Thanksgiving is day of delicious decadence. But, what good is eating your weight in turkey and sides if there is not a proper beverage to wash it all down? Picking that beverage can be challenging given the motley mix of friends and family with different palates to appease. Fortunately, Kenneth McCoy of NYC’s Ward III and The Rum House was able to offer some pointers.
McCoy, officially titled ‘Chief Creative Officer of Public House Collective,’ is also the child of a Manhattan bar owner. So, the man knows a little something about the intersection of drinks and family.
For starters, McCoy cautioned that Thanksgiving is a marathon, not a sprint; you probably don’t want to drink cocktails for the duration. “You don’t want to be pounding whisk(e)y,” he joked. “I’d start out with some lagers or pilsners. Low ABV. Nothing too crazy. Everyone is into high ABV IPA’s right now, but that’s not the best way to start out when everyone is drinking so long. I’d have some wine in there also.”
When cocktail hour does arrive, the expert suggests that the holiday is well suited for brown spirits. “A lot of things that come to mind but most of all whiskey especially bourbon and rye. The flavors of sweetness, caramel, wood, and spice pair really well with the traditional Thanksgiving meal.”
However, remember that your guests are likely not all cocktail geeks—or heavy drinkers— and adjust your specs accordingly. For example, he suggests reducing the whiskey base in a Boulevardier.
“I’d normally go a little heavier on the rye or bourbon. In this case, I’d go the opposite way,” McCoy explained. “3/4oz. whiskey–max, and then the normal, one part Campari and one part Vermouth.”
The pro also suggested reducing serving stress by building the drinks in bulk. “I think it’s always nice to actually batch it all out beforehand. Mix it first and then put it in the freezer. It makes it so much smoother.”
If you’re new to batching, the process is simple. Basically, you’re just multiplying the recipe by the number servings desired. A common measuring cup can be used instead of a jigger. When it comes time to serve, McCoy recommends using a pitcher or punch bowl and letting your family and friends help themselves.
By the time that the meal is over, you may have killed one of your uncles or passed out on the sofa next to a different uncle. However, if you have survived, now is the time to drink your spirits neat.
“Whiskey can almost be a digestif,” noted McCoy. “At that point in the meal, you want a whisk(e)y, armagnac, cognac, or brandy. It’s a good opportunity to enjoy a special bottle. If there’s MacAllen 12 Sherry Oak (or even a Van Winkel Family Reserve), bust it out!”
Sherry is a traditional end to a festive night and Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to convert the uninitiated. “At that point in the night, you can probably sell them on anything,” McCoy advised with a laugh. “Kind of slip it in there. It’s like food when someone says, ‘I don’t eat that,’ then agree to have a little taste, they often discover that they actually like the food.”
Of course, whatever you’re drinking (or foisting on friends,) always remember to do so responsibly. If staying with the family is a bridge too far, be sure to call an Uber or Lyft (or even an old fashioned cab.)