When Turkey Day arrives, you're gonna want a drink. Preferably something perfectly autumnal, stirred with dark spirits, perhaps spiced with cinnamon and clove or woodsy rosemary.
What you probably don't want is to spend your Thanksgiving behind the bar. You've got potatoes to mash and a turkey to carve; except, perhaps, for the first drink of the night, you shouldn't be shaking cocktails to order. So we've gathered our favorite fall-celebration sips, many of which can be prepped partially or entirely ahead of time. And, because we know Thanksgiving dinner can be an all-day event, we've made sure to include some lower-alcohol drinks to make pacing yourself a little easier. Ready to get your liquor cabinet stocked? These 22 cocktails are a must-have addition to your Thanksgiving menu.
Turkey and Sage Cocktail
Since you're likely eating turkey on Thanksgiving, why not drink some, too? This cocktail pairs overproof Wild Turkey 101 with deeply flavored pumpkin butter and fresh sage. The bourbon's vanilla and caramel notes work wonderfully with the pumpkin and spice, and it's all amped up with fresh lemon and Angostura.
5-Spice Bourbon Punch
Barrel-aged bourbon takes kindly to spices, and the best way to add them is to skip the powdered stuff. This drink starts with whole Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel seeds, toasted for full, rich, earthy flavor. A splash of fresh lime and fizzy club soda keep the punch refreshing.
Sparkling Bourbon Pear Cocktail
We love pears, but they're a little watery for adding to a drink when raw. The secret: Roast them to concentrate the flavor, then sweeten with maple syrup and spike with bourbon. This mix gets extra classy with a splash of sparkling wine. (And there's no need to spring for pricey Champagne here, since there's so much going on in the cocktail—any decent Cava or Crémant will do.)
Cardamaro Concord Cocktail
We like to stock up on bittersweet amari for post-feast sipping, but they're wonderful in pre-dinner drinks, too. Here, herbal and nutty wine-based Cardamaro, which is flavored with cardoon and blessed thistle, comes together with purple Concord grapes and bourbon for a drink that's perfectly in season.
9 Ladies Dancing Punch
Big-batch punches are great for low-stress holiday entertaining, but you don't need to sacrifice complex flavor to make them easy. This delicious drink starts with smoky blended Scotch, plus a rich sherry teaming up with homemade cinnamon syrup for sweetness. Chai tea adds spice (and necessary dilution), and a cranberry-studded ice block is a festive way to keep the drink cold.
The Boulevardier—a Negroni variation that uses whiskey in place of gin—is a great fall cocktail in its own right. Here, we combine it with another autumn favorite, hot apple cider, for the ultimate in cold-weather comfort. Bold and spicy rye and bitter Campari are natural foils for the sweet cider.
Smoky Sage Punch
There's no reason to relegate gin to summer; its swath of herbal flavors are wonderful in fall, too. For this make-ahead punch, gin is matched with fresh sage, smoky lapsang souchong tea, and an intense citrus syrup made with lemon and orange zest.
Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler
This is no basic spiked lemonade. Its haunting flavor starts with lemons seared in a dry cast iron skillet to add a bit of charred depth and mellow out the tartness. Woodsy rosemary and herbal gin pair up to add a savory side, and a little fizzy wine completes the picture nicely.
There are days when nothing but a classic Martini will do, but lately we've been finding ourselves reaching for a good dry sherry instead of vermouth. It boosts the savory flavor and adds a salty character—if you want to get really fancy, you can garnish the drink with a slice of Spanish ham.
The Martinez is an undersung hero, a silky and dark Martini alternative that may even predate its drier, tuxedo-wearing cousin. This variation gets its rich sweetness from date molasses, which is excellent paired up with nutty but dry Amontillado sherry.
Spiced Cranberry Rum Fizz
Tart cranberries, orange zest, and ginger give this rum cocktail the flavors of a classic Thanksgiving cranberry sauce, but better, and sparkling wine makes it especially refreshing.
This cranberry cocktail is the ideal aperitif, bringing together tangy unsweetened cranberry juice and nutty oloroso sherry. A small pour of rum gives the drink more depth, without adding too much extra alcohol.
Apple lovers, this one's for you. We pack apple into this drink in three forms: apple brandy, apple cider concentrate, and hard cider. To make the concentrate, you'll reduce unfiltered fresh apple cider on your stovetop with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and black pepper—it's easy, we promise, and it's loaded with flavor.
This cheerful cocktail combines fresh apple cider with sparkling wine and Bénédictine, an herbal, honeyed liqueur that works well to complement the apple. You could make the drink with Champagne, but feel free to use cheaper Prosecco instead.
Tangy Cider Fizz
As much as we love strong, stirred cocktails, it makes sense to embrace something a little lighter as you start a marathon Thanksgiving meal. This low-alcohol drink combines fresh apple cider with delicious Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, which adds fruitiness and a complex herbal flavor. Sweetening the cocktail with brown sugar gives it some of the richness of oaky spirits, without the extra booze.
Wine, Amaro, and More
Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour
We're on a mission to bring back the amaretto sour. First of all, the sweet, almond-flavored liqueur needs some spice to wake it up—a dash of Angostura bitters gives the drink a hit of clove and cinnamon, which is a good start. Lemon juice and fresh ginger further balance the amaretto's sweetness, and then we're off to the races.
Sparkling Lemon-Suze Pitcher Cocktail
Before Thanksgiving dinner, you'll want a drink that will stimulate the appetite. This bittersweet, herbaceous option, made with the French aperitif Suze, is just right for pairing with pre-dinner nibbles. A lemon-sage syrup boosts the drink's herbal flavor, while chilled sparkling wine keeps it bright.
Sparkling Pomegranate Pitcher Cocktail
Pomegranate is wonderful in cocktails (and nonalcoholic drinks) because it adds a little bitterness and tannin in addition to deep fruit flavor. Here, pomegranate juice is reduced on the stove to give the drink a dark, tangy base that brings it firmly into fall. Bitter Cocchi Rosa deepens the flavor, balanced with fresh lime and a bit of bubbly wine.
Basil Cranberry Julep
Juleps are generally summer drinks, and this basil-scented cocktail would be great on a hot day. But smoky, savory mezcal and a tart cranberry syrup make it a fun Thanksgiving option. If you don't have julep cups, you can use mixing tins (or whatever sturdy glasses you have on hand).
Spiced Averna Toddy
Cold out there? Warm up from your pre-turkey walk with this unusual hot toddy that swaps out whiskey for Averna, a mild, low-alcohol Italian bitter liqueur with a spicy caramel flavor. An easy brown sugar and black peppercorn syrup fortifies the flavor.
Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail
In this fresh, effervescent drink, apples are muddled to add sweetness to a mix of potent Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy, nutty oloroso sherry, and Mandarine Napoléon, a mandarin orange liqueur.
Search for Delicious
If you're into bitter drinks, this recipe is for you. Foregoing a base spirit, this cocktail blends vegetal Cynar with Punt e Mes, a fantastically bitter Italian vermouth. Adding a pinch of salt to the top of the drink slightly tempers the bitterness, letting the sweetness of the Punt e Mes come through.