Thanksgiving Wine, Liquor and Beer Guide 2021

With the holiday season rapidly approaching you might find yourself wondering what to serve or bring to Thanksgiving dinner. In this article, we'll take a look at the most popular wine choices as well as the best pairings for your holiday!  And of course some fun festive spirits and easy cocktail recipes! 

What most Americans are drinking on Thanksgiving

Across the United States, wine seems to be the classic choice. Almost 65% of Americans serve wine with dinner and of that 65% over half prefer red over white or rose. Beer is the next most popular beverage coming in around 20% and only 10% enjoying spirits.  With craft distilleries gaining more and more popularity, we expect that margin might increase in the foreseeable future. Wondering why the amount of people consuming spirits is so low? Maybe because it’s not uncommon for people to drink all day. Think about it this way… most people prefer a beer or mimosa while stuffing the turkey at 10am as opposed to starting out with an old fashioned or gin and tonic.  

People spend more on Thanksgiving than other holidays.

Thanksgiving seems to be a more expensive holiday than let’s say St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve. Generally speaking, we’re not slamming cheap shots at the bar. Most drinkers enjoy sipping 3-5 alcoholic beverages on Thanksgiving Day. And even at a higher price point almost 60% say they are willing to spend around $50 on quality alcohol. Less than 15% drink only 1-2 alcoholic beverages and even fewer than that go over 5.

So if the majority favors wine, is there a specific type you should pick up before heading to the in-laws? Simple answer, yes and no. Here’s a little info that might help you decide.

RED WINES

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is not only the most popular wine in the world but also the in the United States. The small, dark grape has thick skins which produce a more concentrated, full bodied, structured wine with lots of  tannins. Common flavors associated with cabernet sauvignon are blackberry, black currant, black cherry, licorice, tobacco, violet, leather and black pepper.

Pairing: No doubt there are better choices when it comes to the perfect pairing for your bird. But die hard cabernet fans tend to drink only cab, so you can expect Uncle Tom to show up with a bottle of his favorite vintage. Fret not, there are some things you can do to make your Thanksgiving dinner more cab friendly! Add onions! Grilled or sautéed, when onions caramelize they add an umami flavor which helps soften the strong tannins in cab. Also, pump up the fresh herbs in your seasoning. Adding some fresh rosemary or thyme will accentuate the dried herb notes in the wine. Mushrooms are rich and earthy and can be served as a side or added into the stuffing. Or try sprinkling some dried porcini powder on your turkey during the last hour of roasting!

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is one of the world’s most expensive wines due to its difficulty to cultivate.  Originating from France and known for its age worthiness and finesse, pinot noir is the second most popular wine in America. The grapes are juicy with thin skins resulting in a light to medium bodied wine with bright acidity and silky tannins. A good pinot noir will have a complex flavor profile consisting of predominantly red fruits like cherry and red berries. Depending on the terroir, pinot noir can also be quite earthy with notes of forrest floor and mushroom. Pinot noir is also the favored red wine to pair with turkey on Thanksgiving Day! 

Pairing: Turkey obviously! And most of your traditional sides.

Merlot

Merlot is the most popular and widely planted grape in France and is the third most consumed red wine in the US. It is a soft, velvety plumy flavored wine which can range from fruity and light tannins to heavy and brawny depending on how it’s aged.  The major flavors associated with merlot are plum, blackberry, black cherry and raspberry with some herbal notes and vanilla, spice or chocolate undertones.  

Pairing: Big fruity notes and moderate acidity, merlot is a great choice for savory gravy over turkey or mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. 

Rosé

Rosé is the fastest growing wine category not only in the US but also the world. And with good reason. Rosé is a great option for white wine drinkers looking to branch out or for red wine drinkers on a hot summer day.  Rosé is typically produced by pressing the grape with the skins then discarding (as opposed to red wine where the skins are left in contact through the fermentation process). Expect flavors of bright strawberry, raspberry, melon, citrus and even some floral notes. 

Pairing: Between a red and white in body and flavor with a nice amount of acidity, rosé might be the best overall choice. It is very versatile and will pair well with  everything on your table from crisp salads to savory turkey and gravy. 



Cabernet Sauvignon

Pinot Noir

Merlot

Rosé

Popularity

Ranked #1 wine in US and world

Second in the US

Third in the US

Fastest Growing Category in US 

Body

Full Bodied

Light Bodied

Med - Full

Light - Med

Tannin

Heavy

Silky

Soft

Little - None

Flavor Profile

Blackberry, Black Currant, Leather, Tobacco, Violette, Pepper

Cherry, Ripe Berries, Earth, Mushroom

Black Cherry, Plum, Cocoa, Clove, Vanilla 

Strawberry, Cherry, Raspberry, Melon, Flowers, Citrus

Suggested For

Those who crave a big, bold flavor over a perfect pairing.

Best pairing with Thanks-giving turkey!

A juicy, versatile easy drinking red.

A bright, crisp, and refreshing wine. 

