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The Best Cocktails To Pair With Thanksgiving Foods, According To Bartenders


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Thanksgiving is a time for family and traditions. Some of us play football with our buddies, some of us watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and some of us watch the Detroit Lions lose to whoever they’re playing each year. To each their own.

But with family and tradition comes an astronomical amount of stress. And, as we all know, one of the greatest stress relievers is booze. We aren’t saying to get so drunk you start a fight with your crazy aunt about your rival views on US foreign policy. We’re just saying that a cocktail or two can help ease the anxiety and grease the social wheels when it comes to small talk with that strange cousin you only see during the holidays who has a veritable menagerie of cats. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their favorite cocktails to pair with Thanksgiving food. You can check out all of their answers below.

Hot Buttered Rum

Don Hernandez, beverage director at Holston House in Nashville

“Hot buttered rum is something that is fairly easy to make, loaded with fall flavors, and will keep you warm when you’re throwing around the pigskin. The flavors of brown sugar, baking spices, butter, caramel, and vanilla keep with the Thanksgiving theme. Try making a batch for your guests with your favorite rum, possibly something spiced.”

Cranberry Cosmpolitan

Jim Lunchick, mixologist at Merriman’s Waimea in Honolulu

“It’s Thanksgiving, so you either need a Turkey-based cocktail, or a cranberry one. I choose cranberry. Premium Cosmo: Tito’s Vodka (it’s American!), a splash of cranberry juice and Cointreau, freshly squeezed Calamansi, and take the time the day before to plump some cranberries in simmering simple syrup to skewer for garnish.”

Vieux Carre

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Jared Boller, lead mixologist at The St. Regis Toronto

“Any sort of Manhattan variation (Vieux Carre, Brooklyn, Rob Roy) works well the fall flavors at the table. Bourbon/American Rye go and turkey go hand in hand with turkey and gravy. It’s a harmonious pairing that can be sipped with the savory meal. A little bit of the high alcohol burn can help you digest such a heavy meal.”

Negroni

Andrew Hannigan, bartender at Bastion in Nashville

“A Negroni or really any classic cocktail with sweet vermouth. The Negroni really is perfect — gin tastes like Christmas and the orange peel goes great with cranberries. They’re all flavors to get you into the holiday spirit. Sweet vermouth is a fortified wine and wine is delicious with dinner — the spices pair really well with the traditional flavors associated with Thanksgiving dinner.”

Barrel-Aged Manhattan

Tara Shadzi, bartender BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood, California

“Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season so get into the spirit with something that warms your heart. If you want to really wow your dinner guests, smoke some applewood chips and create a smoked maple-syrup Old Fashioned.”

Butter-Washed Old Fashioned

Terance Robson, managing director at Here Nor There in Austin, Texas

“For a Thanksgiving welcome cocktail, I love to make a Butter-Washed Old Fashioned. The rich texture of the drink prepares your palate for the rich flavors in traditional Thanksgiving dishes. I make my Butter-Washed Old Fashioned with 1.5 oz. butter-infused Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon, 2 oz. sweet vermouth, and 3 dashes of home-made bourbon barrel-aged spiced cherry bitters. I combine all of the ingredients in a mixing tin with ice, shake and strain over a large ice cube into a 12 oz. double old fashioned glass and garnish it with a Luxardo cherry and an orange swath spear.”

Spicy Cranberry Bramble

Peter Szekely, beverage operation manager at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in the Bahamas

“Spicy Cranberry Bramble. Stay authentic, yet up-to-date by adding freshly made cranberry puree, good quality citrusy gin – such as a Malfy Con Citrone – and a small thyme spring. Don’t forget the freshly squeezed lime juice and the bar spoon of simple syrup.”

Apple Cider Sangria

Michael Przybyl, beverage manager at Hilton Orlando

“I’m a big fan of apple cider sangria. Infusing fall flavors like apple, cranberry, and pomegranate with cognac and sparkling cava, the drink pairs well with traditional Thanksgiving staples like cranberry sauce, stuffing and apple pie.”

Chilled Aquavit

Britt Tracy, bartender at Eastside in Minneapolis

“Best Thanksgiving Cocktail: Chilled Aquavit from Tattersall. The savory rye and caraway notes in the Tattersall, finish soft and sweet when chilled down. A lovely accompaniment to stuffing and vegetable dishes found at Thanksgiving and if it’s snowing I just plop the bottle outside and fetch as needed.”

Widow’s Kiss

Patrick Halloran, bar manager at Henrietta Red in Nashville

“Best Thanksgiving Cocktail: It’s a little sweet, so more of a dessert cocktail, but the Widow’s Kiss goes well with stuff like that. It’s made with Calvados, Benedictine, Chartreuse — apples, herbs, and spices naturally pair well with that stuff.”

Martinez

Richard Hanauer, beverage director of RPM Restaurants in Chicago and Washington, DC

“Martinez, made with Ford’s gin, Cocchi Torino vermouth, and Luxardo Maraschino liqueur (which happens to be on our cocktail menu currently at RPM Steak). It’s a bitter and rich cocktail that’s perfectly balanced and drinks really well with food. Its deep dark colors pair nicely with the spices typical of Thanksgiving and the maraschino (cherry) liqueur complements cranberry flavors.

Sherry Hot Toddy

David Mor, bar manager at Cindy’s in Chicago

“Sherry Hot Toddies are absolutely delicious and perfect for Thanksgiving pairings. With the meals being so heavy, you don’t necessarily need a bulky and bold cocktail. Something soothing and rich with flavor but low in alcohol content — that’s the idea. Try your next Hot Toddy with Lustau Olor.”

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