Thanksgiving Drinks for Before and After Dinner

A.J. Rathbun
Jeremy Holt demonstrates how to whip up The Gizmo

The biggest feast of the year is only a week away--don’t leave your menu planning (and grocery shopping) until the last minute. And make sure you have the right drinks on the menu. Below I've suggested four cocktail recipes, two that will make perfect aperitifs before the big dinner, and two that are perfect for after the big meal has happened. The last recipe is a video.

The Hanson Sparkler

This is named after John Hanson, the first president of the newly independent United States under the Articles of Confederation, who on October 11, 1782 declared that the fourth Thursday of every November was to be Thanksgiving Day. It’s a very local drink, using both Ludlow Market Blackberry Sarsaparilla Vanilla shrub and Seattle Distilling Company’s Idle Hours whiskey, which is an Irish-style whiskey with a hint of honey. The drink’s bubbly-ness helps get everything ready for eating, too.

Ice cubes
1-1/2 hours Seattle Distilling Company Idle Hours whiskey
1 ounce Ludlow Market Blackberry Sarsaparilla Vanilla shrub
5 to 6 ounces soda water

1. Fill a highball or double-ish Old Fashioned glass with a four or five ice cubes.

2. Add the Idle Hours whiskey, then the shrub, then the soda water. Stir well.

The Harvest Bowl

If you’re having a large group over for Thanksgiving, serving something to start out of a punch bowl makes great sense – it’s easy to get a drink to folks quickly, and takes a little stress off the host or hostess. This recipe, from Champagne Cocktails, matches the season nicely due to the addition of fall favorite apple cider.

Serves 10
Block of ice (cracked ice if you can’t track down a block)

15 ounces apple cider
7 -1/2 ounces vodka
5 ounces orange curaçao
1 apple, sliced, for garnish
1 lemon, sliced, for garnish
One1 750-milliliter bottle chilled sparkling apple juice
One1 750-milliliter bottle chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine

1. Place the block of ice in a large punch bowl (if going with cracked ice, fill the bowl halfway).

2. Add the cider, vodka, curaçao, and apple and lemon slices. Using a long spoon or ladle, dance the ingredients a few times ’round.

3. Carefully add the sparkling apple juice and then the Champagne or sparkling wine. Using that same long spoon or ladle, stir a few more times. Serve in wine glasses or goblets.


Becoming a conquering hero of the table, a renowned general of eating, can take a toll once the buffet battle is done. The addition of Fernet Branca here, which is itself renowned for helping after over-eating, makes this drink both an homage to your eating prowess, and a stomach settler. This recipe’s from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz.

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces gin (I think Sun Liquor Gun Club gin is good here)
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
1/4 ounce Dubonnet rouge
1/4 ounce orange curaçao
Lemon twist for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, Fernet Branca, Dubonnet, and curaçao. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with that empire-building twist.

The Gizmo
This drink, which was created by my pal (and co-author of Double Take: One Fabulous Recipe, Two Finished Dishes, Feeding Vegetarians and Omnivores Together) Jeremy Holt, is the ultimate after-Thanksgiving drink, due to the inclusion of leftover cranberry sauce. The other ingredients, gin and simple syrup, also provide nice touches, making this perfectly sip-able even if you’ve eaten a bit too much. In the below video, which is an episode of the Cocktail to Cocktail Hour, Jeremy himself shows us how to make the drink.