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Need a pre-meal Thanksgiving Cocktail

TIA - hardly new to CH but I've never posted here in Spirits. So my family is dividing tasks for Thanksgiving this year. My brother-in-law asked me to bring all of the fixings to make Bloody Marys. They've become my personal specialty over the years and I'm asked to make them frequently.

The problem is I don't think they're a good pre-meal drink. In fact, I had one (and then another) while waiting to meet some chow friends for lunch the other day and kind of regretted it all day. The acid in the juice just didn't agree with me and I barely touched my lunch (wasn't missing anything anyway).

Please suggest an alternative cocktail. Could be seasonal, or just extra light (I'm thinking mojitos since it's like to be fairly warm here). Thanks so much and happy Thanksgiving all.

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  1. I always suggest Poinsettias when this question arises. Cranberry juice and sparkling wine are both seasonally appropriate. You could always make your own cranberry compote/reduction if commercial cranberry juice isn't your bag.

    1 Reply
    1. re: invinotheresverde

      I like to use pomegranate juice with sparkling wine, too. Also seasonal (even if you're using commercial juice) and a nice aperitif for the holiday season.

    2. Everybody loves a French 75. Bubbly and festive for the holiday:

      2 ounces London dry gin
      1 teaspoon superfine sugar
      1/2 ounce lemon juice
      5 ounces Brut champagne
      I like mine up in a sugar rimmed cocktail glass.

      6 Replies
      1. re: mtoo

        (sorry, I don't know how to reply in line with the ones above - I always get this indent, but I mean this to be a reply to the OP)

        We've been liking the Deauville for the last couple of years. The Calvados seems especially appropriate for fall where we are - typically cold, lots of apples in the markets, etc.


        1. re: tokyopix

          Click reply in the original message to avoid the indentation.

          Interesting cocktail. A Sidecar variation. The post says that it is a touch sweet for the poster's tastes. I would think equal parts of lemon would be more than enough to tame the Cointreau.

          www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

          1. re: EvergreenDan

            I thought when I did that it jumped up to being right under the OP. I'll give it a try next time.

            I don't find it too sweet at all. I love Sidecars so this was right up my alley. My brother had it a few years back at a restaurant so we tried it at home and then it became the Thanksgiving cocktail. My husband and I were married in Normandy so we have a special place in our hearts for Calvados.

            1. re: tokyopix

              it will jump to the top when you type but puts your post at the bottom once you click "post my reply"

              My guess is it does that so you can more easily see the post to which you are replying for reference.

        2. re: mtoo

          This was going to be my suggestion as well. I love French 75s!
          Otherwise maybe a Kir Royale... very festive and pretty.

        3. agree 100% on the Bloody being a wrong choice for a pre-prandial. it's practically a side dish on it's own. if they push you, serve 'em as a small almost shot/appetizer (think consomme or aspic with a kick)

          but go with your instincts.

          1. My favorite Thanksgiving cocktail for the last few years has been the Marconi Wireless -- basically a Manhattan made with apple brandy:

            2 oz apple brandy (preferably American -- Laird's bottled in bond if you can get it)
            1 oz sweet vermouth (I recommend Vya. Its cinnamon notes play VERY nicely with the apple)
            2 dashes orange bitters

            Stir and strain. Garnish with a slice of fresh apple if you're in the mood. Or not.

            This drink, for me, is totally evocative of autumn. At least, autumn here in New England.

            18 Replies
            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              I have made that drink has been a pre-Thanksgiving cocktail for years and never knew it had a name and never thought to garnish with an apple slice. I guess I should get another bottle of the Lairds' seven and a half . . . .

              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                I had to look up what "Bottled in Bond" meant, I've never hear that expression before (maybe I'm drinking too much before looking at labels).

                For anyone else who is curious - this was from Wiki (so take it as you like):

                Bottled in bond refers to American-made spirit that has been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations contained in the United States government's Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5.21, et. seq.), as originally laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897,

                To be labeled as "Bottled-in-Bond" or "Bonded," the spirit must be the product of one distillation season and one distiller at one distillery. It must have been stored (i.e., aged) in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 (U.S.) proof (50% alcohol by volume). The bottled product's label must identify the distillery (by DSP number) where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled.

