Bartenders Name Their Favorite Scotch Whiskies For Thanksgiving

With how stress and anxiety-filled 2020 has been, we’re more than ready to gorge on Thanksgiving food. From deep-fried turkey to sausage stuffing to creamy, buttery mashed potatoes — we love it all. The more meat and carbs the better. And what to pair with this (socially-distanced, Zoom-based) seasonal feast?

How about scotch whisky?

The vanilla, caramel, toasted oak, and (oftentimes) smoky peat flavors work perfectly with all of the savory, salty, and heavy foods you’re sure to eat this time of year. To find the best options for pairing with a big fall meal, we once again went to the experts for their input. We asked some well-known bartenders to tell us their favorite scotch whiskies for drinking on Thanksgiving.

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Port Cask

Felipe Muñoz, head bartender at Sweetleaf Cocktails in Long Island City, New York

I think the best Scotch for Thanksgiving dinner would be Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Port Cask. It has a nice fruit flavor and a bit of spice, but the port cask makes it almost a meal.

On top of all of that, it’s like a dessert all in one bottle.

Speyburn 10

Brandon “Habi” Habenstein, beverage director at The Kitchen & Bar at Bardstown Bourbon Company in Bardstown, Kentucky

I’m not a strong believer in drinking spirits while eating an entrée. However, as with most things in life, there are exceptions. If you insist upon having some whisky with thanksgiving dinner, Speyburn 10-year is the way to go. This Scotch is amazingly delicate, which is crucial to not detract from the delicious foods you’ll be eating.

A vibrant, bright citrus note will act as a palate cleanser while the delicate finish allows broad flexibility for the following bite of food, agreeing with rich gravy on potatoes or a tart cranberry sauce.

The Balvenie 14-year-old Caribbean Cask

Iain McPherson, owner of Panda & Sons in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Balvenie is one of those great Scotch brands that you can conveniently find in most places. I love their 14-year-old Caribbean Cask expression. The rich and honeyed flavor profile you get from the rum casks works so well with Scotch. It matches perfectly with your favorite savory Thanksgiving dishes. This is because the sweetness of the Scotch cuts through the salinity of food, like a hot knife through butter.

Glenmorangie 10

Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis

Although I usually enjoy a Scotch that’s a bit of a palate-wrecker, Thanksgiving is when I switch it up. With family coming together — in regular years — and a variety of foods and flavors, going a little lighter is the move.

With the tallest stills in Scotland, this dram has far fewer of the heavy minerals and a lighter body. Vanilla and orange dominate while having enough acid to keep you grubbing until nap time.

Bruichladdich Classic Laddie

Seth Falvo, bartender at The Hotel Zamora in St. Pete Beach, Florida

Conventional wisdom says that Thanksgiving is for bourbon, but an unpeated scotch is a highly underrated option that will pair with anything on your plate. My favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is sweet potato pie, and in my humble opinion, no whisky pairs better with a slice than Bruichladdich Classic Laddie.

While the whisky itself is not peated, Islay water still gives the nose faint hints of peat smoke that clash with the aromas of sweet potato and marshmallow quite nicely. The toffee and tropical fruit flavors of the whisky pull everything together without allowing the pie to overwhelm your palate, which makes it the perfect way to end your Thanksgiving dinner.

Glendronach Revival 15

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

Glendronach Revival 15 is so rich and delicious, you might be using the holidays as an excuse. I can’t think of a better whisky to pair with Thanksgiving fare.

Bruichladdich Octomore 11

Gavin Humes, bartender at Scratch|Bar & Kitchen in Encino, California

They say the number one rule for beverage pairing is ‘drink what you like,’ and ultimately, they’re exactly right. I’m not sure there are a lot of big peaty Scotches that will go perfectly with all the different sides and items on a Thanksgiving table, but the Octomore 11 is a great one for after dinner. The smoky quality makes it almost feel like drinking a campfire that keeps exploding in your mouth… in a good way.

It’s a fantastic whisky, and one I’ll be enjoying this Thanksgiving.

Lagavulin Distillers Edition

Dan Marlowe, mixologist at Modena in Washington, DC

I’m very partial to peated scotches and for poultry and light fare I would choose a Lagavulin 16 Distillers Edition. The regular 16 would suffice as well, though it lacks the sherry cask finish that brings such warming dark fruit notes to the lips in the Distiller’s Edition.

Monkey Shoulder

Eric Vincent, bartender at Sparrow in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Monkey Shoulder is my Thanksgiving pick because it’s a fantastic gift that you can now crack open and drink at dinner. Delicate peat to complements butterscotch and spiced notes — think pimentos.