying out a new aperitif or digestif, consider gifting your hosts with glassware to match. Whether you are enjoying old traditions or adding new ones, have a happy Thanksgiving.

Here’s to hoping inspiration strikes!