WHITE WINES

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in both the US and the world with over $2,500 million net sales in the US alone. The grape makes the most versatile styles of wine from sparkling to still, dry to sweet and even late harvest dessert wines. Not much of a chardonnay drinker?  Have you tried an unoaked chardonnay? Depending on how it’s aged, chardonnay can have wide variety of flavors. If the wine is aged in oak it will have a creamier texture due to malolactic fermentation. The amount of char in the barrel will dictate how much toasty, oaky, vanilla and spice flavors are present. Whereas one might detect crisp, fresh and mineral notes from “unoaked” or naked chardonnay. Tasting notes associated with oaked chardonnay are butter, baking spices and English pudding and pineapple. Unoaked chardonnay offers more crisp apple, pear, citrus and peach flavors.

Pairing: Oaked or unoaked, Chardonnay is a medium to full bodied delicious white wine that also pairs nicely with turkey, mashed potatoes, baked yams and sweet potatoes and gravy. 

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris (or pinot grigio if it’s grown in Italy) is the second most consumed white wine in America. It is crisp, clean and refreshing with nice acidity and a decent amount of fruitiness. Pinot Gris is a mutant of pinot noir and is greyish-blue to pinkish-brown fruit. Look for tropical and stone fruit flavors as well as some zippy acidity and underlying white pepper or arugula notes. Pinot Gris is a very food friendly wine and will not disappoint at your next dinner gathering. 

Pairing: Due to its balanced fruitiness, high acidity and low tannins, pinot gris is a very food friendly wine. It will not overpower anything that you serve.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc originated in the Bordeaux region in France and is the third most popular white wine consumed in the US. This green-skinned grape varietal produces dry and crisp white wines with bright acidity.  Depending on the climate and terroir, sauvignon blanc can range from tropical fruits, grapefruit, lime and pear to aggressive herbaceous notes of grass and tarragon. The grassy, herbal, bell pepper flavors are due to a chemical compound called pyrazine. When the grape is picked early or grown in cooler conditions those flavors are more predominant.

Pairing: Sauvignon blanc pairs nicely with green vegetables and citrusy sauces. 


Chardonnay

Pinot Gris

Sauvignon Blanc

Popularity

Ranked # 1 white in US

Second most consumed white in US

Third most consumed white in US

Body

Full Bodied

Medium 

Light - Med

Acidity

Moderate

Balanced

High

Flavor Profile

Oaked: Butter, Vanilla, Spice, Toffee

Unoaked: Apple, Pear, Peach, Citrus

White Peach, Stone Fruit, Nectarine, Lemon

Grapefruit, Fresh Cut Grass, Lime, Tropical Fruit, Lemongrass, Tarragon

Suggested For

Those who crave big, bold flavor. Great turkey pairing!

Versatile, easy drinking crowd pleaser.

Crisp acidity. Great veggie pairing!


BEST THANKSGIVING BEER PAIRINGS

While Budweiser sneaks in at #10 on the list of most popular beers purchased on Thanksgiving, let’s take a look at what to pair with your favorite holiday dishes. 

Turkey - Amber or Brown Ale

For the star of the show, your oven roasted turkey, we recommend an amber or brown ale. In fact, if you could only serve one beer with Thanksgiving dinner, we’d pick an amber ale. They are full bodied with plenty of flavor but not so strong that they overpower your meal.  They also pair great with any fowl. Brown ales are a great choice for turkey. Their slight caramel sweetness enhances the savory flavors of the turkey, especially that crispy seasoned skin!

Honey-Glazed Ham - Hefeweizen

The nice citrus acidity and mild wheat malt of a Hefeweizen balance the sweet, salty, bold taste of the ham. A slightly sweeter choice like a Belgian triple or a darker ale will really enhance the flavor too!

Salads - Belgian Style Wheat Ale

Witbiers are spiced with orange and coriander making them delicious companions to citrusy salads.  If you’re doing a creamy dressing like ranch or caesar, you might opt for a blonde ale like Ska Brewing Company’s True Blonde. Characteristics of blonds start with a soft, sweet maltiness followed by mild bread and biscuity flavors. 

Mashed Potatoes & Stuffing - Quadruple

For these savory sides we love a good quadruple. They are earthy and complex and compliment many holiday side dishes. Belgian-style quads are amber to dark brown in color with malty sweet flavors like caramel and dark sugar. They finish with a moderate hoppy bitterness. You might be surprised at their considerably light body compared to their alcoholic strength. These beers are rich and meant to be savored with most weighing in at 9.1% -14.2% abv. Nonetheless, they are sure to be a crowd pleaser! If you’re looking for something a little lighter in alcohol content we also like spiced ales. 

Veggies - Saison

Saisons or farmhouse ales are our pick with the vegetable dishes. They are highly carbonated, fruity and spicy and pair especially well with grilled veggies. Bright acidity and light citrus notes give way to fall flavors of apple and pear with a little funk on the finish. 

Desserts & Pies - Stout

Stouts are dark, rich, full flavored ales made from malted barley. Stouts have a distinctive dark chocolate and coffee flavor with a creamy, silky mouthfeel. Reminiscent of coffee and cream or sweetened espresso, stout topped our list for favorite dessert beers.  


