I celebrate Turkey Day with people who appreciate a good drink, so I always end up whipping up more than a few cocktails. I like taking the time to mix individual cocktails, but not everyone has the time—or desire—to spend all day behind the bar. Not to worry: We've got recipes to accommodate both the active and the passive drink-slinger. From a make-ahead smoky Scotch punch to a colonial-era-inspired Madeira sipper, we've got 16 Thanksgiving-appropriate cocktail recipes that'll let you enjoy your holiday as much as your guests will.
Triple Crown (Whiskey Sour Cocktail With Amaro)
You can be almost certain that there'll be a bottle of bourbon out at my place come Thanksgiving. This cocktail combines the whiskey with dark, bitter Amaro Montenegro, bittersweet grapefruit liqueur, and tart lemon juice to make an elegant, citrusy take on the whiskey sour.
Sparkling Bourbon Pear Cocktail
If you have a lot of people coming over on Thanksgiving, you can save time by batching up the cocktail base ahead of time. This drink starts with a mix of bourbon, maple syrup, and roasted pear purée. Make it in the morning, stick it in the fridge, and once your guests arrive, simply pour it into glasses and top with chilled sparkling wine.
Turkey and Sage Cocktail
Three of Thanksgiving's classic flavors combine in this cocktail: pumpkin, sage, and wild turkey. Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, that is. The overproof whiskey is strong enough to stand up to the woodsy sage, and its caramel and vanilla notes pair well with a dollop of sweet pumpkin butter.
9 Ladies Dancing Punch
If you have a really big group coming to dinner this year, it may be a good idea to set out a large bowl of this festive punch. The base is a bottle of smoky blended Scotch, which is mixed with sweet and smooth Lustau East India Solera Sherry, chai tea, lemon juice, and a homemade vanilla-cinnamon syrup.
5-Spice Bourbon Punch
The 9 Ladies Dancing Punch will serve a whole extended family; for a smaller gathering, try this four-serving pitcher drink. Made with bourbon, a savory five-spice-spiked syrup, tangy lime juice, and club soda, it's especially good if you live someplace where the weather is still warm come Thanksgiving.
This is more of a rum cocktail than a whiskey one, but it does have a quarter-ounce of Scotch. Choose something nice and peaty and mix it with a high-quality aged rum, bitter Cynar, herbal Bénédictine, and a single dash of Angostura bitters. We rinse the glass with absinthe for a little extra complexity.
Mulled cider is always a hit on Thanksgiving, but what if you want a cold cider drink? This cocktail is made with apple three ways: A spiced apple cider concentrate, Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy, and a few ounces of hard cider. We also squeeze in about half a lemon for balance. If you need even more apple flavor, garnish the drink with a slice of fresh or dried apple.
Tangy Cider Fizz
This cocktail is relatively light on the booze, a plus if you're planning to drink all day. We start with fresh apple juice and spike it with fruity, complex Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth. We also add a bar spoon of brown sugar and the juice from half a lemon before topping the drink off with club soda.
Sazerac and Cider
This autumnal cocktail starts like a normal Sazerac, with rye whiskey, Peychaud's bitters, sugar, and an absinthe rinse. The traditional rendition is pretty boozy, though, so we soften it with a few ounces of hard cider. The apple pairs well with both the warming rye and the botanical-heavy absinthe.
Smoky Sage Punch
Thanksgiving isn't just about brown booze—this punch shows just how fall-friendly gin can be. We combine the botanical spirit with smoky lapsang souchong tea and aromatic sage syrup. Orange curaçao and oleo-saccharum lend it a citrusy sweetness.
The Martinez is a lesser-known cousin of the martini, made with equal parts gin and sweet vermouth. This variation is sweetened with rich date molasses and finished with a few dashes of Peychaud's and an orange twist. Instead of sweet vermouth, we make the cocktail with dry amontillado sherry—its nutty flavor pairs wonderfully with the sweetness of the molasses.
Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler
If you've never charred lemons before, you're in for a treat. Searing lemon halves mellows them out and gives them a caramel-like flavor. Here, we juice the charred lemons into a blend of gin, sugar, and rosemary to make a mixer that we serve with sparkling wine. Bruising the rosemary with the back of a wooden spoon brings out its aroma.
Wine and More
Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail
We're back to apples, this time in the form of diced fresh apple and Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy. We muddle the apple and mix it with the brandy, dry oloroso sherry, and sweet Mandarine Napoléon liqueur, then top with prosecco. If you can't find Mandarine Napoléon you can use Grand Marnier or a dry orange curaçao.
This drink is based on a colonial-era recipe for sangaree, the precursor to modern sangria. It's made with Madeira, a fortified wine common in the time of the Founding Fathers. Once you've got the right Madeira (look for a bottle labeled "Malmsey") all you have to do is shake it with simple syrup and lemon juice, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Tangy Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail
Cranberries shouldn't just be limited to sauce—they're also great in cocktails. This pretty drink is made with a tart, slightly spicy cranberry-black pepper shrub that we mix with sparkling wine and orange bitters. The shrub can be made up to a month in advance, so it's great for minimizing the work you have to do come Thanksgiving day.
Sparkling Lemon-Suze Pitcher Cocktail
If you really want to impress your guests, bring out a bottle of something they've probably never seen before: Suze. This bitter, floral, gentian-flavored French aperitif is a lovely sipper all on its own, but here we pair it with a lemon-sage syrup and top with Cava (or whatever dry sparkling wine you'd like).