Thanksgiving is exhausting. Whether you’re traveling in the morning to get to your uncle’s house in time, getting up early to make sure everything is adequately prepped, or staying up late doing all the dishes, Thanksgiving is a marathon, not a sprint.
For me, anything that can take the guesswork and in-the-moment decision making out of big, chaotic events like Thanksgiving is a blessing. Which is why I’ve put together this handy hour-by-hour guide to Thanksgiving drinking. Based on my years behind the bar (and pulling off my fair share of holiday dinners), I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what constitutes a fulfilling and fun night of imbibing, and I’m glad to share that with you all here.
A few caveats before we get started: Just because I am giving you an hour-by-hour plan for Thanksgiving does not mean you have to drink everything. Treat this more like a map—you do not have to visit every town, just know how to get where you’re going. The hours here are also flexible, depending on when the gathering is, so start and end times may vary. I’m also implying an enthusiastic water consumption schedule. I always like to have a can (or two) of sparkling water going during big holidays like these. (Plus frequent bathroom trips provide a valid excuse to step away and escape your family, if only for a few minutes.)
8 a.m. to noon — Coffee. I cannot imagine starting a normal day without coffee, let alone an epic cooking/traveling/eating day like Thanksgiving, so if you’re like me, you’ll want to make time in your morning routine for adequate caffeination. If that’s not your thing, I love this red bush tea for something more calming.
1 p.m. — Champagne. Start your afternoon off right with something really special and unique. I prefer “grower” Champagnes, meaning the wines are made by the same people who grow the grapes. Egly-Ouriet is one of my favorites. The idea here is to have something that you’ll want to pay attention to, since it’s your first drink. It sets the tone for the rest of the night—start with a bang.
4 p.m. — Proteau Rivington Spritz. I give equal footing to both alcohol-based and zero-proof drinks. Drinking can be great; not drinking can also be great. That’s why I created Proteau, which is a line of zero-proof botanical drinks. Rivington Spritz is a bubbly blend of strawberry, Chinese rhubarb, hibiscus, and Champagne vinegar. Pour it in a wine glass with a bit of ice and garnish with an orange wedge if you’re feeling fancy. The bitterness and acidity in the Spritz will set your palate up nicely for a large meal, or act as a great companion to any hors d’oeuvres.
5 p.m. — The Last Word. Totally switching gears here to include a pretty serious cocktail for right when you’re about to sit down. It’s an equal-parts drink consisting of gin, cherry liqueur, green Chartreuse, and lime juice, and it’s easy to scale up to make a batch for everyone as they try not to read too much into where everyone’s place cards are.
6 p.m. (Dinnertime) — Boxed Wine. I know what you’re thinking, but there are a lot of great boxed wines out there these days. From the Tank and Bota Box have been Thanksgiving staples for me for years. Boxed wine is an efficient way to serve wine to a large group; one box is usually the equivalent of three or four bottles, and since no air is introduced into the vessel when you pour, the wine will keep a lot longer if by some miracle you have any leftover at the end of the night. I would just grab a box of red and a box of white and call it a day.
7 p.m. (Dinner, round two) — Unified Ferments Snow Chrysanthemum. I love anything from this Brooklyn-based kombucha producer, but this expression, made with honey and chrysanthemum flowers, is a great stand-in for a full-bodied white wine. It’s delicate and subtle, yet has enough oomph to stand up to, say, these Grandma Potatoes.
8 p.m. — Sesame Boulevardier. I created this specifically for Food52’s Residentsgiving as a respite between the savory and sweet phases of the meal. If you’re a fast eater, like me, you’ll be sipping this while you’re waiting for your aunt to stop arguing with your dad about politics and finish her plate of food already.
9 p.m. (Dessert) — Woodnose Sacré. By now, you might be feeling like you need to pace yourself so you can actually enjoy dessert with a reasonably clear head. I absolutely love this beguiling zero-proof aperitif made in Vermont from fermented maple syrup and coffee. I like to pour this on the rocks, and the bold, bitter flavors will hold up perfectly next to something like this Apple Pecan Pie.
10 p.m. — Compass Box Peat Monster. You made it. By now you probably can’t bear the thought of eating another slice of pie (or can you…), so you need something big and powerful to serve as your closing nightcap. Compass Box is a Scotch whisky blender based in London, and the Peat Monster is one of their most intense, with huge, smoky, medicinal notes balanced out with a fruity creaminess. Poured neat, it’s an ideal way to cap off a long night of eating and not trying to get into too many arguments with your problematic family.
What drinks help get you through Thanksgiving? Share them with us in the comments!