A Guide to Thanksgiving Sips, From Welcome Cocktails To Nightcaps

As Seen In The Zoe Report November 2022

By Nicole Kliest

“When you cast your gaze upon a well-dressed Thanksgiving dinner table, the turkey usually gets all the glory — but one roasted bird a great meal does not make. The recipe to a delicious holiday get-together also involves a thoughtful assortment of sides and a smattering of well paired (and well timed) beverages to accompany all of the food. If you’re hosting this year and haven’t devoted much attention to the B part of F&B, it’s not too late. From welcome cocktails and aperitifs to wine pours and nightcaps, there’s a lot of room to get creative here. And to those who aren’t imbibing: you shan’t be forgotten, festive nonalcoholic options that don’t involve a bottle of Martinelli’s also abound.

Of course, hosting Thanksgiving doesn’t require an all-out beverage program with several liquid ‘courses’ timed throughout the evening (that’s for the hardcore folk). But if you want to take it up a notch beyond a simple bottle of red and white wine, there’s room to expand. Ahead, hear from industry experts who share their recommendations for concocting memorable Thanksgiving sips to share with your loved ones. Plus, plenty of shopping picks to make the planning process a tad easier.”

The Welcome Drink

“There’s something intrinsically festive and slightly ceremonial about greeting your guests with a welcome drink — whether it’s a glass of bubbly, seasonal cocktail, or classic apéritif, it’s a smart move to have something ready to go for when people start trickling in. “Champagne is always great to serve as guests arrive and it almost always pair well with appetizers,” Tasting House Executive Chef & Certified Sommelier Ryan Fillhardt says.

If you’re going that route, he suggests upsizing. “If you want to impress your guests, start off with a large format; they look impressive and they’re the best way to serve Champagne.” On a similar note, Autumn Weimer (the beverage director at The Chloe in New Orleans) also points to sparkling as a strong start. “For a welcome cocktail, I love anything bubbly,” she says. “I would make a punch bowl full of a French 75 with a ton of fresh fruit in it. This could also be fun with fresh cranberries and orange wheels to make it really pop.” Ron Acierto, the wine and beverage director at ōkta agrees a Champagne cocktail is the way to go. “Using any available champagnes (sparkling wines could easily be a replacement) adding some flavored bitters,” he says. “A classic mix would be orange bitters, stir with sugar cube (or a few drops of simple syrup), and for added pop of color, a few drops of cranberry juice could also be added. Garnish with citrus wheel or twist.”

Another gin-based welcome cocktail to greet your guests with is an autumnal gimlet. “I think a great way to start Thanksgiving is by embracing the seasons,” Atomix bar manager Marc Rodriguez says. “I personally enjoy making a pear and thyme gimlet. Here we’re focusing on employing the lovely orchard fruits this season offers, while using a thyme syrup in tandem with a nice botanical gin.” And before you hand it over, Rodriguez says not to forget a bit of lime juice for acidity.

If gin isn’t your bag, shift the focus to brown spirits with a Holiday Gold Rush à la Miss Lily’s 7A. “This is a holiday twist on the Gold Rush using cranberry chutney as an ingredient,” beverage manager Alex Cajuste says. “In an Old Fashioned glass, place the chutney at the bottom. In a shaker, add lemon juice, honey syrup, fresh lemon juice, and bourbon of your choice; shake hard and strain over ice in the glass that has the cranberry chutney.” To finish? Garnish with a cranberry and lemon twist, Cajuste adds.”

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