                1. re: thimes

                  Yes, that's what it means, but that doesn't reveal why it's important in this case:

                  The Laird's Applejack product is (IIRC) only 40% apple brandy, cut with 60% neutral spirit. The BIB product, on the other hand, is 100% apple brandy--and that 100% is bottled at a higher proof. Meaning that if you wanted, for some odd reason, to simulate Applejack you could just mix in some vodka and a splash of water. And if you wanted the full apple flavor (highly recommended), you would be able to get it simply by tipping the bottle.

                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                    For what it's worth, I actually find the Laird's 71/2 and 12 year old brandies preferable to the BIB. The former, at around 25 bucks a bottle, is a wonderful spirit for mixing into a cocktail - it's pure apple brandy and 80 proof. The latter is 88 proof and just shy of 40 dollars of fine, well-aged sipping brandy. The BIB, drunk neat, can be a bit "big" (though, I doubt I'd turn down a pour).

                    This thread has me really looking forward to tomorrow . . . .

                    1. re: MGZ

                      I haven't tried the 12, but the 7 1/2 was a bit subtle for my taste. This was a few years back, however; I'll give it another try as soon as I see a bottle for sale. Thanks for the heads up!

                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        I'm with DSP on this one. I just bought a bottle of 7.5 yo because I couldn't find the BIB. It *is* subtle -- too subtle for me, even neat. I finished my BIB last night, so I can't directly compare, but my impression is that I'm going to mix some Calvados into my cocktail to get more appley goodness. I had to try three stores to find even the 7.5. It was around $30.

                        www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                        1. re: EvergreenDan

                          What kind of Calvados are you using? I've only ever owned one bottle -- Daron Fine -- and it was even more subtle than the Laird's 7.5. I didn't enjoy it AT ALL in cocktails and ended up using it for cooking. I figure I should try some others and broaden my horizons.

                          1. re: davis_sq_pro

                            Odd. I've had a few bottles of Calvados. I happen to have the same one -- Daron Fine -- now, and that's what I used to punch up the Laird 7.5. It has a lot of apple / calvados flavor. The Laird is quite subtle. I've heard great things about Dupont, and I have a bottle that I'll open when the Daron is gone.

                            www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                2. re: davis_sq_pro

                  Here's a drink I just happened to discover that uses apple brandy, combined with rye whiskey. Looks really good. I think I'll make one tonight. You know, just to verify that it's safe to consume.

                  Winter Waltz (found here: http://www.imbibemagazine.com/Winter-...


                  1 oz. rye whiskey
                  1 oz. apple brandy (Hannah suggests Calvados or Laird’s Bonded applejack)
                  1/2 oz. Averna
                  1/4 oz. St. Elizabeth's Allspice Dram
                  Ice cubes
                  Tools: shaker, strainer
                  Glass: cocktail
                  Garnish: star anise pod (optional)

                  Combine all ingredients with ice and shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish.

                  Chris Hannah, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans

                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                      Interesting that it's shaken. Maybe the particulate matter in the amaro and allspice dram calls for capturing air bubbles on them to lighten the drink. Sounds pretty good.

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                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        Drinking it now. Pretty good. Slight bitterness from the Averna, spice from the rye (used Wild Turkey), and lots and lots of allspice -- which kind of dominates the drink. I can't detect any apple flavor.

                        Enjoyable, but quite sweet in typical New Orleans style. Not sure I'd rush to make it again.

                        1. re: davis_sq_pro

                          I wondered about the sweetness. Maybe drop the Allspice to 1/2 to 1 tsp and add some dry vermouth or sherry?

                          1. re: EvergreenDan

                            I think the sherry might add a bit too much flavor to the already crowded mix but the dry vermouth sounds like a great idea to me. I'll give it a try in the next few days and report back... unless you do it first.

                      2. re: davis_sq_pro

                        So this is what I went with. I couldn't find Laird's but found a brand made here in NC (bottle is at home, forget the brand). I made the first one and tasted it and almost spit it out. Someone suggested making a new one without bitters. Tried that. Took a sip. Opened a bottle of red wine and had a fabulous Thanksgiving! Thanks all.

                        1. re: southernitalian

                          Hm. I can't imagine how the drink could have come out so badly. A couple of diagnostic questions:

                          A) Did you try the apple brandy straight? Is it an aged straight spirit? Or is it one of the sweetened cordials that some lower-end manufacturers label "brandy?"

                          B) Did you use fresh vermouth? What brand?

                          1. re: davis_sq_pro

                            No, I can't blame the cocktail. Other people loved it. My sister who loves Compari really enjoyed it. it just wasn't my thing.

