It’s not a proper Thanksgiving at my table until I raise a glass of fine spirits and begin a toast to the women in my family. While beverage pairings for the holiday meal tend to default to wine, there are terrific opportunities to pull the rabbit out of the hat and surprise your guests with hard liquor.
While I don’t recommend serving spirits with every course, they do offer a unique accent. If you’re game to start the meal with oysters, there is no better autumnal pairing than a smoky Scotch. I enjoy briny Fanny Bay oysters from near Vancouver Island with Laphroaig, one of the more peaty single malts. (The Scots splash a bit of whisky right onto the mollusk before slurping.) Highland malts, like Glenlivet, or Lowland malts, like Glenkinchie, also work well with tamer appetizers, like cheese and olives.
An often overlooked pairing comes with pie—whether it’s apple, pecan or even lemon meringue (a staple in my family). For the sweet-toothed sophisticate, try a flight of aged rums like Flor de Cana 7-Year-Old ($23), Cruzan Single Barrel ($32) and Zacapa 23-Year-Old ($49). For the proud patriot, serve a selection of America’s great single barrel or small batch bourbons. A good flight is Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old ($30), Basil Hayden’s ($37) and Evan Williams Single Barrel ($26). They’re all sure to add a lively spirit to your Thanksgiving.
Allen Katz is the Director of Mixology & Spirits Education for Southern Wine & Spirits of New York.