If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, there’s a lot to think about: the menu, how much of everything to buy, and where to seat everyone at the table to reduce the likelihood of political fights (Thanks, Trump).
Our favorite LA bartender, Tom Costello, is here to make sure you get the booze part right. From what you need to stock your bar, to the best wines to have on hand, you’ll be toasting Costello in thanks for this handy guide to Thanksgiving drinks.
What’s a good drink for the cooking portion of the day?
“Before you eat the Thanksgiving feast, you gotta cook the Thanksgiving feast,” Costello wisely explains. “I’m powering through my prepping, basting, and baking with a liter of strong cold-brew coffee (either LA’s own Secret Squirrel or Groundwork in my case – drink local!) spiked with some homemade Irish cream liqueur. You can whip up a batch in about five minutes. My buddy Mary Anna King, who started me on this excellent coffee addition, [we] both make ours on the boozier side, so feel free to adjust the alcohol level to suit your preference.
Cold Brew Coffe with Irish Cream Liqueur
- 2 cups Jameson (or Tullamore Dew or Bushmill’s)
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp instant coffee or shot of espresso
- 1 tsp cocoa or come chocolate syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
Method: “And I blast it all in a blender to get the texture right. Make in advance, save in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks.”
Any good cocktails for the occasion?
“At my wife’s request I’m definitely batching some cranberry shrub to add into rye whiskey Manhattans. At my current bar gig, Officine Brera in LA’s Arts District, we’re infusing bourbon with roasted bone marrow and mixing that with Amaro Averna and walnut and Angostura bitters into a rich, savory cocktail we call the Gentleman’s Breakfast. I’ll definitely have some of that on hand for guests.
To make roasted bone marrow infused bourbon, courtesy of Officine Brera and Jesse Penwarden: “Let one large, roasted marrow bone infuse one liter of bourbon at room temperature for several days; strain, chill, repeat until all the solids have been removed.” (This is very similar to a fat-washed spirit.)
“Manhattan proportions. 2:1 whiskey: amaro, dash of each bitters. If you’re dedicated enough to try that at home, thank you (and you’re welcome!)”
Let’s talk turkey: what kind of wine goes with it?
“Pairing wine with traditional Thanksgiving dinner is relatively easy and flexible,” according to Costello. “You can go with red, white, sparkling. I love West Coast Pinot Noir, or, if you’re preferring a bigger, spicier wine, Zinfandel. For white, Chardonnay is fine but really only if it’s un-oaked or very lightly oaked. I’d lean toward a dry Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, or Gruner Vetliner, myself.
“My wife just walked past and screamed at me, ‘Tell them about sparkling Shiraz!’ So – yeah – the only time I have ever deeply enjoyed sparkling red wines is with Thanksgiving dinner. Their juiciness, acidity, and effervescence really refresh the palate as you’re plowing through potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and that marshmallow/yam concoction your cousin brought over.”
We made it through dinner! Now what do we drink, Tom?
“After dinner settle that meal the Italian way: with more booze. Specifically a delicious, gastro-system-soothing amaro. Amaro literally means “bitter,” yet they are often sweet in equal measure to balance out their bitterness.
“Once (and still) purported to have medicinal qualities, amari often feature base flavors from such potent herbs and barks as cinchona (source of quinine) and gentian root, layered in with up to dozens of other botanicals in dearly-held secret recipes. Some recipes have been passed in secret within families for generations.
“Staying well within the ‘drink local’ creed, you can get down with any number of top-quality amari being distilled around the country. Bruto Americano from St. George Distillery in the San Francisco Bay area –ginger, bitter orange, sandalwood. Brovo Spirits Amaro #1 out of Seattle – clove, orange, peppercorn. Amaro Donna Rosa from Don Ciccio e Figli in Washington, DC – honeysuckle, rose, vanilla. Each of these can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks with a citrus twist, or with club soda.”
What do I need for a properly stocked home bar?
“With so much division in our nation, I really see Thanksgiving as a great chance to heal some wounds and draw us back together. That being said, you should have options available on Thanksgiving for your imbibing pleasure. So instead of throwing another cocktail idea at you, I am full-throatedly endorsing a basic, yet versatile, well-stocked home bar prepared to make the classics with precision and verve.
- 1 straight rye (Rittenhouse, Hochstatder’s, Old Potrero)
- 1 modern dry gin (Aviation, Leopold’s, Dillon’s Unfiltered)
- 1 bottle of vodka (Loft & Bear, Tito’s)
- 1 bourbon (Buffalo Trace, Wathen’s, Old Scout Smooth Ambler)
- 1 tequila (Espolon, Ocho Reposado, Fortaleza Blanco)
- 1 rum (Bacardi Superior)
- .5 liter bottle each of sweet and dry vermouth (you don’t need more unless you KNOW you’re mixing a ton of Manhattans and martinis)
- Angostura bitters
- Luxardo Brandied Cherries
- Soda water
- Tonic water
- Cranberry juice
- Lemons and limes (if you’re juicing fresh, a rule of thumb is that you’re getting 1 drink’s worth of juice out of each lime and two out of each lemon)
- An orange
- Simple syrup
- Hand-held citrus juicer
- Cocktail shaker tins (only need one set)
- Paring knife
- Cocktail stirring spoon
“A good, classic reference book like The Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich. But, with the internet and apps you don’t even really need that at this point.”
“You can stock all of the above for under $200 and 30% of that is equipment that you’ll use forever because it will basically never break.
“Of course, based on your tastes and what you want to offer your guests, you’ll make subtractions (and certainly additions) to this list. A good single-malt, Campari and/or Aperol, maraschino liqueur, Cointreau or Triple Sec would be the logical next additions.”
Cheers, Tom! And happy Thanksgiving!