We’re breaking from the usual weekend cocktail routine and looking ahead to my personal favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, for a special nod. It’s a day to take stock in what you have and give thanks, a remembrance of our national heritage and 24 hours of binge eating like none other. Here’s a sampling of cocktails that will make this Thanksgiving a holiday to remember.
Before the Feast
Thanksgiving dinner is a process. For anyone who has attempted to prepare the meal, I feel for you. It’s one of early morning turkey prep, pie construction, potato peeling, bean snapping and gravy sautéing. And that’s just half of it! On Thanksgiving, I am thankful I have been bestowed with a Y chromosome, which largely relegates my job during the festivities to making sure the football games are on and the beer is freshly iced. Sometimes its good to be a guy.
With that said, I respect the women in my life for creating this feast every November (and for recreating it a short month later for Christmas). So to keep the atmosphere jovial and light, a pre-dinner cocktail is order. To keep with the Thanksgiving theme and a shout out to the mashed potato maker—the most mundane but important job in the Thanksgiving kitchen—here’s a cocktail with potatoes on the mind: Garlic Rosemary Potato Cocktail.
Garlic Rosemary Potato Cocktail
- 2½ oz. rosemary-lavender infused vodka (recipe below)
- ½ oz. of dry vermouth
Garnish: Garlic stuffed queen olives speared with a rosemary sprig.
In a cocktail shaker with ice, add vodka and vermouth, then shake until it's cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a garlic-stuffed olive speared with a rosemary sprig.
Rosemary-Lavender Infused Vodka
- 3 cups vodka (Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka)
- 1 oz. fresh rosemary leaves (no twigs)
- 1 oz. fresh lavender flowers and leaves
For this infusion, it is important to stick with the Thanksgiving theme and use potato vodka. (Would you attempt to pass off boxed taters as the real thing on Thanksgiving? I think not!) Try Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka, a small batch distillery from Pennsylvania.
We’re looking for earthy notes this time of year, so rosemary and lavender make a nice pair. Fresh is best, but fresh lavender may be hard to come by, so dried will work in a pinch. De-stem the herbs, using just the leaves of the rosemary, and the leaves and flowers of the lavender—the stem leaves a slightly bitter taste. Add vodka and herbs into a Mason jar and seal. Give a good shake and let sit in a cool, dark place for a minimum of five days, shaking every now and then to mix the flavors.
Strain before serving.
Thanksgiving is synonymous with turkey. A regal bird, the turkey has long been engrained in our national tapestry—Benjamin Franklin lobbied for this gobbler to be the national fowl. But even with this national pedigree, I contend bourbon gives the turkey a run for its authentic Americana money.
Born in the bluegrass of Kentucky, bourbon whiskey is a part of the fabric of this country, a mash-up of Southern charm and American grit. So when tinkering with the idea of Thanksgiving cocktails, a sip from a Kentucky original, Wild Turkey, was the first to hit our radar. The cocktail Pass the Turkey, courtesy of Wild Turkey, is the perfect sip for the season—a mix of all your favorite flavors with a high-proof kick and a rather bizarre but tasty finish. Enjoy!
Pass the Turkey
- 1½ oz. Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
- 2 oz. apple cider
- 1 tbs. cranberry sauce
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
Garnish: Sprig of thyme; sprig of sage; turkey gravy and breadcrumb rimmed glass.
In a cocktail shaker, muddle sage, thyme and apple cider. Add ice, Wild Turkey and cranberry sauce; shake well.
Meanwhile, rim a bar glass for the finished drink. First, take the glass and dip the lip in turkey gravy, then run the rim in a bed of breadcrumbs.
To finish, strain cocktail shaker over ice. Garnish with a sage leaf and sprig of thyme.
The After-Meal Malaise: Leftovers Find New Life
One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. In my family, no Thanksgiving is complete without the midnight sandwich stacked with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy. But this usually leads to slim pickings come the weekend, with turkey, stuffing and potatoes being long gone come the FSU vs. UF game Saturday. However, those bowls of cranberry sauce persist, bright red reminders of the caloric bender that is holiday eating.
Fully embracing the “No Food Left Behind” mantra of giving thanks, I’ve got a remedy that’ll add a little fiesta to your Thanksgiving party, utilizing leftover cranberry sauce.
Cranberry Jalapeno Margarita
- 2½ oz. silver tequila (Patron fellas, don’t skimp)
- ½ oz. Cointreau
- ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
- ½ oz. fresh lime juice
- ½ oz. cranberry-jalapeno puree (recipe below)
- 1 oz. cranberry-jalapeno simple syrup (recipe below)
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until cold. Strain into a bar glass filled with ice, garnish with a lime slice.
- Cranberry sauce leftovers
- 1 jalapeno
Combine your leftover cranberry sauce into a blender or food processor. Depending on volume of the cranberry sauce, add chopped and de-seeded jalapeno to taste (about one whole jalapeno to two cups of cranberry sauce for a lighter spice). Puree until smooth; strain before using.
Cranberry-Jalapeno Simple Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tbs. cranberry-jalapeno puree, strained
Stir sugar, water and puree together in a medium saucepan, bringing to a low boil. Let simmer for a minute or two, letting thicken. Remove from heat; allow to cool before using.
If you would like to nominate a cocktail recipe to appear in our latest series “Weekend Cocktails,” email the online editor here.
Tools of the Trade
Become a master mixologist, or at least look like one, with the tools that make the trade.
- Muddler: This little tenderizing stick is a godsend and a must for any home bar. If fruity cocktails are in your future, the muddler is the only way to unlock fruits’ flavor.
- Handheld Citrus Juicer: Nothing beats freshly squeezed juice, but it can be a pain. Invest in a handheld citrus juicer; they are cheap and do the trick tout de suite.
- Cocktail Shaker: Don’t be a chump stirring your martini like a noob; purchase a nice shaker and become a master home barkeep.
- Jigger: This little apparati will make mixing the perfect drink as easy as pie. It's equipped with 1½ oz. and ¾ oz. cups for perfectly measured pours every time.
*Pictured available at Williams-Sonoma