2016 Sucks! Drinks to Survive Thanksgiving, Even If You’re Alone

Wine, spirits, cider, punch and highball suggestions to get you through the holiday.
photo by Didriks via Flickr
photo by Didriks via Flickr

“What a great year 2016 has been!” is something almost no one says. It’s been the year fate decided to festoon many of us with a craptastic bounty of personal loss, illness and tragedy. No to mention this relentless, off-pitch, sinister music death tornado, that started with David Bowie in the first ten fricking days of the year, moving through Lemmy, Phife Dawg, Prince (much 2 soon), Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Mose Allison, Billy Miller and now just this past weekend, Sharon Jones, (Sharon Freakin’ Jones!) and there are still several weeks of the year to go. At least we have their legacy soundtrack to serenade us in the aftermath of this election plonknobbery, which is already playing out like the worst dystopian TV talk show/late night comedy sketch nightmare come to fruition.

It’s been challenging to come to terms with all of the what in the actual. However, the one bit of good news is there are some distractions. And by “distractions” I mean the kind you pour into a glass. That’s something to be thankful for, even for those of us who don’t feel much like celebrating Thanksgiving. So here’s how to make it through the holiday whether you’re with family who gets along, family who doesn’t, a dinner guest with a group of strangers, hosting a crowd, or you just want everyone to leave you the f**ktits alone.

photo by Amanda Schuster
photo by Amanda Schuster

Visiting relatives and dreading a confrontation? Things are so bad out there in anticipation of the holiday season that it’s prompted a deluge of articles about how to handle these awkward family interactions. My advice is to bring along some provisions, things you, at least, will enjoy sipping. They also happen to fit neatly into the middle of tense conversations with a simple interjection of, “Hey, could you pass the wine?” A bottle of bubbly is always a good idea as a gesture of goodwill and will match most aspects of the meal, (and if someone objects, well then voi-f**king-là, there’s more for you). Try Jaillance Brut Rosé, a refreshing, versatile French sparkler which won bronze in the 2016 NY International Wine Competition and pairs with everything from cheese bites, squash soup and fruity condiments to turkey and sides (and is so pleasant to sip, you’ll hardly notice the startling turn of conversation in support of the conservative supremacist team of donkey-spankers in consideration for office). If pink is just too controversial a color for this table, luckily there is a plain Brut counterpart. Heck, bring both. For something more hearty, you can’t go wrong with a Chianti Classico, such as the mouthwatering, brambly and satisfying Cecchi 2014. They’ve been in production since 1893 and know a thing or two about surviving times of political strife, including how to pronounce their name. It’s “check-ee,” not “chetchy.” Although you might need a flask of something stronger as backup for a time out swig. Good thing there’s such a thing as Cavalry Bourbon. Just make sure that flask is full. And know your escape route.

photo by Amanda Schuster
photo by Amanda Schuster

If you’re visiting a home for the first time, make a positive impression with a kickass wine to match the main meal. Much has been said about pairing zinfandel with Thanksgiving fare. Though zinfandel’s flavors match this type of cuisine, they’re often accompanied with a hefty ABV that will quickly put a downer on such heavy indulgences and make guests feel as though they just ingested a handful of f**king horse tranquilizers. Instead, reach for a robust, full-flavored style of pinot noir that isn’t as heady, such as 2014 Panther Creek Winemaker’s Cuvée. The grapes used in the wine were harvested from various vineyards across Willamette Valley, Oregon, contributing to its poised balance of ripe fruit, spice and earthy backbone. If you still crave those zinfandel-ish jammy notes, try one from Italy, where it’s called “Primitivo,” but with less sugary alcohol, such as 2013 Borgo Al Sole. Just don’t be a tool-aid and bring up politics unless asked first. Oh, and have that flask and escape route prepared here too just in case.

If you have to play the host this year, the easiest crowd pleaser is a sparkling punch. We’ve previously posted two recipes for the holiday and the favorite is the Welcome Distraction, which is not only easy to throw together, but keeps people busy while you tend to things in the kitchen. And if some family member tries to “help” by insulting your utensil organization methods or provides other unsolicited advice, just shove a mug of this in his or her paws and say you’ve got this. It’s Thanksgiving. You’re also allowed to mouth the words “crotch hippo” when they aren’t looking.

photo by Amanda Schuster
photo by Amanda Schuster

The Welcome Distraction (a.k.a. Late Autumn Spiced Sparkling Punch)

Two 750 ml bottles sparkling wine such as Prosecco, Cava, Crémant de Bourgogne or NV American sparkler.

