3 Thanksgiving cocktails to make at home for the holidays

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching and for those hosting a family dinner, there can be a lot of pressure when it comes to preparing the perfect meal.

Luckily, there’s alcohol.

Besides the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, there are also drinks to be served. Why not step it up an ounce or two with some fancy cocktails?

And you don’t have to be a professional mixologist to combine the right spirits, because we asked three top Southern California bartenders to come up with cocktails that can be enjoyed throughout the Thanksgiving meal.

The first is a pre-dinner libation that’s just strong enough to get the party going. The second is a reliable main course drink that will pair well with a big dinner without being too flashy. For the finish, there’s the perfect cocktail for dessert: just sweet enough to compliment a pumpkin or apple pie while keeping you level-headed enough for a fireside chat.

Here are the cocktail recipes, which are measured for a single serving.

Bartender Ariel Israeli makes a Jalisco Sunset at Fuego at Hotel Maya in Long Beach, CA, on Thursday, November 3, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The Starter

The mixologist: Ariel Israeli

The drink: Jalisco Sunset

1 1/2 ounces Casamigos Blanco Tequila

1 ounce Grapefruit Liqueur

1/2 ounce Aperol

1/2 ounce Lemon Juice

1/4 ounce Agave

Cranberry soda

Put everything in a cocktail shaker, shake it up and strain it over fresh ice and top it off with a cranberry soda.

Details: Ariel Israeli is the bartender at Fuego, the modern Latin restaurant at Hotel Maya in Long Beach, and creator of this uplifting holiday cocktail. The tequila is the fuel that drives this drink, but it’s not overwhelming. The Aperol, which is an Italian bitter, is sweet and will pair well with the other citrus flavors in the drink. “It’s kind of got a tropical vibe to it, a little bit of warmth as well,” Israeli said. And it’s topped with a cranberry soda, so it will fit right in with the Thanksgiving meal. He also recommends garnishing it with cranberries.

Fuego at Hotel Maya is at 700 Queensway Drive, Long Beach.

The Anjou Dandy by Gabrielle Dion is a main course cocktail that can be made at home for Thanksgiving dinner. (Photo by Gabrielle Dion)

The Main Course

The mixologist: Gabrielle Dion

The drink: Anjou Dandy

1 ounce Gin

1 ounce St.George Spiced Pear Liqueur

1/2 ounce lemon juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup

2 ounces of cold Prosecco wine

Combine the Gin, spiced liqueur, lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker with ice and give it a quick, hard, but short shake. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and top with cold Prosecco. Garnish with a slice of pear and a rosemary sprig.

Pro tip: You don’t have to buy simple syrup: Combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar in a mason jar and shake until dissolved. That’s it.

Details: Dion is the well-known Orange County mixologist behind the Mixing Glass and Market, a shop that specializes in selling cocktail barware and hosting cocktail classes. It’s also a fresh food market, which is opening at a new location by the end of November. Her cocktail has a little spice to it, only an ounce of gin and the right amount of acidity that she said will pair with anything, whether dark meat turkey and gravy or stuffing. “It’s going to cut through that and make your meal more enjoyable,” she said. “Because there’s Prosecco, it also gives it an effervescence and it also gives it a lightness.”

Mixing Glass and Market will open at 1500 Adams Ave., Costa Mesa.

The Fall Back by bartender Taylor Jones is a dessert drink that can be made for Thanksgiving dinner. (Photo courtesy Playa Provisions)

And For Dessert

The mixologist: Taylor Jones

The drink: The Fall Back

1 ounce Bourbon

1 ounce Calvados (apple brandy)

1/4 ounce Caramel Apple Cordial (see recipe below)

2 dashes Cardamom Bitters

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Any bourbon will work for this drink. Jones prefers Wild Turkey. She recommends putting all the ingredients in a mixing glass and stirring it all with ice, then straining it to serve over a large cube and garnish with one cinnamon stick.

The caramel apple cordial will take a little extra effort, but this is key for the dessert flavor of the drink. In a small skillet, add one cup of sugar and stir until caramelized. Then lower the heat and add half a cup of unfiltered apple cider to deglaze. Throw in one cinnamon stick and one Star Anise into the pan and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Let it cool before combining with the other ingredients.

Details: Taylor Jones is a bartender at Grain Whiskey Bar at Playa Provisions, a spot in Playa del Rey which includes four different restaurants by season 14 Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson and her husband Nick Roberts. Jones said this drink is basically an apple brandy Old Fashioned and she created it with dessert in mind. “After you have your meal, you go sit by the fire, you have your pumpkin pie and you have your apple brandy Old Fashioned,” she said. “It’s going to be strong … it’s sweet, there are fall spices and the bourbon makes you warm inside.”

Playa Provisions is at 119 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey.

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