Six Perfect Thanksgiving Cocktails
Between cooking, baking and party planning, the days and hours leading up to Thanksgiving can be pretty stressful. So make sure you find time to slow down and enjoy the holiday with one of these Thanksgiving cocktails.
The first three recipes are easy to make in large batches and prepare in advance for entertaining.
With pear and orange liqueur, red wine and fresh fruit, the Cranberry Sauced cocktail is like a winter sangria. Meanwhile, what says fall more than apples? The Autumn Apple adds applejack brandy and cider along with a thyme syrup for a unique, sophisticated flavor. And because nothing wards off a chill like a mug of mulled wine, Minneapolis restaurant Nightingale gives us their variation that adds intriguing spices to a red wine base.
When it comes to cocktail names, we love a good pun but the drink needs to deliver. If you’re serving parnsips among your root vegetables, consider holding some back and juicing them for The Allen Parsnips Project, a cocktail that suits the season.
Prefer a classic cocktail, but with a twist? The Velvet Touch has the makings of a Manhattan but with a sweet Sherry surprise.
Finally, end your night with a cocktail inspired by the turduken—the turkey stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a duck that has taken Thanksgiving tables by storm. (Hint: duck fat-washed whiskey plays a role.)
Jump Straight to a Recipe
We didn’t forget about those who prefer beer or wine. Be prepared this Thanksgiving and Go Beyond Pumpkin Brews With Oktoberfest-Style Beers and these Red Wines Perfect for the Fall, from Cabernet Franc to Zinfandel, are sure to please any guest.
Turkey without cranberry sauce is borderline blasphemy. This refreshing cranberry-pear punch is a handy way to wash down everything from bird to oyster stuffing. Plus, it’s fortified with plenty of pear brandy and orange liqueur to keep the entire family mellow, at least until dessert. While any fruity red wine will work, Garnacha is used here for its juicy qualities.
- 2 cups cranberries
- 2 pears, sliced
- 1 orange, cut into chunks
- ¾ cup spiced simple syrup
- ¾ cup Cointreau
- ¼ cup pear brandy
- 1 bottle fruity red wine
In a bowl, combine the cranberries, pears, orange, spiced syrup, Cointreau and pear brandy. Mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or, preferably, overnight. Transfer to a pitcher or punch bowl. Add the bottle of red wine and stir thoroughly. Refrigerate to chill. Serve with the marinated fruit.
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 whole star anise pods
- 8 allspice berries
- 1 cinnamon stick
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and discard the solids. Let cool.
Recipe courtesy Bob Peters, head mixologist, The Punch Room at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, NC
Now that carrots no longer have cocktail shock value, bartenders are working with different seasonal root vegetables: notably, the humble parsnip. Once juiced, its mildly sweet, slightly earthy flavor profile “screams autumn,” according to The Punch Room’s Bob Peters. Pair it with the Candied Sweet Potato Sidecar for a delightful vegetarian affair.
- One halved orange
- 2 ounces vodka, like Tito’s Handmade Vodka
- 1 ounce freshly pressed parsnip juice (approximately 2–3 peeled parsnips)
- ½ ounce ginger liqueur, like such as Domaine de Canton
- ¼ ounce honey (optional)
- Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
Place the orange in a cocktail shaker and muddle, extracting as much juice as possible. Add vodka, parsnip juice, ginger liqueur and honey (if desired). Dry shake (vigorously and without ice) for 10 – 15 seconds, then add ice and shake again to chill. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.
Courtesy Dave Castillo, bar manager, Truss & Twine, Palm Springs, CA.
This straightforward drink has the DNA of a classic Manhattan: rye whiskey sweetened with a bit of fortified wine. In this case, however, PX Sherry is used instead of sweet vermouth. Nonino, an herbaceous Italian amaro, adds complexity and a hint of citrus that’s nicely echoed by the orange-peel garnish.