375 ml Bourbon, Aged Rum or Brandy of choice

175 ml (about ¾ cup) Apple Brandy, Applejack or Calvados.

78 ml (about ⅓ cup) Pie Spiced Simple Syrup (recipe follows)

Sliced seasonal citrus such as oranges, tangerines, clementines and/or kumquats (mix it up or use only one kind.)

Grated Nutmeg

Recommended: Freeze small bowl or coffee mug of water overnight to make a giant ice dome, which will keep the drink chilled, but impart less water into it as it sits out than regular ice. Large ice spheres or cubes would also work.

Add all the liquids into a punch bowl and give it a good stir. Add sliced fruit. Grate the nutmeg. Just before guests arrive, add the ice. Ladle the f**k away!

Pie Spiced Simple Syrup

  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Granulated or Demerara Sugar
  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 5 Cloves
  • 5 Dried Allspice Berries
  • 3 Cardamom Pods

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. On medium heat, bring to just the point of bubbling. Lower heat and simmer uncovered until sugar dissolves and mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 15 – 20 minutes. Strain and let cool. Keeps in refrigerator for about 1 week.

photo by Alissa Walker via Flickr
photo by Alissa Walker via Flickr

If you just can’t face it, no judgements here. Screw everything, who needs this kind of shiznat at the holidays, right? There is so much suckage out there right now! Just stay home, wear the frayed stretch pants and binge watch whatever the hell your blessed heart desires. For hard times like these, pick up a four-pack of a hard cider, like Virtue Michigan Brut, which uses tart Michigan apples and barrel ages in French oak. It’s surprisingly great with Chinese takeout. Since you can’t deal with family right now, the highball family is one you won’t mind spending time with. All you need is your choice of hard liquor and something fizzy like sparkling water, seltzer, club soda, ginger ale/beer or tonic and some citrus wedges (no need to get fancy with the garnishes). It’s pretty difficult to bollix a gin and tonic, well, except if you have bad gin and bad tonic. For the gin, try something easy-drinking, dry and refreshing, like Martin Miller’s Gin, or for something on the fun and funky side, like Gray Skies Distillery Barrel Hopped Gin, which both won gold in the 2016 NY International Spirits Competition. Stock up on Fever Tree or Q for that tonic, or mix to your own taste with Tomr’s Tonic syrup and soda – it’s worth that extra effort, because, as Tom Richter says, “Life is too short for crappy tonic.” If Rum and Coke is more your thing, Twisted Sun Gold rum (bronze, 2016 NYISC), is dry and slightly smoky, mixing well with cola spices. For whiskey highballs, you can’t go wrong with good ol’ Dewar’s White Label, or hell, treat yourself to their Scratched Cask, both of which are freakin’ aces when mixed with Franklin & Sons ginger beer. More of a vodka drinker? Support some fine craft distillers with brands like 33 Below, Backwards Distilling or Twisted Path Distillery. For dessert, pour yourself a big, flippin’ glass or two of Black Button Distilling Bespoke Bourbon Cream. Just give in to its delicious awesomeness and don’t worry about the calories. It’s not as though you anyone’s going to see you in a damn speedo next week, and it’s Thanks-frickin-giving, after all. 

courtesy Madrigal Family Winery
courtesy Madrigal Family Winery

Not every family situation is stressful (thank f**k for that). For the family that eats together and laughs together, bring a damn delicious wine from a freaking great family vineyard! Madrigal Family Winery from Calistoga in the Napa Valley, now in its third generation under the leadership of Chris Madrigal, produces both a white and red wine that will set a harmonious tone. The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc eschews the usual grass and cat piss profile of trendy SB, and instead aims for a more Bordeaux-like style with fuller tastes of melon, stone fruits, citrus and a subtle floral scent. The 2012 Petite Sirah is the Al Green “Let’s Stay Together” of wine – soulful, comforting, mellow, but with an earthy grip.

No matter how you celebrate, all of us at Alcohol Professor wish you a happy f**king Thanksgiving. Cheers!

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