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Top five food-and-drink pairings for Thanksgiving

Spruce up the Thanksgiving festivities with a themed cocktail or thoughtful food pairing.

Three bottled of whiskies surrounded by pumpkins
Pair Bourbon or rye with your Thanksgiving meal.

Food is the star of any Thanksgiving table, and sure enough, the holiday would be incomplete without one or more plates piled high and wide. But you’re going to need something to wash all that down with, and a family gathering like Thanksgiving (which falls on 23 November this year) is the perfect opportunity to test out your cocktail making and food pairing skills. Or, just bring a bottle you really love and share it with your closest friends and family.

Not sure where to start? Try these brands and cocktail recipes, perfect for Thanksgiving and the many days of leftovers that follow.

Maverick Distilling

Three bottled of whiskies surrounded by pumpkins
Bourbon or rye, you decide, but both pair well with Thanksgiving food

Maverick Distilling in San Antonio, Texas, is located steps from the Alamo on the original homestead of Samuel Maverick, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Their range of whiskies includes straight Bourbons and a straight rye, boasting flavours that pair well with a variety of Thanksgiving dishes.

The brand recommends the Private Reserve Straight Texas Bourbon (US$75) with turkey or ham, for its deeper flavour. The Straight Bourbon works just as well with everything from the main course to its side, especially corn. For dessert, the Barrel Proof Bourbon (US$65) will match well with chocolate, brownies, and peanut brittle, while the Straight Rye (US$75) is better suited for pumpkin pie, gingerbread, and cinnamon raisin dishes.

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey 101 makes a delicious Thanksgiving dram or cocktail

Wild Turkey naturally comes to mind when discussing Thanksgiving and spirits, and their 101 proof Bourbon and rye provide the base for cocktails year round. The recently released Generations, made by three generations of whiskey makers, seems an apt pour when surrounded by family, though it’s already listed well beyond its original US$450 price tag. If you opt for the cocktail route, a Toddy does the trick on a crisp fall day, with this recipe adding Grand Marnier and warming all ingredients together rather than diluting with hot water.

Grand Toddy

1 part Grand Marnier 
0.75 part Wild Turkey Bourbon 101
0.75 part Lemon juice
0.75 part Simple syrup
3 parts water
1 Clove
1 Cinnamon Stick
Method: Warm all the ingredients inside a kettle or a sauce pan. Pour the mix into a heated Irish Coffee Glass.

Noble Oak

The Maple Chai Punch made with Noble Oak Double Oaked rye

Edrington-owned Noble Oak commits to planting a tree for every bottle sold of its whiskey, with 1,000,000 committed to date in partnership with One Tree Planted. Based in Ohio, the brand finishes all of its whiskeys in Port, Sherry, or other casks, making them a flavourful choice when constructing drinks. This batched cocktail uses apple cider, chai tea, maple syrup and Noble Oak’s Double Oaked Rye (US$42), a potential crowd pleaser as everyone waits for dinner.

Maple Chai Punch

8 cups Chai, chilled⁠
4 cups Apple cider⁠
2 cups Noble Oak Rye⁠
1/4 cup Maple syrup⁠
Cinnamon sticks, for serving⁠
Star anise, for serving⁠

Method: Combine chai, apple cider, Noble Oak Rye, and maple syrup in a large Punch bowl. Stir well, until maple syrup is dissolved.⁠ Add large ice cubes and serve. Garnish glasses with cinnamon sticks and star anise.⁠

Compass Box

Compass Box core range
A number of Compass Box whiskies are recommended to pair with Thanksgiving food

Scotch blenders Compass Box produce a wide variety of complex and elegant flavours, giving you a multitude of pairing options, while remaining approachable for those in the room who may be new to whisky.

Orchard House (US$50) pays homage to the season and works well as a pre-dinner toast over cheese or a salad with diced apples. Spice Tree (US$50) balances well with savoury turkey and herb-loaded stuffing. Splash some apple cider in your glass to turn your neat pour into a quick cocktail.

For dessert, Hedonism (US$70) is meant to embody guilty pleasure and celebration, with notes of toffee, chocolate, and dried fruit enhancing chocolate cake, brownies, or dark chocolate truffles.

Isle of Harris Gin

The Hygee in Harris made with Isle of Harris gin

Distilled and bottled on the Scottish isles, Isle of Harris gin (US$66) uses locally foraged sugar kelp seaweed along with juniper, coriander seeds, cubebs, cassia bark, angelica root, bitter orange peel, and liquorice root to create a maritime spirit that plays off of autumn’s sweeter flavours. Bitter orange notes make it a good complement to the tartness of key lime pie, while the distillery’s The Hearach single malt (US$90) matches well with apple and pecan pie. They also have a recipe for a boozy hot chocolate that sounds perfect for a fireside sip. 

Hygge In Harris

25ml Harris Gin
150ml Peat-smoked milk (alternatively, stir milk with 1 drop of liquid smoke)
4 x heaped tsp Organic cocoa powder
1 x heaped tsp Vanilla sugar

Method: Heat the smoked milk in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring in the cocoa powder and vanilla sugar to dissolve. In a mug, add the Harris Gin before pouring in the heated cocoa milk. Garnish with a dusting of cocoa powder and a cinnamon twirl.

Smoked Milk: In a BBQ smoker, burn peat, along with some flavoured wood chips such as maple. To cold-smoke the milk, wait until the fuel has cooled to approximately 90°F/32°C and add the milk in a wide disposable aluminium tray, sitting on top of a similar-sized tray of ice cubes. Leave to infuse for one to two hours, then allow the smoked milk to fully cool to room temperature. Alternatively, place a shallow pan on a grill grate and smoke for 30 minutes.

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