Thanksgiving Cocktails from Aperitifs to Digestifs (and Everything in Between)

The idea of mixing cocktails for Thanksgiving might feel like yet another daunting task on an already overwhelming “feast for the ages” prep list. However, aperitifs and digestifs are the perfect antidotes to the overindulgent nature of Thanksgiving festivities. As their names suggest, these drinks serve as bookends to the meal, the aperitif an opening appetite enhancer and the digestif for settling the stomach. When choosing these drinks, think simple. Cocktails that can be made “on the fly” or that can be prepared in advance divert a minimum of energy and attention from more pressing preparations. Here are a few simple concoctions that will put you and your guests at ease. No muddling or shaking required! 

Aperitifs: Spritzes, Punch & Strong Cocktails

The classic Italian Spritz is a fun and easy way to begin your celebration. Traditionally, a spritz is made with Prosecco and Aperol but we suggest using the Tattersall Bitter Orange, a great domestic alternative to the classic Italian liqueur, and Cava or inexpensive French sparkling wine can be used in place of Prosecco. 

3 ounces dry sparkling wine
2 ounces Tattersall Bitter Orange
1 ounce soda water

Add Bitter Orange and sparkling wine to a wine glass or Tom Collins glass. Add ice and stir. Top with splash of soda and lemon twist or orange wedge.

Red Nose Punch
If you crave the Midwestern kitsch of a punch bowl with a molded ice ring look no further! This Cranberry Bourbon Punch from Saveur has the festive look of a cranberry-studded ice ring.  

28 ounces of cranberry juice
2 cups fresh cranberries
8 ounces of Bourbon
4 ounces of fresh lime juice
3 ounces of cinnamon infused simple syrup (if making at home prepare night before)
4 (12 ounce) bottles of beer (Surly Hell, Boom Island Witness or Schell’s Firebrick are great local choices)
3 limes, sliced

To make cinnamon infused simple syrup at home: mix 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in saucepan and boil until sugar is dissolved. Add six cinnamon sticks and let sit overnight. 
Place cranberries in a Bundt pan and pour over 4 cups of hot water; freeze until set (the hot water will freeze clear), about 2 hours.
Combine juices, bourbon, and syrup in a large punch bowl. Store to combine.
Un-mold frozen ice ring and float in punch; top with beer and sliced lime. 

The Negroni’s autumnal cousin is a great aperitif. It is warming, a touch sweet and easy to throw together. If you are feeling pressed for time, skip the straining: mix the ingredients in a rocks glass, stir and serve!

1.5 ounces of Bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth (try the Matthiasson Vermouth No. 2 or the Channing Daughters VerVino)
1 ounce Tattersall Bitter Orange

Stir Bourbon, vermouth, and Bitter Orange over rocks.
Strain over ice and serve! 

The Flip-Flopper/Switch-Hitter/Either-or: Vermouth & Sherry

Matthiasson Vermouth No. 2
Don’t want to mix at all? Chill the Matthiasson Vermouth No. 2 and serve it neat. Matthiasson wines are made in Northern California using sustainable and organic farming practices. You can learn more about their viticulture practices in our November 7th post. Their wines are pleasantly surprising and beautiful. This Vermouth is no different. The base of the wine is an obscure varietal called Flora - a cross between Gewürztraminer and Semillon produced by UC Davis in the 1950s. They use blood orange and sour cherries grown on their farm, which gives a beautiful citrus quality to this viscous, sweet, fortified wine. Botanicals include organic coriander, wormwood, chinchona bark, cardoons, and blessed thistle, giving the vermouth complexity and energy. If you’re feeling fancy try it in a Manhattan or the Boulevardier mentioned above! 

La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sherry
Take a hint from your granny; start drinking sherry. Sherry, a fortified wine from Spain that is toasty, tangy and nutty (but not nutty like grandma), is a delightful aperitif, food wine (try it with turkey) and digestif. Sherry comes in various styles ranging from saline and dry to rich and sweet; Fino and Manzanilla are the lightest, driest and most crisp styles of sherry, while Amontillado is dry but richer and nuttier, Oloroso and Palo Cortado sherries are richer yet and can be dry or sweet and Cream and Pedro Ximénez sherries are the sweetest of the bunch. Though it fell out of favor in recent decades, sherry is a now staging a comeback and is a great digestif on its own or in a classic cocktail like the Adonis (see below under digestifs). 

Digestifs: Down the Wormhole

The Wormhole is a lightly alcoholic cocktail made with Fernet and coffee - the perfect agents for soothing the stomach and countering the effects of tryptophan. It’s herbaceous and refreshing with a slight fizz to ease the digestion process. It’s also low in alcohol and easy to make. In honoring the Thanksgiving tradition, the ingredients are all local (excluding the lime juice).

1½ ounce Tattersall Fernet
1 ounce Five Watt “Big Watt” Cold brew
¼ ounce fresh lime juice
sparkling water
Mint sprig (garnish)

Combine Fernet, cold brew and lime juice in a glass.
Top with sparkling water and mint. 

You can pick up all the ingredients you need for the Adonis in our Winter Miseria Cocktail Kit, one of several we carry in the store. The kit includes various ideas for sherry-based cocktails if you’re feeling daring.  

2 ounces Fino or Manzanilla sherry
1 ounce Primitivo Quiles Vermouth Rojo
1 dash Bittercube orange bitters
Orange peel for garnish

Stir ingredients with ice.
Strain into chilled glass.
Garnish with orange peel.

Chateau d'Orignac Pineau de Charentes
Pineau des Charentes is a lesser-known fortified wine from southwestern France made from unfermented grape juice, grape must and Cognac eau-de-vie. It is often served as an aperitif but is also fantastic as a digestif, particularly if you are considering a cheese course. (And why wouldn’t you?) The Chateau d’Orignac Pineau des Charentes has notes of apricots, raisins and hard spices, making it a perfect fit at the Thanksgiving table. When we served this at Corner Table paired with a chocolate candy bar it was always a showstopper. It is best served chilled. If you have the energy, Pineau des Charentes is also great mixed with an Amaro (Fernet, Cynar etc.) as an after dinner cocktail.  

Gretchen Skedsvold