In the holiday lineup, none is more focused on food than the fourth Thursday of November. But Thanksgiving isn’t just an eating holiday. It’s a day for great drinking too. It’s the perfect excuse to offer an all-American lineup of bourbon, rye and other locally made pours. Yes, we’re talking Thanksgiving whiskey pairings.
With Thanksgiving’s notoriously variable menu, pairing drinks to the whole meal can be a challenge. Instead, tackle it dish by dish, and offer your guests options that will suit their favorite part of the plate—whether that’s stuffing, cranberries, or pie. Let’s face it though—everyone’s favorite is pie.
While serving whiskey neat or on the rocks is the most straightforward route, this occasion is a great excuse to break out the bubbly. Seltzer, that is—and whip up some simple highballs. The fizzy cocktail goes great with all kinds of food and can be made with any whiskey. Just pour an ounce or two in a tall glass, add ice, top with seltzer or club soda, and stir gently. Garnish with a citrus twist or a few uncooked cranberries.
From Kentucky bourbon to well-matured rye, robust corn whiskey to smoky single malt, these bottles express the passion and culture of American distillers and make a fitting toast for a day devoted to gratitude.
Best Whiskey Pairings for Turkey
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep One
Whether roasting, deep frying, or smoking your turkey—and even if you’re having Tofurkey—there’s one obvious pour: Wild Turkey, of course. Old standby 101 is a perennial favorite, but this is a special day, so why not treat yourself to the distillery’s limited-edition Master’s Keep? This year’s release marries mid-aged bourbons (8 to 10 years old) with 14-year-old liquid. After combining, the final whiskey is finished in a second set of new charred oak barrels.
[Price varies; search local distributor]Learn More
New Riff Red Turkey Wheat Bourbon
If you’re more a fan of wheaters and want to stay on theme, New Riff Distilling has a special-edition bourbon made with heirloom Red Turkey wheat—available for sale in Kentucky only. It’s five years old and bottled-in-bond, hewing to a proud American whiskey tradition that’s in keeping with the day’s customs.
[$50; newriffidistilling.com]Get it
Best Whiskey Pairing for Stuffing
Balcones True Blue 100
Possibly the most variable aspect of the meal, stuffing (or dressing in certain parts of the country) could include oysters, onions, fruit, or little more than bread and some spices. My family recipe uses a cornbread base, so I’ll be reaching for a sweet, powerful corn whiskey like those made in Texas. Waco-based Balcones offers a few variants, all made with Hopi blue corn. The 100-proof True Blue, thick with fruit and honey flavors, allows for the generous addition of water or ice, lengthening the drink and the time available to enjoy this sublime pairing.
[$64; balconesdistilling.com]Get it
Best Whiskey Pairing for Cranberry Sauce
Westward Pinot Noir Cask
The toughest matchup on the table, cranberries are simultaneously tart and sweet—balancing mouth-puckering acidity with a smooth, jellied texture. Look for a whiskey that offers resonant berry notes. Something finished in a wine cask is a good option. Made with Pacific Northwest-grown barley, Westward Whiskey sources pinot noir casks from nearby wineries like Bergstrom and Dominio IV, layering on red fruit flavors and creating a whisper-soft mouthfeel.
[$97; westwardwhiskey.com]Get it
Best Whiskey Pairing for Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Redwood Empire Rocket Top Bottled-in-Bond Rye
Mashed potatoes are practically a blank canvas, pairable with just about any whiskey—until you add a dollop of thick, salty gravy. You’ll want to cut through all that richness with a spice-forward rye, like this five-year-old bonded version from Sonoma County’s Redwood Empire. It’s got a generous 87 percent rye in the mashbill, with the remainder split almost evenly between malted barley and, unusually, wheat. Like all of the distillery’s whiskeys, it’s named for a famous redwood tree.
[$100; redwoodempirewhiskey.com]Get it
Best Whiskey Pairing for Sweet Potato Casserole
Santa Fe Spirits Colkegan
Since preparations of sweet potatoes often revolve around marshmallows and brown sugar, opt for a contrasting whiskey that will stave off sugar overload. Smoky American single malt offers a dry palate and barbecue-like flavors that juxtapose perfectly, thanks to the use of native hardwoods like mesquite. Try Colkegan, made by Santa Fe Spirits, which balances smoke and sweetness with warming spice.
[$68; santafespirits.com]Get it
Whiskey Del Bac Dorado
Another option is Whiskey Del Bac from Arizona, which makes smoked and unsmoked versions, both of which channel the best of the desert’s dry climate into a spicy, at times fiery, single malt. Malted on-site at the distillery with mesquite smoke, Dorado is distinctly Southwestern yet familiar enough to appeal to diehard peaty scotch drinkers.
[$60; whiskeydelbac.com]Get it
Best Whiskey Pairings for Pie
Watershed Barrel-Strength Apple Brandy-Finished Bourbon
Whether you go for apple, pecan, pumpkin, or another type of pie, the dessert course is where whiskey shines brightest, and it’s hard to go wrong no matter what you pick. Still, a careful choice here will leave your dinner guests with a lasting final impression and set a standard for future meals. Barrel-finished whiskeys can be especially rewarding, as the additional flavors from the secondary cask often echo the ingredients of the pie. Even before they distilled whiskey, colonists in North America made cider and apple brandy. Columbus, Ohio-based Watershed nods to this tradition with its six-year-old bourbon finished in barrels that previously held the distillery’s own apple brandy. The base whiskey itself is herbaceous and peppy, but the barrels soften its spicier notes and, even at cask strength, round out the whiskey’s texture to create a memorable pour that matches seamlessly with traditional apple pie.
[price varies; check retailers]Learn More
Belfour Spirits Pecan-Finished Bourbon
Hockey legend Ed Belfour is a native of Manitoba, Canada, but apparently likes bourbon enough to have started his own brand a few years ago. The lineup includes this whiskey, distilled in North Carolina and finished with pieces of pecan wood harvested from a 300-year-old tree on Belfour’s Texas ranch. Sounds like a gimmick, but the effect works splendidly, with nutty and fruity flavors and ample spice to complement a sweet pecan pie.
[$70; belfourspirits.com]Get it
High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram Act 9
The warm spices of pumpkin pie meld seamlessly with similar flavors found in rye. The pairing is especially elevated in this complex blend of multiple whiskeys, all finished in ruby and tawny port barrels. Each year’s batch of Midwinter Night’s Dram varies somewhat, but always showcases the fruity and nutty notes of the port, integrated with spicy, oak-forward rye. With a whiskey this deep and rich, you may be tempted to skip dessert completely—or else have a second helping of both.
[$100; highwest.com]Get it
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