When you work in hospitality and craft alcohol, there’s a certain level of expectation that arrives with any family gathering. From casual holiday potlucks to full-on celebratory sit down dinners, if you do what we do for a living, chances are your family has caught on to the magic that comes from a perfectly matched meal and festive drink. Thanksgiving drinks and food pairings are no exception. I mean, if you had an expert at your disposal, wouldn’t you tap them in?
Luckily for our friends and family, everyone here at The Crafty Cask is obsessed with quality food, craft spirits, beer, wine, and cider and the stories that go with them—heck we made a business out of it! So, we also want to share our go-to Thanksgiving drinks and pairings along with a few recipes and tips with you—our extended family!
Pre-Game: Cocktails & Snacks
Alright, we all know you’ve got to snack while you cook. You’re probably sipping on something, too! I’m partial to tasting as I go, but I will never turn down a bowl of dip. Thanksgiving prep starts early in my house; I’ve usually got a coffee in one hand and a Bloody Mary in the other while I slice, dice, and season.
Don’t skimp on those Bloody Mary garnishes by the way, life is all about balance. Mine usually looks like it has a salad on top. Shrimp cocktail? SIGN ME UP! I am going to call that a salad too.
A well-curated cheese board is always welcome! My sister always makes little cheese labels and adds fun accompaniments like olives, pickles, and jams with a selection of crackers. Gougères (fancy cheese puffs!) are also surprisingly easy to make, impressive, and delicious.
I love a well-balanced cocktail before or after a meal, the seasonal flavors in my Fall Old Fashioned riff and our lower ABV Fall Spritz cider cocktail are perfect holiday drinks to pair with appetizers!
Kick Off: Let The Appetizer Game Begin!
As you might guess, starting things off with a smorgasbord of salads is a win in my book. Of course, the ingredients, tastebuds, and traditions vary depending on where you are and who you are cooking for!
There are a lot of allergies in my family. A lot. One year for Thanksgiving we had EpiPen training after dinner. While watching my mom and her sisters attempt to use the practice pen on each other (resulting in bruise-inducing hilarity) was fun, we know food allergies and safety are no laughing matter.
This means I spend a lot of time cross-checking recipes for allium (no onions y’all), nuts, coconut, certain seeds, and gluten. Don’t even get me started on who doesn’t like what kind of cheese, how many of them won’t eat pepper, and which one of my family members hates rosemary.
After years of careful honing, my go-to allergen-free (for my family at least) dish is Roasted Carrot Salad with Pickled Golden Raisins and Herbs!
Pssst…there is indeed pepper in this dish, don’t tell my mother.
Recipe: Jena's Roasted Carrot Salad with Pickled Raisins & Herbs
A healthy and delicious side to any holiday feast!
3 cups peeled carrots, cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup mint roughly chopped
1/2 cup parsley roughly chopped
1 cup shelled raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 Tsp Cumin
1/4 Tsp Paprika
2 TBS Olive Oil
1 orange, juiced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 TBS Honey
1 Tsp grated ginger
Salt & Pepper to taste
For Pickled Raisins:
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 Tsp pickling spice
1 Tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 strip orange zest
Preheat oven to 350F while you cut the carrots in matchsticks. Toss the carrots in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
On a separate baking sheet, drizzle pumpkin seeds with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin and paprika. Bake roughly 10 minutes, until they begin to pop!
In a small saucepan, bring water, apple cider vinegar, pickling spices and cinnamon to a boil, add raisins, orange zest, and salt and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, stir in honey. Remove from heat and cool before straining.
Build dressing in a lidded jar and shake!
Remove carrots and pumpkin seeds from oven, toss the carrots in dressing while they are still hot. Combine carrots, pickled raisins, and herbs in a mixing bowl and toss before transferring to serving dish. Top with pumpkin seeds!
Another family favorite salad recipe comes from our Community Manager, Danika Good: “The 7 Layer Salad is a staple, and demanded by everyone on both sides of my family. My Grandma Good will sometimes even make a secret second dish to bring out later so everyone can get their fix.” I like your style, Grandma!
Recipe: Danika's 7 Layer Salad
Grandma Good’s pro-tip: make a secret second tray!
1 head iceberg lettuce
4 hard boiled eggs
1 (10 oz) bag frozen peas (unthawed)
1 pkg bacon fried & crumbled
3 cup mayo
3 Tsp sugar
2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
In a 9×13 pan, layer lettuce, eggs, peas, & bacon in that order.
In a bowl, mix mayo & sugar.
Spread on top.
Top with cheddar cheese.
Cover & refrigerate overnight or at least 6-12 hours.
