Turkey is the main course for Thanksgiving Day dinner, as well as other special occasions throughout the year. It's often accompanied by various dishes, from stuffing to cranberry sauce, and this diverse array of flavors makes deciding which drinks to serve a bit of a challenge. Whether you're a wine drinker, a beer lover, or looking for a cocktail, whiskey, or tea suggestion, we have some great beverage pairings for your turkey dinner.
A good glass of wine and traditional Thanksgiving meals go hand-in-hand. Thankfully, there are plenty of options to suit virtually every palate when it comes to partnering wine with turkey.
- For red wine enthusiasts, pinot noir is an all-time favorite. Its low tannin content allows it to meld well with both turkey meat and seasonal sides. Zinfandel and syrah (or shiraz) are excellent picks as well.
- White wine lovers can't go wrong with either a riesling or gewürztraminer. Additionally, the herby, earthy qualities found in many sauvignon blancs make a perfect complement to the herb-filled stuffing and well-seasoned mashed potatoes.
- Dry sparkling wines will liven up the meal and refresh the palate in between bites of contrasting flavors. Look for brut on the label, and pick up a bottle of dry sparkling rosé if you're smoking the turkey.
The Thanksgiving feast is also perfect for beer. To best accompany the turkey and sides, the beer you choose should be complex but not so much that it overpowers the foods' flavors.
A good choice is saison. This once-obscure Belgian style has enjoyed a strong resurgence thanks to craft brewers taking it on as an autumn seasonal. It's a rich, complex ale full of spice and notes of late-season fruit that is deliberately soured and carries just a tangy touch as well. This makes it not just a great companion for the foods of the holiday table but also a very nice palate cleanser.
For more options, look to other farmhouse and brown ales. These darker beers bring warmth to the dinner table, and many have a surprisingly light body that's also refreshing. For smoked turkey, go big and bold with a Scotch-style ale but have something lighter in reserve because they're often high-point beers.
Probably the most appropriate cocktail—both in name and flavor profile—for a full-course turkey dinner is the Thanksgiving cocktail. No matter which seasonings you use, the combination of dry gin and vermouth, sweet apricot brandy, and lemon juice pair perfectly with a savory turkey. It makes both an excellent apéritif and a refreshing sipper during the meal.
Gin really is one of your better food pairing options. The spirit's botanicals add dimension to the palate, and they're also light enough to complement a variety of side dishes. For a quick and easy drink, the reliable gin and tonic is the ideal cocktail for any meal, whether it has turkey or not.
If you're not a fan of gin, there are many other options:
- A brandy pear cobbler is filled with seasonal flavors and fresh fruits that will complement the dinner's assorted flavors.
- The vodka collins is a refreshing soda highball with a clean flavor that won't distract from the food.
- An old-fashioned is a great choice for whiskey drinkers.
- For an alternative martini-style drink, mix up an Embassy cocktail. The classic brandy and rum sour drink is a nice dinner accompaniment.
A glass of whiskey is a fantastic addition to any dinner because each sip opens up your palate to the food's flavors; you just want to keep it under control. A short pour of a finger or two with a couple of large ice cubes should get you through the meal. After all, it is family time, and you don't want to get too tipsy.
For bourbon, something full-flavored like Booker's, or anything that's high-proof and needs a bit of water, will be a great choice. If Tennessee whiskey is your pleasure, you'll enjoy the smoky caramel and dried fruits of Gentleman Jack. Is someone at the table a fan of rye? Give Templeton or WhistlePig a pour because the whiskey's spice is great with roasted meat.
Scotch is a good companion for a meal as well, and a special occasion calls for a special bottle. For single malts, stick with the super smooth, not-too-smoky whiskeys. A Speyside—such as anything from The Glenlivet—is an excellent choice.
On the blended scotch side, almost anything will pair nicely with the feast. Consider an upgrade, though. If, for instance, you're used to Johnnie Walker Red Label, pick up a bottle of Black Label. The cost difference is not significant, and the smoother taste is a much better fit for a full-course, flavor-diverse meal.
It's important that we don't discount nonalcoholic beverages. Tea is just as well suited to a great food pairing as any other drink and it's something everyone at the table can enjoy.
- As a general rule, black teas are your best option for a turkey dinner. For something crisp and palate-cleansing, choose a Ceylon (Sri Lankan) black tea. These teas are often bold with medium tannins and notes of spice and lemon.
- If you prefer something a little less brisk, go with Darjeeling second flush (or summer-picked Darjeeling). It often has a complex flavor with subtle undertones of muscatel grape and stonefruit.
- White tip oolong has a smooth, rich, and fruity-sweet flavor that many people love with turkey.