                      3. Another option could be something with Pomegranate juice (or fresh pomegranate seeds) - I hate to be brand focused but honestly POM pomegranate juice is my favorite.

                        Vodka - Pomegranate juice- Ginger liquor - orange bitters - few seeds for garnish

                        Light - colorful - seasonal - good palate fresher

                        1. What about a pisco sour?

                          It is light and refreshing and has a bit of tang to it


                          1. The "Scarlett O'Hara" has been my family's traditional Thanksgiving cocktail for DECADES!!! You can make them by the drink or by the blenderful. Essentially all it consists of is one part Southern Comfort to 2 parts Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail (the regular - not "light", not mixed with apple juice), & the juice of half a fresh lime (or more to taste) for each 2 drinks. Refreshing, tangy & not too sweet, & very very "holiday-ish". Also, easy to adapt to personal taste re: ingredient amounts.

                            You make them singly in stubby rocks glasses garnished with the lime wedge, or make a batch in a blender along with enough ice cubes to make things sort of frothy.

                            Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without "Scarlett O'Hara's"!! :)

                            1. I find myself in the same situation. Per drink, make:

                              A base of:
                              2 oz Apple Brandy (Laird's BIB. I'd use Calvados, but I fear it will be too much for some)
                              1 oz Clear Creek Oregon Cranberry Liqueur
                              1/2 lemon juice

                              To that, for the bitter lovers, add:
                              1/2 oz Campari

                              Or for the non bitter lovers, add instead:
                              1/2 oz Simple Syrup.

                              This gives me a balanced, bitter/sweet/sour cocktail with apple and cranberry Thanksgivingness, plus a sweeter drink for those preferring an interesting, complex drink that's not bitter.

                              I predict happiness. For those without the cranberry liqueur, I'd sub Pama, which is more available. If it goes over well, I'll have to think up a name. Hmmm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_That...

                              www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: EvergreenDan

                                For those without either the cranberry liqueur or Pama? Cranberry juice and [something else]...?

                                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                  Both are more complex than that -- like sub'ing orange juice for Cointreau. I'd just use a different fruit liqueur of your liking that seems apple and Campari friendly. You know, like Fernet ;)

                                  Edit: Actually that apricot from below sounds like it would work well. I'm pretty sure apricot and Campari would go well.

                                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                                    I can't think anything that doesn't go well with Campari. My favorite thing to pair it with is a bit more Campari.

                              2. After a good bit of testing, we have settled on the crowd-pleasing Slumdog Millionaire as developed by and then adapated from Josey Packard at Drink in Boston:

                                1.5 oz. Dark Rum (I use 50% Myers and 50% Old Monk)

                                .5 oz fresh lime juice

                                .5 oz apricot liqueur (using Brizzard Apry now and have the Austrian one waiting on deck - still wishing I could locate Giffard Abricot around here....)

                                .25 oz Spiced Simple Syrup (this is the key ingredient - put whole cinnamon sticks, crystallized ginger, and allspice berries in boiling water as you mix in and dissolve an equal volume of sugar - I like demerara but regular or superfine white will also do - let cool to room temperature then strain, and add 1 part vodka to 8 parts syrup if you plan to store it, refrigerated, more than a few days)

                                .25-.5 oz Simple Syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water) - adjust to taste

                                one dash of bitters (Fee's Old Fashioned emphasize the cinnamon a lot and I like it, but I prefer Bittermen's Tiki, and expect Angostura or Regan's Orange would also be good)

                                shake with lots of ice for 20 seconds and serve up in chilled cocktail glass - no garnish

                                it's spicy, balanced, tasty, somewhat potent, and rich brown-colored - Thanksgiving perfection

                                16 Replies
                                1. re: rlh

                                  Sounds great -- I'll give it a try. But, a bit lazy with regard to the syrup. Think a mix of 1/3 each cinnamon syrup (which I already have), St. Elizabeth's Allspice Dram, and Canton will adequately approximate it?

                                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                    I did this last night using the substitutions I asked about before. I used 10ml each of the cinnamon syrup, allspice dram, and Canton, and I omitted the simple syrup. I didn't look back here for the numbers and thought and I can see now why I had to pump the lime juice up by an additional 1/4oz -- I used way too much sweet stuff. However, with the additional lime things worked pretty well.

                                    All in all a very nice drink; I made it right at the end of cooking Thanksgiving dinner and it helped me make it through that final stage without killing my MIL. Quite a feat. My only complaints were that A) The Old Monk kind of took over, and B) Every time I use Apry I get a little "cough medicine" flavor reminder as the drink warms up. Not sure why it does that for me, but the solution is easy: drink fast while things are still ice cold.

