The Thanksgiving table’s set, the Raiders vs. Cowboys game is on in the background, and everybody’s ready for one righteous, all-American turkey feast.
And just like that customary Dallas Cowboys game, the question comes every year: What beverages work best for washing down that Thanksgiving meal?
As always, the answer is multipronged.
The typical Thanksgiving meal encompasses just about as many flavors as there were passengers on the Mayflower – from the sweet, slightly tart cranberry sauce to turkey that’s slathered with rich, savory gravy.
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No single wine is going to work with each dish, but there are a few go-to varietals that reliably pair well with these traditional eats. Remember, Thanksgiving should be a day of relaxation, not one where hosts end up feeling like stressed-out sommeliers.
A domestic sparkling wine will always be welcome. In addition to being the perfect way to toast with friends and family, the bubbles will keep that palate feeling fresh and energized, even after the umpteenth helping of buttery mashed potatoes. The acidity of sparkling wine is perfectly suited to balance fatty dishes.
Speaking of sparkling wine, they can also be used for crafting festive and seasonal cocktails. Domaine Carneros, the sparkling wine house of Napa, suggests adding three tablespoons of fresh pomegranate juice and a few pomegranate seeds as garnish to a flute of its brut sparkler.
In terms of red wines, pinot noir and lighter styles of zinfandel are well suited for Thanksgiving. They feature plenty of flavor but a more moderate body that, unlike young cabernet sauvignon and Bordeaux-styled blends, won’t make your taste buds grapple with heavy oak and mouth-puckering tannins before a bite of honey-baked ham. Save those more robust reds for a thick rib-eye steak.
With three NFL games to choose from on Turkey Day, we can also see beer taking center stage for a good chunk of Thanksgiving.
The rise of the craft beer movement has shown how various brews can help elevate a dining experience, not just something to use as a partner for a plate of chili-cheese fries. Beer is the new wine in many circles, and plenty of well-crafted ales show flavor complexity and quality ingredients that can create thoughtful food pairings.
For Thanksgiving, there are a couple of recommended routes that a discriminating beer drinker can take. One is to select a full-bodied dark ale. Think of that ham or turkey with the perfect amount of browning. Then take a drink of, say, a Brother Thelonious Belgian strong dark ale with its spiciness and big molasses overtones.
Or you could aim for a lighter style of beer that emphasizes citrus and spicy flavors. We’re thinking of farmhouse ales and Belgian-style whites here. Our pick, though slightly hard to find, is the appropriately named ’Merica by Prairie Artisan Ales. This good ol’ American craft beer from Oklahoma has a great yeasty character along with clove and caramel notes that’ll match well with a variety of side dishes.