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Saturday, November 19, 2011

A turkey tail full of cocktails for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is celebrated in many ways in Salt Lake City and across the USA, but one of the most common is at a family gathering featuring a turkey dinner.  In school we all learned that Thanksgiving Day commemorates the day of giving thanks that the Pilgrim Fathers celebrated (and President Lincoln later established as a holiday) after their first harvest at the Plymouth Colony on Cape Cod.  Cocktails at Thanksgiving used to be for before dinner and after dinner affair, with wine (or beer or non-alcoholic beverages) served during the meal.  In recent years, thanks to the craft cocktail revival, there has been a shift toward serving cocktails with Thanksgiving dinner.

Pairing cocktails with Thanksgiving dinner presents the same challenges as pairing wines.  Sweet or dry?  Subtle or flavorful?  (Flavorful might be a better choice for the variety of flavors likely to be found in Thanksgiving dinner.)  Personal tastes (yours and tour guests’).  Here’s a selection of cocktails that should please you this Thanksgiving.  Some are sweet, some are dry, but there should be something to please almost everyone.

Plymouth® is a brand name for a distinct type of Gin that legend says was used in the first Martini cocktail, and it’s the Gin that Dale DeGroff used when he made me a Martini at Portland Cocktail Week.  Made at the Blackfriars Distillery in Plymouth (it used to be a monastery) it was probably the last Gin the Pilgrim Fathers drank before (and perhaps while) sailing to Massachusetts.  It makes a great Pink Gin.  The poor Pilgrims probably didn’t have any cocktail bitters and had to drink their Gin neat, but we can do better.  

If your taste leans more toward Whisky, especially Scotch Whisky, you might want to try a Bobby Burns.  While Scotch, Italian Vermouth, and Benedictine were most likely in short supply among the Pilgrims, that doesn’t mean you have to do without, and it is almost St. Andrew’s Day.

While the Pilgrims were far from New York (and even further in time considering their seventeenth century travel technology) a Manhattan just tastes good this time of year.  So if nothing has appealed to you so far, give this classic a try; it’s sure to please. 

The Cape Codder, named after the peninsula where the Plymouth Colony was located, is a simple drink with only two ingredients: Orange Vodka and Cranberry Juice.  It’s easy to make and will compliment the traditional turkey dinner.  Think of it as a form of liquid cranberry sauce.

Rum is the quintessential liquor of the new world, so what better way to beat the winter weather than with a Hot Rum Toddy?  The poor Pilgrims probably didn’t have any Caribbean Rum at the first Thanksgiving, but why should you suffer?  This might be a selection best served after dinner.

One pleasant memory is how at Grandma’s house every Thanksgiving back in the fifties the kids could be found either running around “like wild Indians” (commemorating Thanksgiving?) or drinking glass after glass of non-alcoholic eggnog.  Meanwhile Grandpa would be serving up Old Fashioned’s for Dad, Mom, and the aunts and uncles.  Here’s hoping that this cocktail reminds you of the Thanksgivings d’antan as it does me.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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