Thanksgiving is when we give thanks to the technology which give us more food than we need. Some people say it’s about other things, but those people are history teachers. For most of human history passing out in a food coma was heaven: a paradisical ideal which simply didn’t exist on Earth. There just wasn’t that much food until we invented how to grow it. And for everything we can grow, there’s something to drink.
Most Thanksgiving cocktail articles build on themes of pumpkin and cranberry, but we’re not going to be fobbed off with Halloween leftovers and bladder infection cocktails. “Building on a theme” is how you make literature, not drinks, and even literature works better when you skip straight to the drinks instead (just ask Hemingway, Thompson, or anyone else worth reading.) You design drinks based on what you’re actually doing, which is why I’m detailing drinks based on stuffing yourself until your pleasure sensors overload and shut you down.
For many people the Thanksgiving drink plan is “crates” and “fun.” That is an excellent plan. We’re just suggesting a few additions to it, because when anyone tells us to choose quality or quantity, we ask “What’s this OR bulls**t?”
You don’t need any help building appetite for Thanksgiving dinner, but the last time Thanksgiving had anything to do with “need” was a bunch of ludicrously ill-prepared pilgrims realizing that they needed something to eat or they’d starve to death. “Aperitif” comes from the Latin “to open,” which here applies to both bottles and your stomach. And you’ll never find a more perfect pairing. These drinks can enhance the appetite. Because humans are wonderful and have invented chemicals which can make even the act of stuffing more pleasurable. (Like Viagra.)
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- Club soda
- Orange slice (optional)
Shake the alcohols and pour into an ice-filled glass. Top with club soda as desired.
All the herbal liquers are good aperitifs, but most aren’t the easiest things in the world to drink. (The only one in regular usage is Jagermeister, and that leads to feeding entirely different appetites.) But the Negroni makes an excellent opening drink. The intense taste prepares the digestive system, waking it up while providing an excellent contrast to the coming flavors. Which means that this drink does the impossible: it makes meat taste even better. You can use it straight to wake up your tongue (with a the flavor equivalent of an air-raid siren), or fill with club soda for a cooling drink as you salivate over scents from the kitchen.
During: IPA or Pilsner
A proper thanksgiving dinner imagines what would happen if Noah’s ark had a strict “delicious animals only” rule. And was an oven. Thanksgiving dinner means more roasted flesh than a Sumo wrestler tanning salon, and just as many people who can no longer fit into regular pants. Throwing a finely balanced cocktail to fight with a pig, turkey, and an ox is like sending a ballerina to fight a pig, turkey, and an ox – if you enjoy it you’re either a gangland crime boss or a Greek god, and either way you’re wasting wonderful things.
The whole point of Thanksgiving is excess, but some people don’t enjoy it all. The senses can adapt to anything: that’s why the first mouthful of bacon-wrapped steak is the best. But a cunning drinking means every moment is the best. A light Pilsner cleanses the palate between bites, while a hoppy IPA forces a hard-reset on the sense of taste. Either way, you’ll enjoy every bite that much more.
Digestif: White/Black Russian
After the meal is a fantastic time for sitting down and not even contemplating doing anything else. You imagine standing up the same way people imagined the Hellraiser movies: full or horrible images of people’s insides coming out, but nobody would do it for real. The Negroni and other apertifs are also great after food – the harsher tastes can cut through the stuffed stupor, giving you even more flavors to enjoy.
Another option is the digestif, the other end of the bottle-based brackets for any truly fine meal. The digestif tends to deliver more alcohol (it is working on a full stomach) to enhance the time between food and sleep. Known to those who have been raised to celebrate Thanksgiving properly as “Die Hard time.” Any good Scotch or brandy is obviously perfect for this, because a good Scotch or brandy is perfect at any time. An Irish coffee will keep you awake long enough to see Nakatomi Plaza explode (remember: you only add Jameson’s, not Baileys). Or for cocktails, you already know two of the greatest digestifs in existence.
- 2 oz vodka
- 1 oz Kahlua
Black Russian: shake with ice, pour into ice-filled glass. (add a dash of lemon juice before shaking for the excellent Black Magic.)
White Russian: stir in ice-filled glass, pour 1 oz cream on top, watch The Big Lebowski as well as Die Hard.
Another option is to embrace the true meaning of Thanksgiving, and continue to stuff yourself with flavor. And that means the Manhattan. The ultimate sipping drink, full of flavor, and the knowledge that just sitting with it puts you on top of the world. Because after Thanksgiving you’re going to be sitting down for the rest of the day anyway. So why not do it from a throne?
Gird your guts for Thanksgiving with Stuffing the Ballot(ine) before you hurl them out watching “Friday” Producer Responsible for “Thanksgiving” Atrocity.