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Wine Is a Cop-Out. Here’s What to Bring to Thanksgiving Instead

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner isn’t easy — say thanks with an alcoholic offering that’s got more personality and backbone than a simple bottle of red

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Wine sucks! It’s cliché. It’s boring. It stains, which is the last thing you need when you’re drunk and clumsy. Yet, it’s what everyone expects you to bring to dinner parties like Thanksgiving. But I say, screw that. Instead, consider these celebratory (and mindful) beverage recommendations from Danielle Tcholakian, a bartender and sober person in New York; Mark Vincent, a drink slinger in Texas; and Joel Arellano, head mixologist at Xelas in L.A.

Manhattans with Maraschino Cherries

Because of its robust flavor, whiskey pairs well with rich, fatty foods like turkey. That means a cocktail like the Manhattan is an optimal accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s our very special recipe for a pumpkin spice Manhattan, which feels especially appropriate for fall. If you want to make it extra festive, don’t shy away from Maraschino cherries, which can make even drinking alone in the shower seem like a luxurious experience.

Citrusy Vodka Drinks

If whiskey sounds too rich to pair with an already-intense meal, Arellano’s citrusy vodka recipe can help cut through all the meat and potatoes:

  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce pomegranate juice
  • ½ ounce orange juice
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth

Sidecars or Brandy Alexanders (or Both)

Once you’re done with dinner, Vincent says drinks like the Sidecar or Brandy Alexander are the perfect “post-meal treats” because they’re slightly sweet. Here’s what you’ll need for a Sidecar, which is refreshing if you’re feeling extra full:

  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice

And this is what you’ll shake together for a Brandy Alexander, which is more indulgent:

  • 1 ounce brandy
  • 1 ounce crème de cacao
  • 1 ounce fresh cream
  • A sprinkle of nutmeg

Pumpkin Spice Anything

Yeah, yeah: Pumpkin spice is passé. But if you lean into its overdone nature, it can take on a new life. Plus, there’s no denying that people love its taste and vibe. 

If you’re a beer person, wet your whistle with an Atomic Pumpkin ale, a Good Gourd ale or a Pumpkinator stout. If you prefer shots, Pumking whiskey will leave you feeling righteous. And if you love cocktails, make our pumpkin spice Manhattan, dammit!

Fruity Cocktail Kits

Not much of a mixologist? No worries: Companies like Aged & Infused make all kinds of cocktail sets that come with fruits, spices and even fancy jars to drink your juice from. Just add your favorite booze, and drink until you see two turkeys instead of one. 

Some Kind of Apple Cider

Martinelli’s isn’t only for the kid’s table. Say what you will, but I’ll guzzle that shit. And if you want to make it alcoholic, Vincent says, “Gin, lemon juice and apple cider go really well together.” To that end, Arellano suggests making a Martinelli’s highball with the following ingredients:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • Topped with apple cider

If you feel like that’s cheating, however, you can always bring the ingredients for hot apple cider and get everyone at the party involved. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 6 cups apple cider
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 1 orange peel
  • 1 lemon peel

To brew it, pour the apple cider and maple syrup into a saucepan. Wrap everything else in cheesecloth, and dunk it in. Then, warm the mixture over medium heat for five to 10 minutes. If you want it boozy, add as much rum or bourbon as you’d like.

Non-Alcoholic Options

It’s never a bad idea to bring non-alcoholic drinks, especially if your drunken shenanigans ruined last year’s Thanksgiving. Alcohol-free bitters like Dram or non-alcoholic spirits like Seedlip are popular choices. They’re made with herbs, spices and fruits, and Seedlip offers a comprehensive list of mocktails to make with their products on their website.

Keep in mind, however, that some “non-alcoholic” options, especially non-alcoholic beers, contain more booze than they let on, which can dissuade truly sober persons. As such, you may consider grabbing fancy sodas, seltzers or other non-alcoholic sparkling beverages. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. “As a non-drinker, I always feel really loved when I show up somewhere and people have made an effort to amass some weird, interesting options for me,” says Tcholakian. “Otherwise, it feels like that old John Mulaney bit about showing up to a party and being offered an ex-girlfriend’s NuvaRing that’s been in the fridge for six months.”

If none of that sounds good, fine, bring wine. But don’t say I didn’t warn you when you stain your favorite pants.