Have you ever spent way too much time trying to come up with the perfect Thanksgiving booze pairings? Then when it comes time to actually drink what you bought, you don't even like the pairing. This has happened to all of us. We have spent way too much time and money trying to find booze that goes with the most complicated meal of the year!
Thanksgiving is notoriously difficult to find crowd-pleasing booze pairings. We are not even sure all of the food goes together let alone the wine or beer! Everyone has that aunt who brings a weird casserole, right? The one you eat only one spoonful of out of politeness. How can you possibly pair booze with that?
Let's start by thinking about what is happening throughout the meal and break it out into sections. If you try to pair the entire Thanksgiving meal with just one booze, you will not be successful.
Not everyone partakes in Thanksgiving pre-game, instead saving room for the Big Event. Understandable, but it's not a bad idea to have a snack or two so you don't gorge yourself as much during the main meal. Apps are especially important if you have a late meal and your guests show up early. You don't want hangry guests who may have a few too many cocktails in anticipation of what is coming!
When we have participated in Friendsgivings in the past, we always have paired apps with either wine or a cocktail. Since we all like to hang out and gab, we find it a charcuterie platter with yummy cheeses and cured meats is perfect. It can be thrown together quickly and sit out with little upkeep. If you want to have a cocktail at this point, we recommend sticking with a simple recipe or something that can be made in a pitcher ahead of time. This should be the calm, downtime before the storm of the main meal.
Aaron's Suggestions for a Thanksgiving Charcuterie Platter
Aaron worked for Whole Foods in the cheese department for many years and helped lots of folks build awesome charcuterie platters. The following assortment is one we have used for our own Thanksgiving pre-game. You can certainly swap out anything you don't like or can't find with whatever you prefer. We love bubbles so our top choice for pairing would be a great bottle of brut, Champagne, Prosecco, or a fizzy dry cider.
- Gorgonzola with local honey and walnuts
- Parmigiano Reggiano
- Calabrese Salami
- Prosciutto di Parma
- Marcona almonds
- Tart dried cherries
Thanksgiving Main Meal
This is definitely the tough section. There are so many flavors and textures happening at the Thanksgiving table that it is challenging to pair. If your family has different courses at Thanksgiving, you may have a better shot at pairing each one separately. Most folks we know put the whole lot on the table and say go. That makes it harder!
Since we have never done courses at our Thanksgiving, we will provide a few suggestions we have had success with for the entire meal.
Bubbles. No surprise here! Any Champagne or sparkling wine will hold up for the whole meal and the bubbly fans will be happy!
A really great red and a really great white. Don't over think it too much, because most wines won't pair perfectly with every aspect of the meal. Buy multiple bottles of a red and white you love and go with it! Sarah would probably pick a Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Franc. She may throw in a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais if there are guests who like a more mellow or fruity red.
Saison or a Farmhouse-style ale. The light body and yeasty flavors will go well with the lighter flavors present during the meal.
Toasty English IPA. The crisp, grainy quality with light bitter notes will pair nicely with the whole meal.
Dessert and Post-Meal Coma
Full disclosure. We don't always eat dessert, especially after a meal like Thanksgiving. Our preference is to have a drink as our dessert! You are more apt to see us eating pumpkin pie for breakfast the next day. Our picks for dessert pairings go just fine on their own if you happen to be like us and skip dessert.
We love Amaro and you can't go wrong with bitters after a long, heavy meal. It may even help with any indigestion you have from overeating... Our favorites are Amaro Nonino and Amaro Montenegro.
Ports or port-style dessert wines would also go well here. We have a new favorite from Schulze Winery, RCR 2010.
Bubbles! No really. They pair perfectly with so many desserts. Reminder to buy a lot if you are planning to pair with the whole meal!
Our other two choices are Black Button's Bespoke Bourbon Cream and whiskey! Not together necessarily, but you certainly could. The Bourbon Cream is dessert in a glass and needs no other explanation once you have tried it. Whiskey just happens to be on our favorite list and is a go-to for after dinner drinks.
Tips & Tricks
1. Have a few options for booze. You may love a big, bold red but it might give Aunt Mary a migraine. Within reason and your budget, have a few red and white wines, beers, and a cider available for your guests.
2. Ask your guests to bring their favorite _____ (beer, wine, etc.) so you don't have to buy everything and you are assured that they will have something they like to drink.
3. Have yummy non-alcoholic options for guests who don't drink. There are so many fun sparkling water flavors available now that it's easy to make a mocktail on the fly. Apple cider is also in season and delicious!
4. If you want to have a signature cocktail, have plenty of the ingredients in case it is a hit. Have a recipe card available so guests can make their own if you are busy in the kitchen.
5. Chill more booze than you think you need. This way if everyone loves the Sauvignon Blanc and you don't end up serving warm wine!
6. Don't worry about it if all the pairings don't go as you hoped. Again. There are SO MANY flavors happening, it is impossible to please everyone's palate during such a complicated meal.
We reached out to our friends at various WNY booze establishments to get their professional opinions on Thanksgiving pairings. While you may not be able to buy the exact suggestion if you don't live in WNY, you can likely find something similar.
Long Cliff Winery - Provided by Danielle DeMaison
Blauer Himmel- Semi-dry red wine that has just the right amount of spice. This is a spectacular wine that goes especially well with the stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Pinot Magic- 100% Pinot Noir grapes, but this wine is white! Pairs really well with roasted turkey and stuffing.