Getting ready for Thanksgiving? Pick up a bottle of Pedro Ximénez Sherry, often shorthanded simply as “PX,” and pour it twice. You can make the Velvet Touch cocktail to sharpen appetites before dinner, and offer small pours of PX afterward with dessert. PX Sherry is a sweet fortified wine from Spain’s Sherry triangle. It’s usually dark and viscous, with raisin, prune and chocolate-like notes that pair well with the last course.
- 2 ounces Redemption Rye
- ¾ ounce Amaro Nonino Quintessentia
- ¼ ounce Hidalgo Pedro Ximénez Sherry
- Orange peel, for garnish
In mixing glass, combine all ingredients except garnish with ice. Stir well, then strain into chilled coupe glass. Twist orange peel over top of drink to express its oils. Garnish drink with peel.
This year, give thanks for duck fat and rye whiskey. With advice from owner and barman Nico de Soto of Mace in New York City, we turned this fatty fusion into a savory masterpiece. A spin on the New York Sour, this concoction is inspired by the turducken—a turkey stuffed with a chicken, which is stuffed with a duck—topped with sparkling Shiraz from The Black Chook (chook is an Australian term for chicken). Consider this your boozy main event.
- 1½ ounces duck fat-washed Wild Turkey 101 Rye Whiskey*
- ¾ ounce Cointreau
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce The Chook Sparkling Shiraz
- Rosemary sprig, for garnish
- *Duck fat–washed Wild Turkey 101 Rye Whiskey:
- 1 750 ml bottle Wild Turkey 101 Rye Whiskey
- 2 ounces duck fat, rendered
Add the whiskey, Cointreau and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Delicately pour the wine over the back of a cocktail spoon to float it on top of the drink. Garnish with the rosemary sprig.
For the Duck fat–washed Wild Turkey 101 Rye Whiskey, combine the whiskey and duck fat in a wide-mouthed jar. Shake thoroughly, and let sit for 2 hours. Place in the freezer to allow the fat to congeal and float atop the liquid, about 1½ hours. Break this cap and discard the hardened fat. Strain the whiskey through a coffee filter and funnel back into its original bottle.
Recipe courtesy Carrie McCabe-Johnston, co-owner, Nightingale, Minneapolis, MN
Carrie McCabe-Johnston, co-owner of food and cocktail lounge Nightingale in Minneapolis, has included mulled wine on her winter menu since 2013, and has seen its popularity grow.
“I had a woman call in October to see if it had hit the menu yet. It gets so cold in Minneapolis in the winter months that [mulled wine] is a perfect warming drink, ” McCabe-Johnston recently said on a day when the temperature was -13°F.
- 4 bottles Spanish Grenache
- 3 oranges, zested and juiced
- 1 cup brandy
- 1 cup Cointreau
- 8 cloves
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice
- 1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon whole aniseed
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 canela sticks (or substitute cinnamon)
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 (3-inch) piece ginger, peeled and sliced
Simmer all ingredients together about 15–30 minutes, until well-seasoned and flavored. Strain before serving.
Courtesy Derek Grout & Ashley Hartka, Harvest Spirits
Brightened with thyme, this combination of applejack and apple cider heralds in autumn.
- 3 cups Harvest Spirits Cornelius Applejack
- 1½ cups apple cider
- ¾ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ cup thyme simple syrup (see recipe)
- 1½ teaspoons bitters
- 2 apples, sliced, for garnish
- 12 sprigs fresh thyme, for garnish
Stir ingredients (except garnish) together in large pitcher or punch bowl. Add ice.
Pour or ladle over ice into highball glasses. Garnish each with apple slice and thyme sprig. Serves 12.
- 2 cups sugar
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
Combine sugar and 2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Stir until sugar begins to dissolve. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add thyme sprigs. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Simmer until sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat, and let cool completely. Discard thyme.
- 1Cranberry Sauced
- 2The Allen Parsnips Project
- 3The Velvet Touch Cocktail
- 4Turdrunken Sour
- 5The Nightingale Mulled Wine
- 6The Autumn Apple