                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                      See note below and try it with the Sloe Gin next time - even better - oops....

                                      1. re: rlh

                                        Okay, so sloe gin instead of Apry, right? I'll do it tonight...

                                      2. re: davis_sq_pro

                                        Sounds like fun. May I play, too?

                                        I tried
                                        3/4 oz Goslings 151 Black Label
                                        3/4 oz Smith & Cross
                                        1 tsp Becherovka
                                        1 tsp Canton
                                        1/2 tsp St. Elisibeth Allspice Dram
                                        1/2 oz Blume Marillen apricot eau-de-vie

                                        Couldn't taste the apricot (duh, I'm an idiot), so I added 1/2 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin. Nice spice, but the sloe gin is a bit subdued. I think I'd up the sloe gin next time. I might have been better off with more molasses-flavored rums like the Myers and Old Monk.

                                        www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                                        1. re: EvergreenDan

                                          I made it last night with:

                                          45 ml Pusser's
                                          15 ml Plymouth sloe gin
                                          5 ml St. Elizabeth
                                          5 ml Canton
                                          5 ml Trader Tiki Cinnamon Syrup
                                          20 ml lime juice
                                          1 dropperful of Bittermens Tiki Bitters

                                          It was very good; not QUITE great. Like you I found the sloe gin to fade a bit too far into the background. And I was missing ... something else. Not sure what. But it didn't pop. Perhaps a different bitters would help. Or perhaps a lighter rum. I'm thinking something a bit thinner, maybe a Trinidad rum, would let the other ingredients shine a bit more.

                                          1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                            Sorry - definitely KEEP the Apry or other apricot flavor and lose the simple syrup - and probably the cinnamon as well if you use the allspice. I'll restate what I think the ideal recipe is below following much testing over the past week - sorry for such confusion!!

                                            1 oz Old Monk rum
                                            .5 oz Myers Dark rum
                                            .5 oz Apry or Apricot liqueur
                                            .5 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin
                                            .5 oz lime juice
                                            .25 to .5 oz cinnamon / spiced simple syrup (OR St. Elizabeth OR Bitter Truth Pimento Dram)
                                            1 dropperful Tiki Bitters
                                            1 dash Fees Old Fashioned

                                            Shake and serve up - I promise this is the last version I'll post here...

                                            1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                              Someone got a metric jigger just to irritate his friends ;)

                                              I think my 1/2 tsp of St Elizabeth was spot on. The stuff is SO potent. I needed that to taste the ginger and the cinnamon from the Becherovka.

                                              Maybe it just needs more sloe gin? Reducing the rum would tone that down. I was hoping that the bitter side of the sloe gin would come through. Equal parts sloe gin and rum (1 oz each), with some more lime(1oz) to compensate? Hmmmm

                                              www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                                              1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                Nah, I just needed 5ml so that I could measure a half ounce out of three different things, and figured I'd keep the entire recipe consistent :-) ... agreed about the St Elizabeth. It's super-strong. I was on a cocktail chat a while back, before I had a bottle, and shared a drink I'd created that contained 3/4oz of homemade pimento dram. Someone made it with St Elizabeth and was pissed when they wound up with a drink that they had to throw down the drain... turns out my homemade stuff was rather weak.

                                                I'll try the Apry + sloe gin version tonight. With a lighter rum; I'm out of Old Monk anyway, and probably won't replace it. The combined version does sound like it's going to be a touch too sweet, but we shall see.

                                                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                  BTW, I wasn't advocating both apricot AND sloe gin. I only dumped in the sloe gin because I couldn't taste the eau-de-vie. That said, I kind of like that combo in my head. Between the Martini thread and this one, I can't decide what I'm going to have tonight. Good problem to have.

                                                  1. re: davis_sq_pro


                                                    Ding! Ding! Ding!

                                                    1oz Flor de Cana 7
                                                    1 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin
                                                    1 oz Lime
                                                    1 tsp Canton
                                                    1 tsp Becherovka
                                                    1/2 tsp St Elisabeth
                                                    1d Boker's

                                                    Shake, rocks. Really nice. Going to a calmer buy flavorful rum and tipping the balance toward the sloe gin worked. Great drink, IMO.

