This year, let’s try something new for Thanksgiving. Yes, you may be using the same stuffing recipe that everyone in your family has used ever since the beginning of time. And, yes, you may feel particularly committed to the narrative of serving traditional wines with dinner. But this year, how about a series of beverage pairings designed to highlight some interesting, off-the-beaten path flavor profiles?
In our rush to find the perfect Thanksgiving-worthy wines, we often forget spirits. But spirits make such great complements to dinner!
So give thanks for the abundance of Long Island, where one can find a veritable treasure trove of local food, wine, beer and spirits. It really is the promised land.
I firmly believe that every meal should begin with a cocktail—and Thanksgiving is no exception.
The best kind of pre-meal drink is the kind that helps you salivate. It should have good acid, limited sweetness, and enough bitterness or pucker to leave you thinking about your next food and drink option.
Using the Wölffer Estate Pink Gin—made from juniper berries that the vineyard has grown since 1996—you can make an extraordinary negroni. In a pre-chilled rocks glass, add ice and 1 ounce each of the Wölffer Pink Gin, the Channing Daughters VerVino Vermouth Variation 6 (an autumnal vermouth made with apples, Asian pears, pumpkin, butternut squash, calendula, and sage), and Campari. Stir to combine. Garnish with either an oven-dried apple chip or a few pomegranate seeds.
This is localism at its very finest!
Meals are best begun over bubbles. This is also a good time to introduce a little sweetness to the meal, to balance out the bitter from that introductory negroni. Rather than straight-up bubbles, cut your Macari “Horses”—a fun, flirtatious sparkling rosé made from Cabernet Franc—with a half ounce of Duck Walk Vineyard’s Boysenberry Fruit Wine. It’s a play on that classic Kir Royale that your parents used to drink at New Year’s, with a truly local bent.
For those with a less pronounced sweet tooth, feel free to omit the fruit wine entirely. The Horses fares just fine all on its own.
Keep things fizzing with a pumpkin shandy. A shandy is a traditional drink that blends beer with a nonalcoholic beverage.
You can celebrate the release of Montauk Brewing Company’s first-ever pumpkin beer by making it into a fun, seasonal drink. Fill a pint glass with ice, pour in a half a cup of the Milk Pail’s apple cider, and top off with that pumpkin beer. With a microplane or cheese grater, grate some fresh nutmeg right on top of the froth for the perfect homage to autumn.
Purists, of course, can drink the beer straight from the can, sans ice and apple cider.
Instead of serving a traditional red, why not serve a chilled mulled red wine at dinner this year? Use a hearty, juicy red as your base (I like the plummy 2016 Bedell Merlot); you can pour the bottle directly into a slow cooker.
Add two cups of Milk Pail apple cider, one orange (zested and juiced), five cloves, a few cardamom pods, two cinnamon sticks, and two star anise pods. Stir to combine, and cook slowly, on low, for 30 minutes to one hour. Once the heat has been turned off, add a quarter cup of the Montauk Hard Label Peach Whiskey.
You can serve this warm, with cinnamon sticks for garnish, or, alternately, you can chill it in advance and serve it over ice, in Bordeaux glasses. It’s the perfect sweet-and-spicy complement to a rich, complex meal.
In my house, our holiday meals often end with espresso. And by espresso, I mean espresso martinis.
Long Island Spirits, Long Island’s oldest distillery, produces the compelling Ristretto Espresso Vodka, which is perfect for this occasion. In a cocktail shaker packed with ice, add 3 ounces of the espresso vodka, 1 ounce of chilled espresso and 1 ounce of white crème de cacao. Shake to combine and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with three espresso (or coffee) beans.
Who needs dessert when you have this perfect, meal-closing confection close at hand?
Just kidding. It’s Thanksgiving. Everyone needs dessert.
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One fine body…