Bright Stars- Champagne-style sparkling wine. This is our suggestion because well, we love bubbles!
Learn more about Long Cliff Winery by reading our recent blog post here
Schulze Winery- Provided by Ann Schulze
Tiny Bubbles- Semi-dry sparkling wine that is total heaven! Ann recommended this as an aperitif, but we think you can drink it all night.
Vidal Blanc- Semi-dry white wine that has a very subtle sweetness. This wine can definitely hold up to the myriad of flavors at the table!
RCR 2010- Port-style wine made with Cabernet Franc grapes. This is our suggestion to drink with or as your dessert!
Learn more about Schulze Winery by reading our recent blog post here
Spring Lake Winery- Tamre's suggestions
Chardonnay- Full-bodied white wine with just a pinch of sweetness. Also pairs well with the whole meal.
Riesling- Semi-dry white wine with hints of citrus. Pairs well with the whole meal!
Zia Minx- Medium-bodied sweet wine made with Moscato grapes. Great paired with or as your dessert.
We have not posted a profile yet on Spring Lake, but stay tuned. It is coming soon!
Silver Lake Brewing- Provided by Pilar McKay
Biére de Mars- A variety of a Biére de Garde, which is one of Silver Lake's most versatile beers. It is a Northern French/Belgian style beer that was typically brewed in the Spring (Mars = March), but the flavor is welcome all year round. Biére de Mars is a hearty farmhouse style beer that often appeals to both wine and beer drinkers. This beer can also be used as an ingredient if you are thinking of making beer bread or a beer soup. Yum!
Learn more about Silver Lake Brewing by reading our recent blog post here
Grist Iron Brewing- These suggestions came directly from the executive chef at Grist Iron, we didn't paraphrase (they were too good to change!).
Ol' Buddy Ol' Pale Ale - ABV: 5% Suggested Pairings: Roasted turkey & mashed potatoes w/gravy
Pairing Notes: The mid-level bitterness and piney finish from the Centennial hops in this brew stand up well against the richness of roasted meat and potatoes.
Lake Life IPA - ABV: 7% Suggested Pairings: Cranberry sauce and stuffing
Pairing Notes: The bright citrus flavors in our IPA balance well with the tart-sweetness of cranberry sauce, while the strong hop bitterness holds up against the bready, herbal flavors of stuffing.
MaXX Brown Ale - ABV: 7% Suggested Pairings: Sweet potatoes and desserts
Pairing Notes: The MaXX Brown Ale has a strong malt backbone that highlights the starchy sweet flavor of sweet potatoes, while the chocolate and hazelnut coffee notes accentuate rich, sweet desserts.
We have not posted a profile yet for Grist Iron, but stay tuned for a future blog.
Buffalo Distilling Company- Provided by Kevin Ford
Aged Apple Brandy- Enjoy this brandy neat or on the rocks. For a simple cocktail add a splash of apple cider.
*Super cool tip from Kevin Ford (head distiller) is to freeze apple cider in ice cube trays and then add a cube or 2 to your cocktail. So smart!
Kevin was also kind enough to share the following recipe with us for cranberry sauce. We are definitely going to make it this year!
One Foot Cock Cranberry Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 3 tablespoons 100% cranberry juice, not cocktail
- 3/4 cup local raw honey
- 12 oz bag fresh cranberries (~3 cups)
- 4oz One Foot Cock Un-Aged Apple Brandy
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- Combine the fresh orange juice, cranberry juice, and honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the juice and honey to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well.
- Remove from the heat and SLOWLY add OFC Apple Un-Aged Brandy - allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Stir in orange zest - chill - Enjoy
*Try Aged Apple Brandy for a something a little more complex
Learn more about Buffalo Distilling by reading our recent blog post here
Black Button Distilling- Provided by Michael Martin
Apple Pie Moonshine- A versatile spirit that goes well with the Thanksgiving spread. Can be enjoyed hot with hot apple cider or cold in an apple punch.
Citrus Forward Gin- The 11 botanicals used to make this gin would be very complimentary to all the flavors present in the meal. Try a simple Gin & Tonic for a new Thanksgiving tradition!
Straight Four Grain Bourbon or Empire Rye Whiskey- Either one will really open up the palate and bring out the flavors of your Thanksgiving meal. Sipping on 84 proof whiskey may open up an engaging conversation at the table!
Black Button has a ton of recipes available on their website so check those out here
for further inspiration!
Learn more about Black Button Distilling by reading our recent blog post here
BlackBird Cider Works- Provided by Aaron Smith
New England Style- High Alcohol, low carbonation cider made silky smooth by the addition of honey and aged in white, French Oak barrels. This wine-like cider pairs perfectly with all components of the meal
Dabinett- English-style cider with high acidity and bitter, sharp notes. Makes a perfect palette cleanser for your charcuterie appetizer.
Buffalo Bluegrass- This bourbon barrel-aged cider with notes of vanilla will pair nicely with desserts.
Learn more about BlackBird Cider Works by reading our recent blog post here
We really do hope these pairing suggestions will help you out this Thanksgiving. Holidays bring on enough stress without having to worry about what to serve your guests to drink! The thing about Thanksgiving is that most people will be happy with whatever you present them. They may be there just for mashed potatoes and gravy anyways!