Sides Steal The Show
Thanksgiving is all about the sides. The act of preparing them is a sacred duty. Now pour yourself some vino or other holiday drink and put on your apron! Our Chief Tippling Officer Evan Rothrock has a way with the spuds and he’s not afraid to share. “I’m usually put on mashed potato duty, but what my mom doesn’t know is that I add way more butter than she thinks when her back is turned.”
Look, if you aren’t already aware, butter is what makes restaurant food so good. There’s no way around that. Salt and butter, baby!
Want to up your potato game? Follow Evan’s Pro-Tips:
- Lots of butter (yes please)
- Leave the potatoes in the pot on the heat after straining off the water so they start to dry out and get flakey, then mash dry before adding the milk and butter. Makes for fluffier, lighter mashed potatoes.
- Try mixing in strained cottage cheese! Or Suzanne’s favorite – sour cream.
The other two Rothrock go-to dishes, a savory Cornbread Dressing and a Wilted Spinach Salad, also have some crafty pro-tips. “When working with red onions, soak in ice water for half an hour to mellow them before adding to the salad. Also, grinding up Corn Nuts and toasting in a dry pan to use in the cornbread stuffing is clutch”
Our founder Suzanne goes all out for this meal – from full menus covering appetizers through dessert, including some epic side dishes that she’s become known for over the years.
“I LOVE Thanksgiving and used to plan like crazy for it. In fact, I have full menus from past years with every recipe, timing for when to make each dish, and more. It’s honestly my favorite holiday. My favorite recipes for succotash, coconut sweet potato casserole, and cranberry pepper jelly are three items that have become so popular with friends and family I’m in trouble if I show up without them!”
The Main Thanksgiving Drinks & Food Pairing Event!
As we would expect from our tipple loving founder Suzanne, the piece de resistance on her Thanksgiving table is soaked in booze. For days!
“I stumbled across this beer brined turkey recipe over a decade ago now, and I have a hard time straying because it’s so delicious. I always have at least one person concerned it’s going to taste like beer or be overpowering, but it’s perfect. When you use a brown ale it really let the flavors of the turkey shine through in a much more complex way.”
Suzanne recommends pairing her Thanksgiving feast with a dry and funky craft cider. “The acidity and bubbles help cut through the richness of the meal…plus, what tastes more like fall than cider?!” Spanish style ciders and Wildcraft’s Sage Cider are two of her favorite Thanksgiving drinks.
With his background in wine, it’s no surprise that Evan goes grape when it comes to holiday drinks recommendations! Opting for rosé or a light-bodied chilled red like a Gamay or Pinot Meunier to balance out all that buttah. While he sneakily adds that butter, Evan is often pouring wines like: 2018 La Rochelle Pinot Meunier – Parliament Hills Vineyard, 2019 Nicoletta de Fermo ‘Le Cince’ Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Rosato, or 2020 Jax Y3 Rosé of Pinot Noir
Traditionally speaking, the holiday drinks are kept separate from the meal in Danika’s extended family. Post holiday meal traditions, however, are a different story.
Danika and her sister bring seasonal brews and cider for the family to sample while playing games. In their faimly, Oktoberfest beers are always on heavy rotation, with Bob’s 47 Oktoberfest from local Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Company being their mom’s all time fave!
For those of you that also don’t imbibe, there are lovely options for spirit free Thanksgiving drinks! A sparkling lemonade with a rosemary simple syrup or a mulled cider are both fantastic holiday drink options!
For a more intimate dinner, our wine tasting host Stefan’s go to is his Turkey Breast Provençal. The recipe is also equally fantastic with chicken!
This wine and music loving dude has riffed on this classic for years, creating the perfect festive entrée for two to be paired with a local California chardonnay or perhaps a Pinot Noir. Both are fantastic with this dish and Stefan’s favorites for Thanksgiving drinks. Stefan loves: Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir or Balletto Chardonnay. He didn’t recommend a playlist but I bet he’s got one! If you need one, drop a comment below.
Recipe: Stefan's Turkey Provencal
Perfect for a smaller gathering and a delicious classic any time of year.
2 raw turkey breasts with skin on
3 large celery sticks – diced
16 baby carrots – diced
1medium white onion – diced
1 full bulb with garlic – diced
1/3 of a cup of butter
1 cup of white wine
2 cups of chicken broth
Fresh or dried rosemary and thyme to preference
Salt and pepper
In a large pan, sear each side of a turkey breast on medium-high heat for five minutes each side. Pro-tip: Be sure to sear the skin side last. By searing the skin side last you can sauté all of the vegetables in the fat from the turkey skin.
Set the turkey breasts aside and cover with aluminum foil.
Reduce heat to low.
Pro-tip: Because of the low fat concentration of turkey breast I recommend using 2 tablespoons of duck fat or another fat related product for the next step.
Melt the fat on the pan with 1/3 of a cup of butter.
Once the butter and fat have melted together, throw in the garlic and 1/2 of the diced onion.
