Every year for Thanksgiving, I’m in charge of bringing the wine. For the last few years, I brought both orange wines and rosé to the table.
Orange wines just hit the high notes sipped alongside the main attraction (the Thanksgiving bird!). Plus, I like to flex a little and bringing wine with some shock value always adds some fun to my day.
Rosé, on the other hand, has this ability to add layers of flavor and highlight all the beautiful nuances of flavor when paired with stuffing, cornbread and cranberry sauce.
But, we have a smaller group this year and I can really tailor the Thanksgiving drinking experience to what everyone at the table prefers, whether it be beer, wine or cocktails.
We asked beer, wine and cocktail professional what they would sip alongside their Thanksgiving dinner, whether it’s a traditional meal or one that includes Tofurky. (Because vegetarians and vegans need to drink, too!)
“With rich, savory flavors of turkey and gravy, to the acid and sweetness of cranberry and sweet potatoes — Thanksgiving dinner can make for tough wine pairings that everyone will enjoy. I prefer lighter, livelier wines that open up the palate rather than overwhelm it. The wines need to be versatile and able to work with the wide variety of Thanksgiving flavors,” says Carrie Wynkoop, owner and founder, Cellar 503.
She suggests varietals like pinot blanc, chardonnay, gamay and pinot noir, however, “rosé is always a crowd pleaser and a great way to kick off the meal.”
With your tofurkey, Liz Martinez, sommelier and general manager/director of wine at Casa Pernoi in Birmingham, MI, notes that she also drinks rosé for her Thanksgiving meal. But, she said, Tofurkey calls for a wine that will balance the tofu.
A classic pairing for your holiday dinner is Beaujolais, specifically a wine from the Cru of Fleurie! A 2016 Villa Ponciago is a lovely and supple wine that maneuvers tofurkey like a pro. The tart red fruit cuts through the tofu like a knife, highlighting the wines sexy floral aromatics, and who doesn’t like a little spice in their life? This wine has just a touch of baking spice, a great way to play up the flavors of your holiday tofurkey,” she says.
If you’re feeling a cold one on Thanksgiving, Bryan Long, certified beer server and assistant food and beverage director at the Eau Palm Beach in Palm Beach, FL, says that a farmhouse ale on the dry side would be your best bet. That way, you can still stuff your face with the turkey and fixings.
“This year I came across a new and unique farmhouse ale by Leatherback Brewing company called Bush Life. Bush Life is brewed with local basil, lemongrass, ginger and sorrel. This beer is more on the dry side with high carbonation that will serve as a refreshing pallet cleanser as your work way through rich and savory feast. This is a medium body beer so you will have room for pumpkin pie,” he says.
But, if you’re not interested in the dessert table, Long suggests picking up a dessert-flavored beer instead.
“Duchess Cherry is a blend of one- and two-year-old Duchesse de Bourgogne with local, sour cherries added to the maturing beer. The malt beverage is aged in oak casks, and utilizing whole cherries from the Limburg region of Belgium. This beer is going to be more on the sweet and sour side and could be a liquid replacement for a cherry cobbler,” Long says.
And, if you’re nibbling on a Tofurkey, Jack Hendler, co-owner and brewer at Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers, says that there are two ways to go when pairing beer with the faux bird — contrasting or complementing.
“To contrast, go with a Berliner Weisse, a low ABV refreshingly tart beer that is often fruited. It would go great with the savory flavors of Tofurkey. Around this time of year, we release our Cranberry Berliner. Cranberries are an obvious flavor choice to go with Thanksgiving dinner. The acidity with Cran Berliner, as well as other Berliners, should act as a nice palette cleaner for the heaviness of Tofurkey. The acidity in cranberries is really good to balance those flavors. A light fruitiness, a little citrus note,” he says.
But, if looking to complement the meal, Hendler says to look towards an Amber lager. The malty and sweet flavors will highlight the savory notes in your meal.
“It works with sweeter, rich flavors but has a little bit of bitterness to help cut the heaviness, much like the Berliner Weisse. We recently released Shipping Out of Boston Amber Lager, which has a slight roasty character and some caramelized notes, which work really well with the classic Thanksgiving flavors, including Tofurkey,” he says.
Since gatherings are poised to be smaller this year, you can spend more time on creating fun cocktails to drink without having to constantly play bartender to your guests. While you can start off the meal with a simple spritz or creative aperitif, you can keep the cocktail craze moving right into the main event, too.
Jason Suss, owner of A Proper Pour, says that a walnut Manhattan made with Nocino (an Italian walnut liqueur) is just the thing.
“Thanksgiving dinner can be hectic, so this is a great way to quickly make a nice cocktail for everyone without taking too much time. It has a nice strong base of the rye whiskey and the spice that comes with it. The Nocino is an interesting change to the usual vermouth in a Manhattan. It has a slight bitterness, but the nuttiness and an almost savory aspect make it really complex. Thanksgiving food is traditionally very heavy with lots of rich, creamy food and winter baking spices. This is a nice complement to those flavors, while adding a slight twist,” he says.
And, the recipe is simple and doesn’t require a heavy lift at the home bar. Start with two ounces of rye whiskey. Then add one ounce of Nocino, two dashes of Angostura Bitters and one drop of vanilla extract. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain and pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.
Want more cocktail ideas? Check out these recipes and get experimental.