What To Drink on Thanksgiving In 5 Easy Pointers

This year's turkey feast will be unlike any other. If you've changed your plans the way the CDC is begging you to, it's going to be a smaller, more local gathering. While this is a big disappointment, there are a couple of silver linings.

For starters, the smaller the crowd, the fewer there are to please - and shop for. Crowd-pleasing beverages, by virtue of having to cater to many tastes, typically cater to few. No need for that to happen this year. Rather than reaching for the middle-of-the-road stuff, go with what you and yours really enjoy. And since you are almost certainly going to be buying fewer bottles than in years past, treat yourself!

And since it's going to be a more local (perhaps as local as it can possibly get) gathering, consider carrying that theme into your beverage selection by grabbing local products. Doing this will also help small businesses in your community, which are among those most in need of your patronage right now.

So, what does that specifically translate to? Here are some pointers:

  1. ABV. Start out light - in alcohol, that is. Turkey day is a marathon, not a sprint, so big, heavy-handed drinks will just kill your momentum early. Nap time is part of the tradition, but, please, not in the middle of mealtime!
  2. Beer. We are in the midst of a beer renaissance, and the overall quality is as extraordinary as the diversity of options made in practically every corner of the country. If you haven't sampled what your local beer scene has to offer, don't overlook it any longer!
  3. Wine. Here's where it's tough to keep it local unless you're fortunate enough to live in upstate New York or Michigan, as much of what's coming out of the west coast has become too intense to be sensible on Thanksgiving. For reds, pinor noir is probably as dense as you want to go for the beige meal. Cru beaujolais (not beajolais nouveau) offer freshness-packed gamay that achieves terrific heights thanks to their vibrant fruit, quenching acidity, and good value. For whites, consider options with soft, round edges like Soave, or even pinot grigio from as far north in Italy as you can get (i.e. Sudirol/Alto Adige.)
  4. Port. Now we're not only veering way off local-sourcing, but also away from low ABV. Still, fortified wines remain underappreciated in the United States. Let that work to your advantage. Substitute an aged tawny port for pumpkin pie, as spending $30 on a 10 year tawny will make you believe in Santa Claus again. Better yet, enjoy one with your pumpkin pie.
  5. Boubon. Like beer, exceptional spirits are being distilled everywhere and often where you least expect it; maybe even in your home state. In the past few months I've been shocked by the phenomenal quality of craft spirits from unlikely places such as Austin, Vermont, Traverse City, Alabama, Ohio, and more. If you've got the stamina to make a local spirit your nightcap, the booze-tryptophan combo will send you off for a long, relaxed hibernation.

And for those who want very specific ideas, here's what I'll be drinking:

Jackie O's Who Cooks For You? is a hazy pale ale clocking in at a modest 5.5% yet chock full of bright citrus and tree fruit, and has become something of a house favorite. $11/six pack.

The Wonderland Project's Two Kings Pinot Noir is a relatively modest 13.5%, sourced from two of my favorite vineyards in Carneros/Sonoma, and bottled without oak bludgeoning, filtration, or sulfur dioxide. Should be lively. $27

Conecuh Ridge Distillery's Clyde May's Straight Bourbon is a recent discovery and weakness (huge thanks to my bother-in-law!) from Alabama that epitomizes the notion that quality of craft spirits come from all sorts of unlikely places. And at $35, is a terrific bargain given the experience.