Turn the heat up to medium high.
Sauté onions and garlic until they brown on both sides with the butter and fat.
Now the garlic and onion have become browned (approx 5 min) on both sides turn the heat up to high and pour in the white wine.
Reduce down by 2/3 so that the white wine becomes thicker.
After about 2 1/2 minutes throw in the chicken stock, the remainder of the onion, as well as the celery and carrots.
Keep the heat on high and bring everything to a boil. At this point add the desired amount of rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Once everything is boiling, put in the turkey breasts, reduce the heat to medium low and cover.
*The remaining time that this takes for the turkey to be fully cooked through will vary depending upon the thickness of the turkey breast.*
For a large turkey breast, after about 12 minutes take the top off so that the sauce can reduce as a turkey continues to cook.
After another 15 minutes, for two large turkey breasts, the turkey should be done and the sauce reduced.
*Be aware that for smaller turkey breasts you will need to reduce the length of the cooking time with the top on and the top off.
Serve over fried potatoes or rice.
Final Play: Holiday Drinks & Desserts
While many of our team members are more into savory than sweet, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without dessert and after dinner holiday drinks!
Suzanne’s tried-and-true crowd pleaser is a rum pumpkin pie with praline pecans. Anyone surprised there’s booze in our desserts?! “The magic about this pie honestly isn’t in the booze, it’s in the full balance of flavors. It’s a lighter, less sweet version of pumpkin pie that’s the perfect end to a great meal.”
Evan, on the other hand, prefers to just make his holiday drink the dessert! We think this is the best hot buttered rum recipe you’ll find and the batter keeps in the freezer all holiday season long. So all you have to do is heat up some water and add some rum. Ok, and maybe loosen your pants a bit!
Our event host and content creator, Jen, is not only known for her cocktail creations—check out her Pumpkin Cheesecake!
Recipe: Jen's Pumpkin Cheesecake
A holiday favorite, our Jen can’t show up to Thanksgiving without this version of a classic!
1.25 lb cream cheese
1.25 lb pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1/3 cup sour cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
Graham cracker crust
Build the vanilla cheesecake first:
Combine 1 lb cream cheese with 1/2 cup granulated sugar with mixer until completely smooth
Add 1/3 cup sour cream and 1tsp vanilla extract- combine until smooth and soft peaks form
Add 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, mix until well combined. Be careful not to over-mix at this stage
Build pumpkin cheese cake in separate bowl:
Add 1/4 lb cheesecake to 1/4 cup sugar with mixer until completely smooth
Add 1/8 lb pumpkin puree and 1 tsp pumpkin spice and mix until well combined, being careful not to over-mix
Preheat oven to 325°
Add half of vanilla cheesecake to pre- made graham cracker crust (9″ in aluminum)
Add most of pumpkin cheese cake mixture on top, leaving a few spoon-fulls in the bowl.
Layer the other half of the vanilla cheesecake
Add the last bit of the pumpkin cheesecake in spoon-fulls randomly placed on top
Swirl the pumpkin mixture into the vanilla mixture with a toothpick to form a pattern
Place into a baking sheet with a shallow hot water bath
Bake at 325° for at least one hour- until outer crust is firm, middle will still wiggle but be firm to the touch
Allow to cool fully before serving
Pair with Jen’s Espresso Martini!
Jen’s perfect pairing for this autumnal delight is none other than a decadent Espresso Martini. What surprises many people is the idea of pairing a sweet drink with a sweet dish, but it works really well. The trick is to always ensure your holiday drink is sweeter than the food.
“This twist on a classic Martini plays on the coffee and caramel notes of aged rum, and combines them with classic espresso. The sweetness of the triple sec takes place of simple syrup, and the orange liqueur is a perfect combination to the coffee flavors. Irish cream adds body and mouthfeel. Shaking espresso will result in a crema on top, similar to what we see on a pure shot of espresso.”
From our Crafty Cask family to yours, happy Thanksgiving! Remember to make an extra dish of deliciousness a la Grandma Good and sneak in the extra butter (and cracked pepper) when no one is looking. May your Thanksgiving drinks and food pairings be a delight!
Do you have any favorite recipes to share? Or questions about any of ours? Let us know in the comments below. And if you make any of our holiday drinks or dishes, please tag us in your pictures on social media so we can revel in their magnificence!
Jena is an event host & contributing writer for The Crafty Cask, as well as an award-winning bartender, cocktail educator, Cicerone Certified Beer Server, and Executive American Whiskey Steward. Based in NYC, Jena has been working in the craft alcohol world for the last 15 years with recipes appearing in Manhattan restaurant/bars & multiple publications. She is the 2019 Nikka Perfect Serve Global Runner Up and a 2020 Cognac Connection winner.