Your Complete Guide to Thanksgiving Wines and Cocktails

Tips and recipes from beach-area booze experts.


The turkey, potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie are unforgettable items on every Thanksgiving meal checklist. But that doesn’t mean you should overlook the libations! We recommend serving a wine, cocktail or beer that plays well with at least one of those distinctive holiday dishes. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.


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The starters

Creating a signature cocktail with seasonal flavors is a memorable way to start the meal. Amber Willis, a bar manager for SoDel Concepts, recommends Bluecoast’s Maple-Ginger Cranberry-Bourbon Fizz (recipe below). 

Or try Dogfish Head’s tart-yet-sweet Analog Cranberry Cobber (recipe below), a vodka-based cocktail made with cranberry juice or cranberry sauce. “It’s light and refreshing, and goes well with all the savory goodness of Thanksgiving dinner,” says Rob Bagley, a mixologist at Chesapeake & Maine in Rehoboth Beach. 

Catherine Hester, who with her husband Kevin owns Teller Wines in Lewes, breaks out a sparkling wine with appetizers. An expensive champagne is not required—there are plenty of great options from Spain, Italy and California.

The reds

Some people pair Beaujolais Nouveau with Thanksgiving, as it’s traditionally released on the third Thursday of November. But Mike Zygmonski, director of wine for SoDel Concepts, recommends 2015 Jean Foillard Morgon Cuvée Corcelette, a non-nouveau classic Beaujolais. “It’s light, fresh and juicy,” he says. “It has light tannins. It’s perfect with turkey and stuffing.”

Pinot noir is a Thanksgiving Day staple in many households. “It’s a lighter style,” says Tom Bachmann, an owner of Bin 66 on the Forgotten Mile. “It has notes of strawberries and currents, which makes it go well with all the sauces. It doesn’t overpower the turkey.”

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Zygmonski recommends 2015 A. et P. de Villaine Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise La Fortune. “It’s a great value,” he says. “It has medium tannins, good viscosity and beautiful fruit.”

Another option: Felsina Chianti Classico Berardenga Rancia Riserva 2013. The ripe flavor of the Sangiovese grape pairs perfectly with the elements that make up a Thanksgiving feast, Zygmonski says.

You can’t go wrong with a medium-bodied red, Hester says. Look for Grenache/Garnacha, Syrah, Tempranillo and Cotes du Rhone.

The whites

Gewürztraminer, an aromatic grape, is the old faithful for people who prefer white wine on Thanksgiving. If sweeter wines aren’t your thing, Bachmann recommends an Albarino from Spain. “It’s light and delicate with a hint of citrus,” he says.

If you like Chardonnay, Hester recommends a buttery one that will enhance all the rich side dishes. “Or, for contrast, try a lively, tart Sauvignon Blanc,” she adds.

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The beer

This is a no-brainer: Any pumpkin ales will be perfect, Bachmann says.

The desserts

With pumpkin and apple pies, try a Sauterne wine, which has a hint of orange, Bachmann says. Zygmonski is happy with a good bourbon.

Maple-Ginger Cranberry-Bourbon Fizz

Courtesy of Amber Willis of SoDel Concepts

For the simple syrup:

  • ¼ cup frozen cranberries
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

Bring all the ingredients to boil until the berries begin to pop. Spoon out the cranberries and ginger; reserve the syrup.

For the garnish:

  • Thawed frozen cranberries
  • Sliced orange
  • Simple syrup
  • Granulated sugar

Soak thawed cranberries and a sliced orange in some of the simple syrup overnight. The next day, drain and then toss in a bowl with a sprinkle of granulated sugar. Spread out on a plate to dry.

For the drink:

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Sparkling water
  • Ice

Add bourbon, simple syrup and orange juice to a tall glass of ice. Stir gently to mix. Fill the rest of the glass to the top with sparkling water. Garnish with sugar-cured cranberries and an orange wheel.

Analog Cranberry Cobbler

Courtesy of Chesapeake & Maine

  • 1½ ounces Dogfish Head Analog Vodka
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce cranberry sauce or cranberry juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • Ice

Combine all ingredients, except ice, in a shaker; shake for 10 seconds. Add ice and shake for 10 more seconds. Double-strain the cocktail into a Collins or cobbler glass.            

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