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T-Day Spirits

Great ideas for Thanksgiving libations.

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Ah, Thanksgiving. No gifts to buy, and, if you're fortunate, plenty of food to eat. While you're making your grocery list, don't forget to purchase some good wine for the table.

I traditionally lean toward a zinfandel or pinot grigio, but this year, I'm jumping on the Beaujolais nouveau trend. Its fruity flavors smack with the tartness of cranberry, and the relatively low calorie count (approximately 170 calories a glass) means that you can heap those mashed potatoes high. Plus, at about 12 percent by volume, Beaujolais nouveau is low-alcohol in comparison to pinot noir, merlot, or cabernet sauvignon. And it tastes best cool, but never cold — which allows you to free up more fridge space for your desserts and side dishes. In France, Beaujolais nouveau is released for sale on the third Thursday of November — or exactly one week before Thanksgiving Day here in the states. Beaujolais nouveau is produced from gamay grapes that are hand-picked then put through an anaerobic fermentation process via a sealed container filled with carbon monoxide. The production method results in very little tannins, which enhances both its purple-pink color and its fruity taste. Because Beaujolais nouveau is bottled and exported as soon as the fermentation process ends, it's easy on the wallet, retailing between $8 and $16 a bottle, on average. Use the money you've saved to pick up a few bottles or boxes of "regular" red and white wine, so that your dinner guests have options.

If you're hosting this year's meal, you might want to concoct a house cocktail to serve as guests arrive. Google "Thanksgiving cocktail," and you'll find hundreds of recipes. A punch or a mulled wine or cider could work well if you're short-handed in the kitchen and want guests to serve themselves. Or, if you can deputize a bartender, there's nothing more sophisticated to serve than a classic Manhattan. Make it "local" by using Tennessee-distilled rye whiskey from Benjamin Prichard's, Jim Beam, or Jack Daniel's.

Be sure to have something equally delicious on hand for non-drinkers, designated drivers, and kids. Cranberry juice and seltzer or sparkling cider are infinitely better options than Coke or water. Don't ever question or single-out your guests who choose not to partake.

If you're tasked with bringing a bottle to a potluck Thanksgiving meal, there are other options beyond pairing a wine with turkey and dressing. Check with the host first, but perhaps you could purchase a bottle of port or sherry to savor with dessert. If you can afford it, spring for a bottle of Sauternes. Its zesty raisin, honey, and apricot flavor pairs well with pumpkin or pecan pie. If not, look for an aged wine with plenty of acidity and a long finish — something savory that won't fight but can still hold its own with the sweetness on your plate.

That said, if you bring a bottle of wine unprompted, don't necessarily expect it to be served that day. Etiquette says that the wine is a gift to be saved for later. Bringing a bottle doesn't mean that you get to dictate when it's served. And whatever you do, don't take that unopened bottle home with you. Finally, drinkers take note: Sip plenty of water with dinner. Never be the most inebriated person at the table. If you have the propensity to get loaded, don't use this time to air your family grievances. And don't drink and drive. In 2012, 42 percent of victims who died in traffic accidents during the Thanksgiving holiday — between Wednesday and Monday — were killed in crashes involving a drunken driver. That's 174 people who won't get to enjoy Thanksgiving this year. Thanks to apps like Lyft and Uber, it's easier than ever to get home safely.

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