Thanksgiving isn’t just a big day of eating—it often involves enjoying a few adult beverages as well. If you’re looking for a good cocktail recipe to try out this year—perfect for sipping and showing off while making a holiday toast on Zoom—we’ve got you covered. From a popcorn-flavored spiked cider to a woodsy gin punch and a wintry French 75 variation, these are some of our favorite cocktails to bring out on the big day.
Thanksgiving just isn’t right without a mug of spiked cider, and this recipe makes the classic even better. Rather than using plain old bourbon, we first infuse the whiskey with sweet, nutty caramel popcorn. In a nod to hot buttered rum, we float a pat of butter on top of the drink for a rich finish.
If you think you’re going to be in the mood for cider, but you don’t want a warm cocktail, try this classy holiday drink. Aside from the bourbon, ginger beer, and hard cider, all you’ll need is some ice, Angostura bitters, a few wedges of lemon.
If every Thanksgiving finds you struggling to revive yourself from a food coma, spiked coffee is just what you need. This recipe uses a few ounces of rum and an easy homemade butterscotch whipped cream, but you could also try a version with Frangelico, Fernet, or amaro and bourbon.
The name alone makes Wild Turkey 101 an appropriate Thanksgiving spirit, but that’s not the only reason we use it in this cocktail. An overproof bourbon stands up best to the intense sage, and Wild Turkey’s caramel and vanilla notes perfectly complement the pumpkin. Store-bought pumpkin butter varies in sweetness, so make sure to taste it before you use it here (or go with a homemade version).
Premade mixers are a godsend on Thanksgiving—you can do most of the heavy lifting early in the day and minimize the amount of work you have to do when it’s time to drink. Here, we make the mixer with clove-scented roasted pears, bourbon, and maple syrup, then top it off with sparkling wine to serve.
The mixer for this cocktail combines gin with rosemary, sugar, and the juice from charred lemons, which develop a remarkably rich, complex, and mellower flavor after being seared in a skillet. As with the previous recipe, all you have to do to serve is top the mixer with sparkling wine—though a sprig of fresh rosemary is a nice finishing touch.
This bourbon punch, which pairs whiskey with lemon juice and five-spice syrup and tops off the mixture with club soda, is refreshing enough for those of you who experience Thanksgiving in a warmer climate. Forget about the powdered mixes at the store and make the syrup with whole spices instead.
If you live somewhere with more seasonally appropriate Thanksgiving temperatures, this punch might be just what you want. It’s packed with intense flavors perfect for a cold day: smoky blended Scotch, aromatic chai tea, nutty sherry, and spicy Angostura bitters. We sweeten the punch with a woodsy vanilla-cinnamon syrup.
The smokiness in this punch comes from lapsang souchong tea, which we mix with gin, orange curaçao, oleo-saccharum, and sage syrup. The sage syrup can be made up to a week ahead of time, and the oleo-saccharum can be made the night before, meaning you’ll have minimal prep to do on Thanksgiving Day itself.
Making an individual Old Fashioned takes only a minute or two, but when you’re juggling a million other tasks on Thanksgiving, it’s convenient to have a batch ready ahead of time. Along with the whiskey, simple syrup, and bitters, add a few ounces of water to make up for the fact that you aren’t diluting the cocktail by stirring it with ice. For a fun variation, check out our peanut-flavored Old Fashioned in a bottle, too.
An easy way to update a classic Old Fashioned cocktail is by fat-washing the bourbon with toasty, nutty browned butter, which adds richness while mellowing things out. This technique is great for turning a low quality whiskey into something special.
Another drink for fans of strong whiskey cocktails, this one pairs rye with fernet and triple sec. Your first instinct is probably to reach for a bottle of Fernet-Branca, but its minty, medicinal flavor doesn’t work here—instead, go for something with a warmer, more cinnamon-forward flavor, like Jelínek Czech-style fernet.
A savory twist on the Boulevardier, this cocktail uses peaty Islay Scotch in place of the bourbon or rye and swaps out the Campari for vegetal Cynar. The vermouth we prefer is Martini & Rossi Bianco, which has a citrusy, herbal flavor reminiscent of Lillet Blanc.
I can tell you from experience that it’s good to have some Thanksgiving cocktails in your repertoire that are lighter on the booze. This one gets all of its alcohol from sparkling wine, which we flavor with orange bitters and a sweet-tart, spicy cranberry–black pepper shrub. The shrub will last up to a month, so make it now if you really want to get a head start on the Turkey Day prep.
This twist on the French 75 gets its cranberry flavor from a cordial made by simmering the fruit in a simple syrup with cinnamon sticks, star anise, cardamom, cloves, and orange peel. To make the drink, just mix equal parts cordial and pink grapefruit juice with gin, then top with sparkling wine.
This sparkling cocktail combines nutty oloroso sherry with apple in two forms: muddled fresh apple and Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy. We sweeten the cocktail with Mandarine Napoléon liqueur; if that proves hard to find, feel free to use Grand Marnier or a good dry orange curaçao instead.
Here’s another warming sparkler, one that has the added benefit of coming together in mere seconds: Slightly sweet ruby port gets mixed with tart pomegranate juice, orange bitters, and sparkling wine, and the mixture is given a spritz of lemon just before serving.
The hardest part of making this easy-drinking sipper is finding the right Madeira—you want to find one labeled “Malmsey” to get the right sweet, nutty flavor. Beyond that, there’s nothing more to the cocktail than simple syrup, lemon juice, and a dusting of nutmeg.
A combination of unsweetened cranberry juice and Scotch whiskey makes this a tart and warming big-batch cocktail that’s ideal for fall. Marmalade syrup balances the cocktail’s sharpness, for a smooth drink you’ll want more of, right away.
This cocktail is perfect for Thanksgiving because you can make the easy cinnamon-spiced cranberry mixer ahead of time, long before any of the chaos in the kitchen sets in. When the time comes, just add the booze and serve pitcher-style.
In this big-batch rum punch, dried figs and Madeira balance out the slight bitterness of black tea. The best part is that you can put this easy drink together in advance, so on Thanksgiving Day, all you need to do is serve it—and drink it.
A lively riff on the Sidecar, this citrusy sipper is bright make-ahead option for Turkey Day— just make sure not to add the ice until the end. Spritz each filled coupe with a grapefruit peel garnish before serving and you’re good to go.
Think of this as a much more sophisticated vodka-cranberry, with fresh and bright lemon juice and some orange bitters contributing a degree of complexity entirely absent from the dive bar staple. Rosemary honey adds aromatic sweetness and is, thankfully, extremely easy to make. Better yet, it also stars in our Two Turtledoves cocktail, so it’s nice to have extra on hand.
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