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Flavorful Cocktails to Be Thankful For

istock/Wild Turkey

Thanksgiving is a time to reconnect with friends and family --a time to reflect on all that is good in life. Yet its a time to stress out over all these things as the entire household scrambles to put together the feast of the century. 

It's enough to drive someone to drink. Not to excess, of course, but a tasty cocktail is the perfect way to decompress and keep a little measure of sanity during what is alternately one of the most wonderful and harrowing holidays of the year. 

Best of all, applied to the family members of legal drinking age, deliciously blended cocktails (applied in moderation) can help conversation flow and bring down the stress levels for everyone at the table --and there's never an argument over whether to open the red or white. 

But for Thanksgiving, not just any cocktail will do. These drinks have to feature the flavors of the season and echo the delicious traditional bounty our forefathers established for us. Plus, they have to complement, rather than compete with the unspeakably rich meal that's all too likely to have more than half the country passed out on the couch by half time of the Cowboys game. 

Here are a few cocktails that serve up some delicious Thanksgiving flavor. 


The Wild Turkey – Life has few constants than family, friends--and whiskey.  It is a standby that goes with most occasions, and in this case, it's a gentle warmer perfectly suited for placing in the hands of newly arrived guests looking to shake the chill from their bones. 

The sweet spice of the whiskey marries perfectly with the rich nutty walnut liqueur, and the orange notes cut through it all, making for a no-nonsense drink that uncles and grandfathers will appreciate even as they grouse about not putting the stuffing in the bird like grandma used to do. 

Ingredients

2 oz. bourbon (Wild Turkey makes for a nicely spicy choice that plays into the theme) 

.5 oz. walnut liqueur 

5 oz orange liqueur (it's a holiday – go for the good stuff and grab the Grand Marnier) 

dash of orange bitters 

Directions

Mix all the ingredients together in a shaker full of ice and stir until ice cold. Strain into a cocktail glass and, if you're feeling generous, twist an orange peel over top to get the citrus oils into the drink to give guests something to truly be thankful for. 


Applesauce – Apples play key roles in Thanksgiving, from stuffing, all the way to the end of the meal when the apple pie comes rolling out of the oven. Complementing and mirroring these flavors in a cocktail is a no-brainer. Apple brandy gives a subtly sweet kick while simple syrup made not so simple with cinnamon and rosemary adds a layer of spice and complexity that delivers sophistication and a comforting warmth that only Thanksgiving can offer up. 

Ingredients

2.5 oz. Calvados apple brandy 

.5 oz. spiced simple syrup (Combine .5 cup water with .5 cup sugar and warm gently on the stove to combine. Once warm and in solution, add a cinnamon stick and 1 tsp chopped rosemary to steep for 20 min – then strain) 

2 dashes ginger or cherry bitters 

Directions

Add the ingredients to a lowball glass with a few cubes of ice and stir to combine. Garnish with a cinnamon stick to add a little extra flavor and a festive holiday feel to the proceedings. 


Cranberry Cooler – The kitchen can get oppressively hot when the oven is on full blast, desperately attempting to get the bird cooked, before the family resorts to cannibalism. This tangy libation can cool things down in a hurry, with a refreshing effervescence courtesy of quality ginger beer and the sweet and sour cranberry notes. Combine those flavors with almond liqueur and a little whiskey to make the medicine go down in what Mary Poppins once called, “the most delightful way” and you've got a recipe for a happy chef. 

Ingredients

1 tbsp jellied cranberry sauce 

1.5 ounces bourbon (Buffalo Trace tends to have just the right amount of sugar and spice to balance the rest of the cocktail) 

1 ounce almond liqueur (Disarrono is the easiest to find and the gold standard, but Amarguinha is an intriguing Portguese liqueur that's gives a little bit different almond flavor and pairs well with the cranberry) 

2 ounces ginger beer 

Squeeze of lime 

Directions

Add the bourbon and cranberry sauce to a shaker and stir briskly. The alcohol should break the jellied sauce down and “flash infuse” – pulling the cranberry flavor from the sauce extremely quickly. Add ice and the rest of the ingredients except the lime and stir again until well chilled and combined. Strain with a mesh sieve into a highball glass filled with ice and squeeze the lime over top.