Style

Suggested Brand

Tasting Notes

Price


Oven Roasted Turkey

Amber or Brown Ale

Newcastle Brown Ale

Full bodied & smooth with notes of banana & dried fruits

$8.50 / 6pk

12oz bottles

Honey-Glazed Ham

Hefeweizen 

Widmer Hefeweisen

Malty, complex, balanced fruit and citrus, subtle sweetness

$10.35 / 6pk

12oz bottles

Salads (Especially with Citrus Dressing)

Belgian Style Wheat Ale

Blue Moon

Crisp, tangy, zesty orange, light spicy wheat 

$8.00 / 6 pk 

12oz bottles

Mashed Potatoes & Stuffing 

Quadruple

Trappistes Rochefort 10

Dark fruits, fig, raisin, plum, dates, burnt toast, chocolate

$7 / 11.2 oz btl

$80 / 12 pk

Vegetables

Saison

Saison Dupont

Lemon, apple, pear, high hops, a little funky with fruity esters 

$15.00 / 4 pk

12oz bottles

Dessert & Pies

Stout

Guinness 

Malty sweetness with hoppy bitterness chocolate & coffee

$9.00 / 6 pk

12oz bottles



LIQUOR AND COCKTAILS

Now that we’ve got wine and beer out of the way, we can focus on booze and Thanksgiving cocktail recipes! We love the idea of big-batch cocktails that can be prepared ahead of time and served throughout the day. Cranberry punch or spiked apple cider are easy and tasty favorites, but we’ll explore a few classic cocktails too!

Whiskey & Rum

It makes sense that brown booze would win the popularity contest. With their warming qualities and spice, vanilla and oak notes, nothing screams Thanksgiving more than these two spirits.

And, when it comes to liquor, whiskey is the most consumed spirit on Thanksgiving. Wild Turkey would be the obvious choice just because of its name, but sip slowly! This boozy whiskey weighs in at 101 proof but makes a fantastic old fashioned.

A spiced rum like Sailor Jerry is another favorite because of its fervent characteristics. Think of adding cinnamon, clove, cardamom and star anise flavors to apple cider, eggnog, or a pumpkin spiced latte or martini! Sounds delicious right? 

Vodka & Gin

If you’re not into the darker spirits, a flavored vodka like Smirnoff Cranberry can be just as festive. If gin is more your jam, try sprucing up a classic Gin and Tonic with Bombay Sapphire. Make it more festive by adding some fresh cranberries and a rosemary sprig! It will look gorgeous and the fresh rosemary will give off a delightful aroma as you sip.  Gin’s juniper base and mix of other herbs and botanicals is sure to make any cocktail you serve a holiday hit! 

Liqueurs

Of course we couldn’t leave out a few liqueur recommendations that just remind us of the Holidays. Pama Pomegranate Liqueur is bright red in color with a firm yet sweet pomegranate flavor.  Just add a splash to some Prosecco and you’ll have a beautiful pink bubbly libation. (For added points, garnish with a few pomegranate seeds! They’ll float around your flute like snow in a snow globe!) Domaine de Canton is a ginger liqueur that packs quite a punch. Ginger pairs well with many festive flavors so add touch to your vodka cranberry, apple cider or any rum or whiskey cocktail! St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur might be a personal favorite. It’s sweet and spiced and goes with just about anything! Try adding it to a margarita in place of triple sec for a fun fall twist. 

Brand & Price 750ml Btl

Flavor Profile

Cocktails

Recipes & Methods

Wild Turkey 101

Rich, oak, caramel, vanilla, honey

Old Fashioned

2oz bourbon, .5oz simple syrup, 2 dashes angostura & orange bitters - Stir with ice, serve over large cube. Garnish: orange peel, cherry

Sailor Jerry 

Cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla spice, pepper

Spiked Cider

Pour 2oz spiced rum into glass over ice. Top with apple cider. Stir and enjoy.

Smirnoff Cranberry

Juicy, ripe cranberry, slight tartness

Holiday Mule

In a copper mug, combine 2oz cranberry vodka, ice and ginger beer. Garnish: lime wedge

Bombay Saphire

Bright citrus, lemon, juniper, spice

Thanksgiving G&T 

Pour 2oz gin into glass over ice. Top with tonic. Garnish: Fresh cranberries, rosemary sprig

Pama Pomegranate Liqueur

Sweet and tart, currant, pomegranate

Pama  & Prosecco

Pour 1 oz pomegranate liqueur into champagne flute and top with sparkling wine. Garnish: Pomegranate seeds

Domaine de Canton

Candied ginger, lemon zest, honey

Ginger Martini

1.5oz ginger liqueur, 1oz vodka, .5oz lemon juice - Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake and strain into martini glass

St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur

Pear butter, baked apple, cinnamon spice

Spiced Margarita

1.5oz tequila, .75oz pear liqueur, .75oz lime juice, .75oz agave - Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice.  Shake and serve with or without ice. Garnish: Pear slice, whole star anise

FANCY GLASSWARE FOR YOUR FESTIVE TABLE

Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without decorations and there's no reason your table should be any different. Check out these fun finds to add a little extra joy to your spread. 

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