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We Asked Bartenders For The Best Whiskeys To Pair With Thanksgiving Turkey

When it comes to commonly-loved Thanksgiving foods, there’s an obvious star of the show. Frankly, for many Americans, it wouldn’t even be Thanksgiving without the turkey. And while we definitely encourage you to look at including Indigenous foods in your holiday menu, we get the pressure to serve flightless fowl at the center of your table. Surround it with whatever sides you desire, pair it with oysters or bison, just don’t forget the popular poultry.

If you really want to savor all the roasted, deep-fried, or spatchcocked goodness Thanksgiving has to offer, you might like to sip on a nice glass of whiskey while you bite on that bird. Kyle Ritchie, bar manager at Doug Fir in Portland, Oregon pairs his with spicy rye.

“With its full and forward body as well as its very balanced spice, it will pair great with turkey,” he says. “Whether it’s roasted or fried, heavily herbed and brined, or just as it comes.”

Cole Newton, bartender at Twelve Mile Limit in New Orleans opts for a blended Scotch.

“As an accompaniment to a big turkey dinner, I’d suggest a quality blended scotch, like Monkey Shoulder, and soda,” he says. “It’s light, refreshing, and the malty sweetness and light smoke should pair perfectly with Thanksgiving food without overwhelming it. Also, if your family dinners are going to get contentious, maybe it’s best to wait for straight hard liquor until after?”

These two picks made us wonder about the flavors that other whiskeys bring to the Thanksgiving table. So we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to whiskeys to pair with the gallant galliformes.

Templeton Rye

Will Witherow, beverage director at Live Oak in Alexandria, Virginia

Templeton Rye is the best at Thanksgiving. Templeton holds a special place in my heart because it’s the only whiskey a friend’s dad will drink. At Thanksgiving, we would get done stuffing our faces and he would pour us a healthy glass of Templeton and say “here this will help burn the food down.”

Drinking will always invoke feelings and I love the thought of those Thanksgivings in my younger days

Wild Turkey 101 Rye

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Rare bird sighting on retail shelves. #wildturkey101rye

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Kristian Niemi, owner of Bourbon in Columbia, South Carolina

Wild Turkey 101 Rye. Since it’s corn-heavy rye, it retains that toasty, spicy notes of rye, but with the rich, caramel-pecan sweetness of the corn. This makes it especially good for drinking on a big cube, in a mixed cocktail, or in the Tom & Jerry batter. It’s also perfect to pair with friends and family with different political views.

Legent Bourbon

Taha Ismail, bar manager at the Round Robin Bar in Washington, D.C.

I enjoy sipping Legent Bourbon. It’s Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey partially finished in a wine & cherry cask that pairs well with roasted turkey & gravy.

Charleston Distilling Calhoun Straight Rye

Matt Catchpole, general manager at Terra in Columbia, South Carolina

I’m not sure there is a “best” whiskey to pair with turkey, probably whatever your favorite one is since the sides and accouterments are likely a bigger determining factor. We’ve been awfully fond of rye recently, so maybe a Charleston Distilling Calhoun Straight Rye with just a little chilled water or a large ice cube.

Pikesville Rye

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#pikesvillerye then had some rye on another evening

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Devon Daley, bar manager at Sternewirth in San Antonio, Texas

There are plenty of options here, depending on what is accompanying, however, I like Pikesville 6yr Rye. It’s spicy and delicious and, best of all, overproof.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Tony Gonzales, lead bartender at District in Los Angeles

I like to pair my turkey with Woodford Reserve Bourbon because it has just the right amount of sweetness to mix with eggnog.

Warbringer Mesquite Smoked Southwest Bourbon

Jeremy Allen, general manager at MiniBar in Los Angeles

I recommend Warbringer Mesquite Smoked Southwest Bourbon, finished in Sherry Cask. It’s a big whiskey, full flavor, with smoke and peeled carrots on the nose. The rich and milder turkey texture is perfect for these big flavors. THE whiskey for thanksgiving.

Rittenhouse Rye

Drew Breen, bar manager at Jianna in Greenville, South Carolina

What’s the best whiskey to pair with turkey? That’s easy. I enjoy rye to sip with food. Rittenhouse is an awesome brand for affordability or Michter’s for a nicer feel.

Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch Whisky

Benjamin Rouse, head bartender at Henley in Nashville

For me, the best food pairing whiskies tend to be from Scotland. Scotch tends to be a little less abrasive than bourbon or rye. My turkey dram would be Johnnie Walker Black Label because it has some awesome fresh orchard fruits and the perfect ribbon of smoke to accompany the bird and all the rest.

Wild Turkey Bourbon

Casey Faden, bartender at Sabroso+Sorbo in Philadelphia

Wild Turkey is a Thanksgiving staple. Bourbon in general pairs really well with turkey. My second choice would be the Knob Creek Rye, but both bourbons do a nice job pulling through the flavors of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Jefferson’s Ocean Cask Strength Bourbon

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And let’s not forget the Bourbon!!!#jeffersonsoceancaskstrength

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Justin Miller, executive chef at Anthony’s Chophouse in Hamilton County, Indiana

A quality home cook should know that you should brine your bird at least 24 hours ahead of the big day. The brine seasons the turkey as well as, ensure the bird doesn’t dry out. If I were to pair a whiskey with roasted turkey I would choose, Jefferson’s Ocean Cask Strength. I chose this bourbon because it is aged on ships that are sailing around the world. In doing so, the sea spray from the water is absorbed by the barrels and lends a saltiness to the whiskey. The perceived saltiness from both the turkey and whiskey would make a great Thanksgiving pairing.

High West Campfire

John Walter, lead bartender at Outlier in Seattle

High West Campfire would be my go-to turkey whiskey. I like to gradually increase the smokiness of what I’m drinking as the meal goes on. This blend of American whiskeys complements the myriad ingredients in the stuffing and can bring some sense to all the giblets.

Larceny Bourbon

Daniel Dameron, bar manager at Husk in Savannah, Georgia

The best style of whiskey to pair with turkey is definitely a wheated whiskey. Larceny is a great brand at a very approachable price. The extra wheat really mellows the burn.

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

Keith Zintakmon, bartender at JRDN in San Diego

Turkey pairs perfectly with Four Roses Single Barrel. At a good price point, this gentle bourbon is easy to drink but still brings powerful flavors. It’s a great way to cut through the richness of turkey and gravy to balance your dinner.

Old Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon

Ben Rojo, bartender at Black Emperor in New York City

Old Grand-Dad 114 is my preferred Turkey Day sipper. Big, brash, and beautifully American, the full body and dark spice of this bourbon keeps your palate engaged through the marathon meal, and the considerable ABV will keep your stomach settled and your dad’s jokes hilarious.

Russell’s Reserve 10-Year-Old Bourbon

Steve Yang. co-bar manager at Tavola in Charlottesville, Virginia

Russell’s 10 year. It’s smooth, balanced with just a hint of sweetness to contrast the salt of the turkey. Not to mention—it’s made by Wild Turkey. Perfect fit.

Old Medley 12 Year Old Bourbon

Mike Wolf, author of Garden to Glass: Grow Your Drinks from the Ground Up

For turkey, I’d recommend Old Medley 12 year, one of the most exquisite and light yet deeply flavored bourbons out there. The Wathens/Medley family has been making bourbon for eight generations, so just imagine how many awkward holidays they’ve made it through with their whiskey!

Maker’s Mark Bourbon

Casey Bunch, bartender The French Room Bar in Dallas

I like Maker’s Mark. It may seem like a pedestrian answer, but Maker’s has a slightly sweeter note that pairs well with the usual slightly sweet offerings on the Thanksgiving table. In terms of only pairing with the turkey, I love Sonoma County cherry wood rye. There’s a newish trend to smoke whiskey, not like the peat-smoked variety found in scotch, but more of the smoke found commonly in barbecue. Try it with a smoked turkey and your mind will be blown. If you do want to go the scotch route, I’m a huge fan of peat monster

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Denis Cote, bartender at The Limelight Hotel in Ketchum, Idaho

Buffalo Trace and turkey is a match made in heaven with its new American oak, sweet, smooth flavor profiles with a juicy turkey that will make you want to go for more…bourbon.

Humboldt Redwood Rye

Austin Doiron, beverage director at NEAT Bottle Shop & Tasting Room in Alys, Florida

When it comes to pairing with turkey, I would say a good rye because of the overall spice it brings to the glass. The Redwood Rye from Sonoma County (yes, a California whiskey) has spice notes of clove, pecan, and subtle apple on the tongue.

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