Even though we don’t have real “seasons” here in Hawaii, we can trick our palates by tempting them with the flavors of fall, spice and everything nice. Its funny how the simple use of cinnamon is reminiscent of Christmas, although it is a flavor that can be enjoyed all year long. Similarly, something about the combination of nutmeg, clove and pumpkin-pie spice lends a level of comfort that you can’t quite put a finger on but feels like a familiar friend.
Thanksgiving, one of the greatest eating days of the year, deserves libations created with this feast in mind. Here are some ideas to enjoy all day long, whether to quench your thirst while basting your turkey (every hour on the hour), during the feast or while knocked out on the couch after your third helping.
Before the turkey
When I arrived in Venice on a trip to Italy, I was greeted with the sight of al fresco diners relaxing with Margherita pizzas or linguine alla vongole. A common denominator at each table was a wine glass filled with a bright orange fizzy liquid, garnished with an orange slice and served on the rocks.
I quickly learned that the cocktail everyone was having with lunch was called an Aperol Spritz. Aperol Aperitivo is one of Italy’s quintessential liqueurs, created in 1919. I like to call it the “Sophia Loren” of Campari, or the more feminine version of its bitter counterpart.
Aperol does have bitterness, but one that is more gentle and that creates a “drying” effect when used in cocktails, contributing a delightful grapefruit flavor.
The Aperol spritz is a simple cocktail, just an ounce of Aperol, served with prosecco and a splash of club soda, garnished with an orange slice or peel. The Noel Spritz follows the same concept but with the addition of a rosemary-infused honey syrup that’s easy to make at home, and seasonal blood orange juice, which gives the cocktail an even more brilliant color.
Combine juice, honey syrup, liqueur and prosecco in large wine glass. Fill with ice and top with more prosecco, stir to combine
Garnish: Thin blood orange or grapefruit wheels floating in glass and rosemary sprig (with cranberries or pomegranate seeds floating on top, optional)
Rosemary-Infused Local Honey Syrup
Bring water to a boil with rosemary in it. Let simmer 1 minute. Add honey, remove from heat and let dissolve. Cool completely before straining.
The mule is insanely popular right now. When served at parties it is bound to be a hit. This version uses sparkling apple cider instead of ginger beer and St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, an Austrian liqueur modeled after the original pimento dram made in Jamaica. The flavors scream “holiday” with allspice, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Use this liqueur sparingly, and definitely don’t take a shot of it. The copious amount of nutmeg it contains will make your mouth numb.
This variation of a mule honors Movember, an annual event involving the growing of mustaches to raise awareness for men’s health. Imagine all of our furry friends enjoying this cocktail, using an Irish whiskey with a little extra age (Jameson Black Barrel Reserve, which is a major sponsor of Movember).
Pour lemon and syrup (or muddle ginger with lemon) into copper mug. Add liquors, fill with ice and top with apple cider.
Garnish: Thin apple slice and cinnamon stick
It’s hard to beat a beautiful glass of Champagne or Beaujolais nouveau when it comes to pairing with the bird. But if you have a guest who can’t decide between a cocktail or wine, here is the best of both worlds.
Beaujolais nouveau is basically the gamay varietal of wine, vin de primeur, or wine sold in the same year that it was harvested. It is usually released on the third Thursday in November, then rushed to be sold before Thanksgiving as the perfect light-bodied, bright, turkey-pairing wine.
Using Beaujolais nouveau in sangria maintains the brightness of the wine balanced with acidity from fresh orange juice and a little savory complexity from a cinnamon syrup.
Add all ingredients to punch bowl or large pitcher. Fill with ice or pour over large ice block.
Garnish: Seasonal fruits floating in glass
Bring ingredients to a boil; lower heat and simmer 2 minutes. Cool; strain.
Pumpkin Spice Irish Coffee
At our family gathering, after all of the deep-fried turkey, yams and mashed potatoes, we need something to sip on to wake us up to get our competitive juices flowing for the evening’s board game.
Coffee seems like a no-brainer, but how can we make it more interesting? Why not take a tried and true San Francisco classic like Irish Coffee and make fresh whipped cream in a Mason jar to top it off? It’s amazing how the Mason jar trick actually works, and gives you an arm workout at the same time to burn some of those Thanksgiving calories.
Pour hot water into glass mug, then empty mug. Add coffee, dissolve sugar in coffee and add whiskey. Top with a dollop of pumpkin spice whipped cream (recipe follows).
Garnish: Freshly grated cinnamon
Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream
Combine ingredients in a chilled Mason jar. Shake vigorously 45 seconds. Refrigerate 15 minutes to firm up cream, or serve right away.
My ultimate after-dinner sipper is a cocktail called the Boulevardier, a big, bitter and boozy drink, the absolute opposite of a fruity, pink Cosmopolitan (not that there is anything wrong with a well-made Cosmo … no judgment here, I promise).
The La-Z Boy is the sweet taste of victory after winning said board game. Just bitter enough to help the digestive process, it’s also boozy enough to keep everyone smiling and wanting to play more.
Averna amaro is used in this cocktail, a tradition in Sicily, with its flavors of orange peel, licorice and cinnamon. Finished with a rosemary sprig to add to the aromatics, this beautiful holiday sipper is a winner.
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass. Stir and strain over a large ice cube into a bucket glass.
Garnish: Rosemary sprig with long orange twist wrapped around it
Chandra Lucariello is director of mixology for Southern Wine & Spirits. The liquors and liqueurs used in these recipes are widely available from Oahu liquor stores and some supermarkets.