                                                    Needs a name.
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                                                    1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                      I'm drinking:

                                                      1.5oz Royal Oak
                                                      0.5oz Plymouth Sloe Gin
                                                      0.5oz Apry
                                                      0.5oz lime (+ an extra splash, unmeasured)
                                                      2.5ml St Elizabeth
                                                      7.5ml Trader Tiki Cinnamon
                                                      2d wormwood bitters
                                                      1d Peychaud's bitters

                                                      Best try on this end, by far. Reducing the St Elizabeth and switching the rums both resulted in a much cleaner, sharper drink. I decided that the ginger probably wasn't coming through much anyway so I dropped the Canton and put in a bit less cinnamon syrup so as not to overwhelm things. The combo of the sloe gin and Apry creates a bit of additional fruit complexity, although I'm still getting that "cough syrup" flavor from the Apry. Might drop that to 0.25 and up the sloe gin to 0.75. I went with the Peychaud's and wormwood bitters in an attempt to add some background notes. I think a small dash of absinthe plus a dash of something really bitter (Boker's, perhaps), will do the trick a bit better.

                                                      And martini vs. this drink? No question for me ... I enjoy maybe two martinis a year. They just don't do it for me--probably too subtle for my taste.

                                                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                        I worked on this quite a bit more over the past week and especially this last weekend. Seemed like a good candidate for a Christmas drink. And indeed it was, after some further tweaking.

                                                        Notes on what I did:
                                                        - I wanted to really highlight the Plymouth, so I doubled it
                                                        - I still didn't love the Apry taste and after tasting some of my liqueurs I decided to go with Art in the Age Rhuby, which has similar fruit notes but a bit more spice. (BTW, in my opinion Rhuby is by far the best Art in the Age product to date -- grab a bottle if you can.)
                                                        - I decided to go totally white on the rum to make the drink look a bit prettier; although I used Banks 5 Island so as not to eliminate the flavor.
                                                        - I pumped up the St Elizabeth, since it was starting to get lost behind the Plymouth.
                                                        - Finally, I decided that a bit of lemon in addition to the lime would brighten things a bit more.

                                                        Really happy with where this ended up. Now just need a name...

                                                        1.5oz Banks 5 Island
                                                        1oz Plymouth Sloe Gin
                                                        0.5oz Art in the Age Rhuby
                                                        0.25oz St Elizabeth
                                                        0.5oz lime juice
                                                        0.25oz lemon juice
                                                        Heavy dash of absinthe
                                                        2d Peychaud's

                                        2. re: rlh

                                          have you tried sonoma cinn syrup with this recipe or st elizabeth all spice dram?

                                          1. re: Dapuma

                                            Where's a good place to pick up Sonoma syrups around Boston? I especially want to try the grenadine?

                                            Pimento dram is a great idea and addition to this drink I'll try instead of the cinnamon syrup - I have Bitter Truth brand - would like to try St. Elizabeth as well. Thanks!

                                          2. re: rlh

                                            Wow - I really botched the this recipe posting - sorry for the oversweetness for anyone who tried it this way - I should have written .5 oz (Plymouth) Sloe Gin and NO simple syrup - only the touch of cinnamon or spiced syrup - it was huge Thanksgiving dinner hit - definitely a repeat!

                                          3. I'm posting too late for Thanksgiving, but I have two recipes to share.

                                            Champagne Dreams is the name of the cocktail that appears on the Pama web site, but I've been referring to the drink as Pomegranate Cocktail. Here's the batch version I made Saturday night. (I used slightly less PAMA liqueur and slightly more Grand Marnier than the official recipe.)

                                            6 oz Pama pomegranate liqueur
                                            1 oz. orange liqueur
                                            3 oz. fresh orange juice

                                            Chill all ingredients prior to mixing. Combine first three ingredients. Pour 2 ounces of mixture into glasses. (This yielded five drinks) Top with two ounces of champagne or to taste.

                                            The drink recipe in the Pama web site, not surprisingly, is heavier on the Pama liqueur.

                                            Last Saturday we were with friends who had just come home from six weeks in Europe, two weeks of which was spent in Italy. Everywhere they went, they saw people drinking an orange drink so they joined the crowd. They enjoyed the drink enough that they bought the key ingredient, Aperol, when they returned home. (The liqueur Aperol is responsible for the orange color.)

                                            The next day a recipe for this drink appeared in the WASHINGTON POST with the recommendation that this be served pre-Thanksgiving. My friend sent me the link:


                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Indy 67

                                              Interesting recommendation by the WP. I consider it a summer drink.