As the annual day of giving thanks approaches, we’re reminded of just how much we have to be grateful for. Like Bugey Cerdon. And bourbon. And Champagne. And, of course, other people—particularly those who have become our drinking buddies both digitally and IRL. This crew of writers, sommeliers, winemakers, brewers, bartenders and chefs are inevitably at the center of any good time. So, we consulted some of them to find out how they’ll be navigating the motley tempest of relatives and casseroles.
If all goes as planned, we’ll be toasting one another from afar with vintage Champagne, whiskey, 50 shades of beer, savory whites, bright reds and, perhaps unwisely, eggnog (bless you, Jeffrey Morgenthaler). More wisely, Underberg. Lots of Underberg.
Ah Thanksgiving… To start, maybe some rosé, something French, but hearty like a Tavel—Chateau de Trinquevedel would be rad. With dinner, I like true Beaujolais, not the nouveau stuff. Gamay just bleeds November colors. A fleurie would be excellent, but you have to get a number of bottles, because this is the dinner wine. Clos de la Roilette is a favorite of mine. Maybe a simple Averna for a nice digestivo/amaro. And depending on how tired I am, it usually is a nice night for a really old calvados. I mean, not really, really old, but I recently got a bottle of Lemorton Domfrontais 1986 that is a classic apple-pear beast.
ROBERT SIMONSON | Author, The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail
Some years ago, legendary liquor shopkeeper LeNell Smothers turned me on to ruché, an obscure Italian red grape variety grown in the Piedmont. It’s an old, but little-known wine. Very little of it is made, and even less gets to the U.S. But LeNell had some, as was her habit when she ran her store in Red Hook. She traded in the great and hard-to-get. Since discovering it, I buy a bottle for Thanksgiving every year. It’s kind of miraculous just how perfectly ruché matches with a traditional feast. And today it’s much easier to find than in 2005.
For after the meal, I find nothing helps digestion along than a little bottle of Underberg bitters.
GARRETT OLIVER | Brewmaster, Brooklyn Brewery
As you’d imagine, there’s no end of booze on hand at my house for Thanksgiving. But it’s not all beer. We’ll start off with our 3.4 percent Brooklyn 1/2 Ale, which is a zingy light farmhouse ale. When it comes to turkey time—and I go for a Rhode Island Red with hand-made stuffing and all the usual suspects—it’ll be Brooklyn Local 2, Brooklyn “K is for Kriek”, Olga Raffault Chinon “Les Picasses” 2002 and Domaine de Roally Viré-Clessé 2012. Then Brooklyn Black Ops with dessert, and some nice fresh Russian River Pliny the Elder for hanging out afterwards. It’s going to be a fine day.
I am a huge fan of splurging on a great bottle of aged Champagne for Thanksgiving. As soon as my mother breaks out the mixed nuts with the nutcracker and pick, I am popping corks. There’s something so earthy and autumnal about aged Champagne that the symbolism of drinking it on Thanksgiving works so perfectly.
MARTIN CATE | Owner, Smuggler’s Cove
The (new) tradition at our house at the holidays is a round of Manhattan variants we call the Walter Smith, and it’s a tribute to my grandfather, David Bitter. He was a manager at several Walter Smith men’s clothing stores in Fresno, CA for decades. What makes it a Walter Smith is using Grandpa’s preferred tipple, Kessler Blended Whiskey. For some, that might sound a little rough (or cheap), but it brings back good memories of Grandpa, who always had two fingers of the stuff in one hand and a smile on his face for all the grandkids.
ROSIE SCHAAP | Drink Columnist, New York Times Magazine; Author, Drinking with Men: A Memoir
Cider—something earthy and a little funky and quite dry—is my favorite drink with Thanksgiving dinner. I always throw a few apples in the roasting pan with my turkey and deglaze the pan with a little cider first before adding turkey stock. And there are always apples in my bread stuffing. So, you get the idea: Apples are big for me on the holiday, both in my food and my drink. If I’m making cocktails before the big feast, the Autumn Bonfire—a recipe I created in 2012 for my drink column in the New York Times Magazine—is just the thing.
The Vino di Anna Rosso—one of the new red wines I plan on introducing to the mix this year—is a lovely ‘gamay-esque’ style natural nerello mascalese from an ancient Palmento di Solcchiata about 900-980 meters up on Mt. Etna, Sicily. This is a wonderful time of year for nebbiolo. The Brovia Barolo Villero 2009 is drinking beautifully and will not overpower the delicate flavors while holding up to that stuffing and mashed potatoes.
Amontillado sherry is wonderful with pumpkin pie—and for those in the apple pie camp, the Virgoan, Malvasia delle Lipari or the Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle Vino da Uve Stramatura ‘Ninive’. For the pecan pie fans, a chinato from Vergano.
BRAD THOMAS PARSONS | Author, Bitters and the upcoming Amaro
My favorite cocktail for the holidays—it will get you from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve—and the the one my family always asks me to mix up is Damon Boelte’s The Long Hello. He created this for a friend’s wedding, and it’s elegant, delicious and easy to make. It batches up nicely into a punch garnished with apples and nutmeg.
And you can’t have a gut-busting day of turkey, gravy, dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans and pie without a bottle of amaro at the ready. Amaro Nonino Quintessentia from Friuli is lightly bitter, rounded out with bitter orange and burnt sugar. Serve it in a rocks glass with two ice cubes and an orange slice. Varnelli Amaro Dell’Erborista comes in a beautiful flip-capped bottle that makes a statement. It’s an unfiltered, dry, bitter blend of fire-roasted botanicals sweetened with honey.
Interviews have been edited and condensed.