Booze makes Thanksgiving better.
And I’m not talking about how a cocktail or glass of wine might make your cranky Uncle Bernie a more tolerable dining companion.
I’m talking about how it can improve the food itself. As a wine and cocktails author, I’ve long believed in the benefits of cooking with booze, and pretty much every dish on your Thanksgiving table can be improved with the right alcohol product. Here’s my list of improvements to your Thanksgiving meal.
Turkey: Besides basting with butter, you can add wine, bourbon, brandy, beer, cider or a combination. Tequila and mezcal also would work – especially a mezcal that was created with a smoked turkey breast like pechuga. If you are planning to serve a particular wine, beer or cider with your bird, baste it with the liquid, too, and you will create a perfect pairing. In terms of wine, though, go with white unless you want your turkey to take on a red or pink tinge.
Gravy: The guidelines for gravy is pretty similar. Add just a splash of wine, beer, bourbon, brandy and cider. This will give the gravy just a deeper depth of flavor. As with the turkey, In terms of wine, avoid red and rosé, as they will change the color of your gravy. Unless pink gravy is your thing.
Sweet Potatoes: Here, bourbon reigns supreme, and the vanilla notes of bourbon will match up well with marshmallow topping. Brandy, rum and hard cider also work well.
Mashed Potatoes: White wine and hard cider are pretty much the only booze options for mashed potatoes, and what you want to do is to boil them in a mixture of water and wine or cider, then drain it off.
Stuffing: White wine is my go-to for stuffings, especially if I’m adding some fresh thyme. A nice, herbal Sauvignon Blanc can make your stuffing sing – just add a few tablespoons to the wet stuffing mixture before you put that dish into the oven.
Green Bean Casserole, Broccoli and Cheese Casserole, Mac and Cheese : Here again, white wine and hard cider are the two best options. Add a couple of tablespoons to the canned soup or the milk thickened with roux.
Roasted Root Vegetables, Squash: A little bit of bourbon, rum or brandy can make the flavors of roasted vegetables sing.
Cranberry Sauce and Cranberry Compote: Hard cider works great if you add apples to your cranberries, but if you add oranges, than Cointreau, Gran Marnier or another orange liqueur is the way to go – and this has long been my secret ingredient to my famous cranberry sauce.
Bread and Rolls: Beer bread is the way to go. But if beer’s not your thing, you can also use white wine in a beer bread recipe.
Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Pie: Again, bourbon, brandy and rum all can deepen, sweeten and enhance the flavors of pie.
Apple Pie: Hard cider sings in an apple pie, but so does apple brandy.
Cherry Pie: Kirsch and other kinds of cherry liqueur make the cherries in your pie pop with flavor.
Chocolate Pie: In my family, chocolate-anything reigns supreme so usually, I recommend rum or bourbon. I even add bourbon or rum to my chocolate chip cookies, as bourbon makes everything better. But if you’re a fan of milk stouts, they shine through in a good chocolate dessert, and you can’t go wrong with chocolate, coffee or fruit liqueurs.