Thanksgiving is a time to drink and eat with your family, to share memories and joys and field goals. It’s also a great time to help spread your love of whisky and potentially create new fans. After all, some friends and family members may never have tried really good whisky or given it much of a chance. As a passionate whisky lover, you can show them what makes whisky so exciting.
If you really wanted, you could probably come up with a pretty good whisky pairing to go with turkey, stuffing, or cranberry sauce, and convince the host to put a bottle of whisky on the table next to the wine. But why try to compete with other beverages? Instead, wait until after dinner, when everyone is relaxing, to open some great bottles—and hopefully open some minds too.
Whiskies To Share With Family At Thanksgiving
If you want to introduce as-yet-unenlightened family members to the joys of whisky at Thanksgiving, consider making a round of cocktails. Some people just aren’t used to sipping spirits, and cocktails are a great way to ease them in. For your own sake and theirs, keep it simple: make a round of Old Fashioneds or Manhattans to introduce guests to rye or bourbon—or if you’re looking for a little variety, try another whiskey and vermouth cocktail. If you love single malt and are a little more ambitious, the Penicillin is the perfect postprandial medicine. Fancier drinks like the Bacon Maple Old Fashioned offer great flavors, but take a lot more prep work, cleanup, and dedicated barware that may not be available if you aren’t in your own kitchen. Stick to classics.
But if you aren’t feeling up to making cocktails after all that marathon eating, just pick up a few of your favorite whiskies to share.
Consider bringing three different types of whiskey: a bourbon, a rye, and a scotch or Irish whiskey. These are likely to be the most familiar styles, and the easiest for friends and family to seek out if they fall in love after your wonderful tasting. Avoid obscure labels or styles that require a lot of explanation, as well as cask strength whiskies that can be forbidding to newcomers. Stick to bottles under $50, and bring a list of recommendations so new converts know where to start. Lastly, bring some extra ice cube trays and fill them up before dinner—even if you always drink your whisky neat, other people may be more receptive to whisky on the rocks or with water added.
Bring whiskies that you’re eager to talk about—your personal favorites. If nothing comes to mind or if you’re flying somewhere and it’s easier to pick up some bottles from the local liquor store, any of these should do in a pinch.
Best Bourbons for Thanksgiving
Bourbon is America’s spirit, so it should probably be your main focus on one of the most distinctly American holidays. For obvious thematic reasons, Wild Turkey is an excellent choice. Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit and Russell’s Reserve 10 year old both offer a traditional and full-flavored bourbon experience.
If you expect to gobble up so much turkey that you won’t want to drink some more afterwards, consider Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select or Buffalo Trace instead. Both are widely available, representative of what bourbon tastes like, and quite accessible. Or get into a bit of whiskey history with Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled-in-Bond 10 year old, a very affordable whiskey for its age.
Best Ryes for Thanksgiving
While rye is historically closely associated with Canadian whisky, you know perfectly well that Americans also make excellent rye whiskey. Your family, on the other hand, may not know this, and you get to educate them. Besides, Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American holiday, so why not stick to some local stuff?
Bring a classic like Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond rye, or a crowd-pleaser such as the new Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel rye. And you can’t go wrong with more Wild Turkey: the excellent Russell’s Reserve 6 year old rye is a surefire way to show off American rye at its best.
Best Scotches and Irish Whiskeys for Thanksgiving
Unless you’re serving grouse, scotch and Irish whiskey don’t fit into the Thanksgiving theme quite as well as bourbon and rye. But they’re still ripe for exploration and enjoyment. Speaking of exploring, consider Shackleton Blended Malt, a perfect introduction for new scotch lovers with a great story to match. For a classic single malt, try the honeyed Glenmorangie Original 10 year old or the lighter Glen Moray 12 year old. Craigellachie 13 year old is also an excellent dram with a rich, oily body. If you’re a fan of blended whiskies, Johnnie Walker Double Black or Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend are both great choices. If you’re feeling bold enough to offer newbies something peated, consider bringing a bottle of Lagavulin 8 year old, Talisker 10 year old, or Laphroaig Quarter Cask to share after dessert.
On the Irish side, Slane blended whiskey is a great place to start for drinkers who are starting to explore the country’s offerings, while the single pot still-style Redbreast 12 year old’s elegant, complex, and gentle flavor profile makes it a certain winner, especially for overstuffed family members. Teeling Single Grain is a very different style, but its red fruit flavors should pair well with cranberry sauce and cherry pie.
And remember: when you’re introducing new whiskies to friends and family over Thanksgiving, your goal is to show off how great whisky can be, whatever the circumstance. If some people want to do a structured tasting of your whiskies side-by-side while someone else just wants a bourbon on the rocks while watching the football game, make it happen! There’s no wrong way to enjoy whisky, and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to share that spirit of openness.