Holiday Drinking

The Complete Guide to Thanksgiving Drinking
Photo: Victor Prado/New York Magazine

Everyone knows there’s more to Thanksgiving than the bird. There’s family dynamics; there’s the seemingly warring flavor profiles of all the other fixings; there’s football. And there are plenty of opportunities throughout the day to sip, toast, guzzle, and slurp, whatever your chosen libation. But that’s just it: Although turkey is incontestable, what you drink with it is not. In the absence of hard and fast rules, we consulted the beer, wine, cider, and cocktail experts on what to quaff at every critical juncture, from basting the bird to the ritualistic gobbling of the leftover-turkey sandwich. While there is no one perfect pairing for the entire feast day, there are plenty of great suggestions, courtesy of Belinda Chang, head beverage honcho for Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Culinary Concepts; master sommelier and Corkbuzz co-owner Laura Maniec, who’s got a soft spot for bubbly; PDT cocktail maestro Jim Meehan; and Hayley Jensen, beer sommelier at Taproom No. 307.

Related: The 2012 Thanksgiving Guide

*This article originally appeared in the November 19, 2012 issue of New York Magazine.

Facing down marching bands, a titanic Ronald McDonald, and Al Roker in festive stormwear at 9 a.m. requires something a little more bracing than hot cocoa. Try Jim Meehan’s delicious new Dusty Apple toddy:   4 oz. hot apple cider 1 oz. 7 Leguas Añejo tequila 3/4 oz. Suze liqueur 1 dash Angostura bitters Build in a toddy glass.   Garnish with grated cinnamon and a lemon wedge.
In a hellfire kitchen, you might need something cool and refreshingto calm your pre-meal jitters. Maniec likes a light, fizzy French red called Renardat-Fâche Cerdon du Bugey NV ($23 at Chelsea Wine Vault, 75 Ninth Ave., at 16th St.; 212-462-4244), a low-alcohol sparkler that drinks “almost like a lambic beer.” Our own pick, via Fergus Henderson’s Beyond Nose to Tail: a Bicyclette (1 1/2 ounces Campari poured over ice, topped off with dry white wine; pictured).
You’ve got about nine hours of concussion-inducing NFL action ahead of you. Jensen suggests accompanying it with something hoppy and full-flavored but low in alcohol, like Lagunitas’s new DayTime IPA (4.65 percent ABV). “You don’t want to be tanked by the time the family shows up,” she says. Or do you? ($15 for a six-pack at Good Beer, 422 E. 9th St., nr. Ave. A; 212-677-4836.)
Chang: Tablas Creek’s Côtes de Tablas Blanc ($28 at Beacon Wine & Spirits, 2120 Broadway, at 74th St.; 212-877-0028), a white Rhône-style blend from California. “It’s pretty boozy, which is good; it will get everyone relaxed in case you made a mistake and invited two people who hate each other.” Meehan, a kindred soul, concurs: “Thanksgiving is one of those days to get good and drunk.” For starters, he recommends a cranberry cobbler (pictured) adapted as a punch.   3 lemons, plus 2 more for garnish 3 oranges  1 liter Beefeater Gin 12 ounces Lustau East India Sherry 8 ounces cranberry simple syrup (see recipe, below)     Squeeze 3 lemons and 3 oranges into a large pitcher, combining the spent fruit with the juice and the rest of the ingredients. Allow to infuse for 1 hour so the oils from the peels are expressed into the mixture. Store in the fridge until service. Before service, finely strain the mixture, then pour into a large punch bowl filled with ice cubes. Ladle the mixture into punch cups, and garnish each with a thinly sliced lemon wheel topped with a few cranberries.     Cranberry Simple Syrup and Macerated Cranberries:   4 cups of simple syrup (2 1/2 cups sugar plus 2 1/2 cups water) 1 12-ounce bag of cranberries (frozen is fine)   In a pot, over medium-high heat, cook the simple syrup until it almost boils, then turn the heat down to medium and add the cranberries. Cook until the skin of the first few cranberries splits, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. The cranberries can be stored with the syrup (yield is about 31 ounces) in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Chang likes to bring an aromatic white wine from Alsace, Germany, or Austria, which tend to be food-friendly, “no matter what you’re eating—turkey or Peking duck.” Her recommendation, from the biodynamic Alsatian producer Zind-Humbrecht: Zind, an iconoclastic, regionally atypical blend of Chardonnay and Auxerrois ($35 at Astor Wines & Spirits, 399 Lafayette St., at 4th St.; 212-674-7500).
Considering the occasion, Maniec suggests going domestic. “I really like Argyle Brut ($25 at Union Square Wines & Spirits, 140 Fourth Ave., at 13th St.; 212-675-8100) from the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Since it uses the same production methods as the winemakers in Champagne, it’s perfect for toasting an American holiday.”
Chang is a fan of Substance Cabernet Franc, a Washington State wine made by a company co-founded by Greg Harrington, a master sommelier who used to work for BR Guest. “Cab Franc is one of the few red wines that handles green flavors very well; ‘stemmy’ and ‘sappy’ are typical descriptors. It can even hang out with a green-bean casserole.” ($25 at Chelsea Wine Vault.)
Jensen recommends a food-friendly Belgian-style farmhouse ale like Stillwater Artisanal’s Cellar Door, which is brewed with a touch of white sage. At the very least, it would go nicely with the stuffing. Even better: Stillwater’s zingy, fruity, toasty Autumnal ale ($14 for a 25-ounce bottle at Bierkraft, 191 Fifth Ave., nr. Berkeley Pl., Park Slope; 718-230-7600; pictured).
“I’m a big cider drinker,” says Jensen. “And Farnum Hill in New Hampshire makes some super-complex ciders that would go well with the whole meal.” Our favorite: the extraordinarily palate-cleansing Extra-Dry ($15 for a 25-ounce bottle at Whole Foods Market, 95 E. Houston St., at Chrystie St.; 212-420-1320).
Jensen’s pick: Domaine Dupont’s Cidre Reserve 2011. This delicately fizzy pale-yellow elixir was made from apples harvested in 2010 and then aged for six months in oak casks once used to mature Calvados. It ain’t Mott’s. ($24 for a 25-ounce bottle at Whole Foods Market, Bowery branch.)
According to Chang, bubbly red Brachetto is “the least serious wine in the land of Barolo and Barbaresco,” and at $20 a bottle at Astor Wines & Spirits, Banfi’s Rosa Regale is especially festive, fun, and pretty cheap.
Chang likes hers with bourbon (Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Baby Bourbon, to be precise; $43 for 375 ml. at Astor Wines & Spirits). Meehan recommends Wild Turkey’s Russell’s Reserve 10-year-old ($35 for 750 ml. at Astor; pictured). And for Maniec, Bründlmayer Brut Rosé ($44 at Astor) is the stuff that hits the spot with a potato bun full of leftovers by the light of the refrigerator.
The Complete Guide to Thanksgiving Drinking