Everybody loves Thanksgiving food, but with so many different ingredients and flavors happening, it can be hard to know what to drink. That's why I'm here to show you exactly what Thanksgiving wine pairings you need to know about to make this the best holiday of them all, as well as offer a few cocktail suggestions to make your Thanksgiving day even boozier.
There are two basic ways to think about pairing: overlapping, and opposing. Both can be equally delicious. For example, avocado tastes great with eggs; both are rich and creamy. But it's also good with lime, because lime's acidity balances out the fullness of the avocado. Those same principles apply to pairing food and drinks.
You want the flavors of each thing you're tasting to enhance one another, not for one to overpower the other. It's why people usually don't serve red wine with fish — big, heavy, spicy reds can easily overwhelm the more delicate flavors in many fish. (There are, of course, many exceptions to this rule. But it's still a good general example!) The same goes for light white wines — if you're drinking them with a steak and potatoes, they're going to be completely drowned out by the much richer flavors of the food. When you're pairing food and drinks, try to think about the relative "weight" of the dish. A bold, fatty, creamy meal needs equally bold wine, while if you're eating something light and crisp, you should be drinking the same way.
With that in mind, I've broken your Thanksgiving meal down and suggested a red, a white, and a cocktail to go with each course.
You can't be expected to just sit around all day and wait for a turkey (or veggie pot pie) to cook without snacking (and drinking) a bit. So let's assume that you're going to tide everyone over with the easiest (and classiest) of appetizers: the cheese plate. I'm imagining a soft, rich Brie, a nutty Gruyere, and maybe a smooth, buttery Havarti.
White: A crisp Pinot grigio from Italy would be perfect for cutting through some of the richness of the cheese without overtaking its flavor.
Red: OK, I'm cheating a little here, but a dry rosé really would be perfect for balancing out those cheeses. Look for one from Provence.
Cocktail: Grand Raspberry Peach Bellini
Sparkling wine is the unicorn of alcohol, in that it goes well with nearly everything. To give it a little more depth and some fruity notes that will taste amazing with your cheese, add a splash of Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach. Instantly classy.
There are so many different components to Thanksgiving dinner that it seems almost impossible to find a drink that would complement all of them. But all those Thanksgiving foods have similar flavor profiles — that's why we eat them together. So, finding drinks to match actually isn't as difficult as you'd think. These suggestions should work whether you're doing a traditional or vegetarian meal.
White: A lot of people have a bad association with Riesling, thinking that it's overly sweet. I used to, too! But that's actually only one style of the aromatic white wine. Look for a dry one from France or Australia, which will go great with slightly oily foods like turkey.
Red: Piiiiiiiinooooooooooot noooooooooir! But seriously, this light red has just the right amount of fruit and spice to stand up to Thanksgiving food, without being so bold that it gives you a sensory overload. Look for one from South America or California for notes of raspberry and clove, which will go nicely with all those fall flavors.
Cocktail: Carpe Dia Punch
This is another case where we're going to use the idea of opposing flavors to pair with food. The tart, fruity notes in this punch will accent the rich food you're eating (just like cranberry sauce does), while the aged tequila and sage will bring depth and warmth to the drink. Plus, sage and turkey is a classic combination. Get the recipe here.
I'm going to go ahead and assume that you're having pie for dessert. It is Thanksgiving, after all. So probably apple, pumpkin, and/or pecan? Great, let's do this.
White: Sémillon might not be a varietal you're very familiar with, but trust me on this one. This dry, lightly acidic wine has notes of fig, honey, and a touch of salinity, which will help it cut through the strong, sweet flavors of the pie.
Red: I'm cheating again here, but since madeira is made with mostly red grapes, I'm going to give myself a pass. This Portuguese beverage is actually a fortified wine, which means that a distilled spirit (brandy, usually) is added to the wine. Madeiras range in style from dry to sweet, but to go along with your dessert, look for one labeled "malmsey," which is the sweetest type. The nutty, caramel-y flavors will be perfect.
Cocktail: Cardamom and Vanilla Coffee Cocktail
You just can't have pie without coffee. It would practically be a sin. So to end your Thanksgiving feast, try this coffee cocktail that has a hint of cardamom, which will be an interesting complement to your more traditional flavors. Get the recipe here.
For more awesome Thanksgiving ideas, check out Bustle on YouTube.
Images: Kimberly Vardeman/Flickr; Offbeat and Inspired; Milagro; Grand Marnier; Stacy Spensley/Flickr; Sharon Mollerus/Flickr; Didriks/Flickr