Thanksgiving isn't just a marathon day of eating at my house—it's also a marathon day of drinking. My family always celebrates the holiday with plenty of beer, wine, and especially cocktails. We're always mixing up what we drink—one year someone is really excited about individually mixed drinks, the next year we make it easier on ourselves with make-ahead punches, and every year we try to keep around some lower-alcohol drinks to make Friday less painful. Whatever kind of cocktail you and your family are looking for this Thanksgiving, we've got plenty of festive recipes to choose from—popcorn-flavored spiked cider, woodsy gin punch, a wintery French 75 variation, and more.
Hot Caramel-Popcorn Bourbon Apple Cider
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.
Everything Nice (Spiced-Rum Coffee With Butterscotch Whipped Cream)
Struggling to power through your food coma? Spiked coffee is just what you need. This recipe goes with a few ounces of rum and an easy homemade butterscotch whipped cream, but you could also try using Frangelico, Fernet, or Amaro and bourbon.
Turkey and Sage Cocktail
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 first (or go homemade).
Sparkling Bourbon Pear Cocktail
Pre-made 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 with sparkling wine to serve.
Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler
The mixer for this cocktail combines gin with rosemary, sugar, and charred lemon juice—searing lemons in a skillet mellows them out and gives them a remarkably rich and complex flavor. Like our previous recipe, all you have to do to serve is top the mixer with sparkling wine (a sprig of fresh rosemary is a nice finishing touch).
5-Spice Bourbon Punch
I'm celebrating Thanksgiving in Los Angeles this year, and given how fall is going it's probably going to be a warm one. This bourbon punch is refreshing enough for an LA November—we pair the whiskey with lemon juice and five-spice syrup and top with club soda. Forget about the powdered mixes at the store and make the syrup with whole spices.
9 Ladies Dancing Punch
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. To sweeten the punch we turn to a woodsy vanilla-cinnamon syrup.
Smoky Sage Punch
We stick with the tea here, mixing lapsang souchong 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 that the prep you need to do on Thanksgiving itself is minimal.
Old Fashioned Cocktails (for a Crowd)
Making an individual Old Fashioned only takes a minute or two, but when you're juggling a million other tasks on Thanksgiving, it's convenient to have a big batch ready ahead of time. Along with the whiskey, simple syrup, and bitters, add in a few ounces of water to make up for the fact that you aren't diluting the cocktail by stirring it with ice. For something even more fun, check out this bottled peanut-flavored variation.
Old Timber (Rye Cocktail With Fernet)
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.
Drunk Uncle (Scotch and Cynar Cocktail)
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. For the vermouth we opt for Martini & Rossi Bianco, which has a citrusy, herbal flavor reminiscent of Lillet Blanc.
Tangy Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail
Believe me, I know from experience that it's good to have some Thanksgiving cocktails in your back pocket that are lighter on the booze. This one gets all of its alcohol from sparkling wine, which we flavor with orange bitters and a cranberry-black pepper shrub. The shrub will last a month, so make it now if you really want to get a head start on the Turkey Day prep.
A Minnesota Good-Bye (Cranberry French 75)
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 and top with sparkling wine.
Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail
This sparkling cocktail combines nutty oloroso sherry with apples in two forms: muddled fresh apple and Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy. We sweeten the cocktail with Mandarine Napoléon liqueur—it might be hard to find, so feel free to use Grand Marnier or good dry orange curacao instead.
Shagbark's Sangaree (Madeira and Lemon Cocktail)
The hardest part of making this easy-drinking sipper is finding the right Madeira—you want to find one labeled "Malmsey" for the right sweet, nutty flavor. Beyond that there's nothing more to the cocktail than simple syrup, lemon juice, and a dusting of nutmeg.