The table is set, the turkey is carved, the potatoes are mashed, pies are baked, and the perfect wines have been selected. For football fans, the beer is chilling in the fridge. It appears that everything is in place for the perfect Thanksgiving feast. What could be missing? The cocktails of course. While Thanksgiving is known as a day of indulgence of both food and drink, cocktails are often overshadowed by wine. Food and wine have been paired together since vintners started fermenting grapes, but with the recent cocktail renaissance, boozy dinners have become all the rage.
So we’ve decided to create a menu of cocktails that will complement every stage of your holiday. Forego the French Beaujolais, I’ve given a special nod to domestic spirits, to make this a true all-American celebration.
Aperitif - The Jack Rose
This simple mixture belonging to the sour family of cocktails consists of Lairds Applejack, lime juice and grenadine. Lairds Applejack, a type of Apple brandy, is one of the oldest domestic liquors and is made at the oldest licensed distillery in the country. It is modeled after Calvados, apple brandy from Normandy.
While the pilgrims did not have Applejack at their table, according to Laird’s website when the first settlers arrived in America, they brought apple seeds with them. The first apple crop in the New World was harvested from trees planted by them. This drink makes a perfect starter to complement your appetizers. The sweet and tart apple and earthy pomegranate from the grenadine make a smooth and tasteful cocktail. The Applejack provides a subtle kick.
Where to try in DC: Ask for the namesake tipple at the Jack Rose dining Saloon in Adams Morgan.
The Main Course – The Manhattan
The classic Manhattan is a mixture of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. To stick with the All-American theme, be sure to mix this timeless tipple with bourbon. A 1964 Act of Congress declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit” by celebrating the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States.
Master mixologist, Dale ”King Cocktail” DeGroff, author of “The Essential Cocktail,” recommends a Manhattan made with extra bitters and 100-proof bourbon to cope with those uncomfortable family situations that can occur at the dinner table. In a Gourmet magazine article, DeGroff says that “the bourbon will calm everybody down, the bitters will give them a taste of what we have had to listen to, and the sweet vermouth will come through in the finish and balance out the evening.”
Where to try in DC: Head to Smoke and Barrel in Adams Morgan.
Dessert – The Seelbach
Many traditionalists favor a rich and creamy elixir for dessert such as eggnog or a brandy Alexander. But after over-indulging on turkey and all the trimmings, what you really need is something light and effervescent that still has the chops to stand up to the tremendous feast which preceded it.
Named after the Louisville, Kentucky hotel where it was created in 1917, the Seelbach is a mixture of bourbon, Cointreau, Champagne and both Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters.
The bubbly and orange liqueur give this pre-Prohibition cocktail a fruity and airy flavor, and the abundance of bitters works well as a digestive. To stick with the domestic theme, use a California sparkling wine such as Roederer Estate or Domaine Chandon.
Where to try in DC: Bourbon Steak in Georgetown makes an impressive one.
Beer Drinkers - The Harpoon Apple Pie
Since the winter beer season is in full swing around Thanksgiving, I’d like to offer a beer cocktail for those who just want to stick to their brewski. This concoction comes from the Harpoon Brewery, which is based in the Pilgrim’s home state of Massachusetts.
A 50/50 mixture of Harpoon Winter Warmer beer and cider, this drink tastes like a slice of apple pie in a pint glass. The Winter Warmer, one of the first seasonal brews made in America, is a malty beer with a bold spice of cinnamon and nutmeg. When mixed with hard cider, a perfect combination of holiday spices and crisp apple is formed. And for the Redskins fans out there, this sweet treat is the perfect way to enjoy a Cowboys loss on the gridiron.
Where to Try: De Vinos: 2001 18th St. NW, DC; 202-986-5002;www.de-vinos.com;Smoke and Barrel: 2471 18th St. NW, DC; 202-319-9353;www.smokeandbarreldc.com; Bourbon Steak: 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. DC; 202-944-2026;www.bourbonsteakdc.com; Jack Rose Dining Saloon: 2007 18th St. NW, DC;202-588-7388; www.jackrosediningsaloon.com