Your Comprehensive, All-Day Thanksgiving Drinking (and Snacking) Guide

From grower Champagne to dressed-up onion dip, here's how Boston restaurant pros want you to celebrate Turkey Day.

thanksgiving drinking

Just think, this could be you this Thanksgiving! Photo via Shutterstock

The day before Thanksgiving, colorfully known as “Blackout Wednesday,” is widely regarded as the biggest party night of the year. But that spirit of debauchery tends to spill over into all those Turkey Day festivities. Parade floats? Boring without a chilled bottle of bubbles. Pumpkin pie? Blah without bourbon. And even residents of The Motor City will concede, it’s hard to stomach the Lions without nursing a beer or three.

But there’s also the bird in the oven, and sides to prepare, and a killer soundtrack to curate, and family members to entertain. So, how do you juggle all those responsibilities without missing out on all the holiday hijinks? We’ve asked some of Boston’s finest chefs and drinks professionals for their advice on the best way to imbibe during Thanksgiving’s marathon itinerary—and here’s the key—without crashing midday.

Here, in their own words, are the easy-to-make snacks, spirits, and boozy meal pairings that will make this Thanksgiving your liveliest yet.

The Wake-Up


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What to Drink: Grower Champagne
Pro Suggestion: 2007 Blanc de Blanc, Guy Larmandier ‘Grand Cru – Signe Francois,’ Vertus, Champagne, France
Theresa Paopao (Beverage Director, Ribelle)

“This is the first vintage that this particular cuvee has been crafted, and despite possessing all the necessary traits that can command a more expensive price tag—bottle age, prime location, reputation—I find it to be a relatively good value. Rich and decadent with the sweet funk of white miso, orange blossom, and freshly baked pastry, it’s everything I’m looking for in a breakfast wine. This champagne is straight-up delicious!”


Alternative: Sour Beers
Pro Suggestion: LoverBeer BeerBrugna
Megan Parker-Gray (Beverage Director, Row 34)

“It’s no secret that I love sour beers and one of my favorite styles within the category is this elegent sour that’s been aged with fruit. BeerBrugna from Italy is aged with plums for a dark, complex, and perfectly tart ale. Sip on a glass of this all day.”


*Snack: The Ill Dip
Mark O’Leary (Executive Chef, Shojo)

1 16-ounce container of sour cream
1 cup bacon, chopped and crispy
1.5 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3.5 tablespoons onion powder
1.5 tablespoons garlic powder
Zest and juice of one lime
1/4 cup Texas Pete hot sauce

“Simply mix all ingredients together in a big bowl. Use it for chips, pita, celery, carrots, chicken wings, your finger, mozzarella sticks, double cheeseburgers, whatever. You’ll never be stuck picking Lipton’s dried onions out of your teeth during football again.”


The Pre-Game Warm-up


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What to Drink: Sherry
Pro Suggestion: Equipos Navazos Fino Sherry
Ryan McGrale (Tavern Road)

“I love sherry and think everyone should drink more of it. Fino is a dry, nutty, and slightly salty sherry that is low in alcohol and makes for a great pre-dinner drink. This is perfect as a true aperitif because it salivates the palate and preps it for the roller coaster of flavors that come with Thanksgiving dinner. The saline and citrus notes in this sherry also make it a perfect pairing for oysters, cocktail shrimp, and other shellfish.”


Alternative: Sparkling Chenin Blanc
Pro Suggestion: NV Sparkling Chenin Blanc, Domaine la Grange Tiphane ‘Les Bulles,’ Montlouis-sur-Loire, France
Theresa Paopao (Beverage Director, Ribelle)

“The snacks usually start rolling as a stand-in for lunch or an extremely long pre-game. Because the variety of appetizers can be totally diverse, it’s best to not over-think the pairing and choose a wine that will be flexible with everything: bubbles with a smidge of residual sugar. Prosecco works well and a number of sparkling rieslings also fit the bill, but my lifelong grape crush has always been Chenin Blanc. Les Bulles from Grange Tiphane is lush and ripe with aromas that remind me of the circus peanuts I’d eat when I was growing up.”


*Snack: Super Easy Crispy Turkey Wings
Dan Raia (Chef de Cuisine, Sweet Cheeks Q)

6 turkey wings
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 clove garlic chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup Mae Ploy Chili Sauce
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon tart cranberry sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce (i.e. sriracha or Tabasco)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the raw turkey wings with the oil, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on a baking sheet, with the flesh side up, and roast 6-10 minutes or until crispy. This will vary depending on your oven. While the wings are crisping in the oven, whisk all the ingredients for the sauce together in a bowl. When the wings are ready, toss gently in a bowl with the sauce. Enjoy!


First Course


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What to Drink: Sparkling Rose
Pro Suggestion: 2013 Frizzante of Pinot Noir, Meinklang ‘Prosa,’ Burgenland, Austria
Theresa Paopao (Beverage Director, Ribelle)

“There is no such thing as the wrong time to drink this chameleon wine—it goes with everything at any time of day. Biodynamically grown and respectfully non-manipulated, Meinklang showcases the riper strawberry side of Pinot Noir. There is enough sweetness to balance out spice or salt, but it’s dry enough that it will appeal those who hate on residual sugar in wine. It’s pink. It’s bubbly. It’s a knockout that you can drink all day long.”


Alternative: Sherry Cocktail
Pro Suggestion: Perfect Bamboo
Ryan McGrale (Tavern Road)

“Low in alcohol with citrus notes that prime the palate, the Perfect Bamboo is a great thing to drink just before sitting down to dinner. The drink pairs well with fall fruits like apples and pears and thus could be a great companion for a salad course. A modern interpretation of the Classic Bamboo, the Perfect Bamboo uses both dry and sweet vermouth, orange and Angostura bitters, and dry sherry for a drink with notes of clove, cinnamon, and orange essence.”


*Snack: Nookie’s Chicken Liver Mousse
Nookie Postal (Chef-Owner, Commonwealth)

1 stick of butter, cut in half
1 shallot chopped
1 pound chicken livers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup cream
salt and pepper

In half the butter, sauté the shallot until translucent. Season the chicken livers and add them to the pan. Cook on both sides till the livers are nice and pink inside. Remove from the pan and let cool. Add the chopped fresh thyme and brandy to the pan and reduce, about 5 minutes. Remove the reduction from the pan and let cool. When livers and reduction are room temperature, combine them in a food processor and process them. Slowly incorporate the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Turkey Time!


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What to Drink: Burgundy
Pro Suggestion: Domaine Sylvain Pataille Marsannay
Colleen Hein (Wine Director, Eastern Standard)

“When pairing wine with an annual holiday meal, there is something so comforting about combining the traditions of Thanksgiving dinner with old world classics. Biodynamic producer Sylvian Pataille creates Pinot Noirs that combine warm and spicy fruit notes with an earthy, meaty, and an often sanguine old world character. These more savory notes will match well with both the white and dark meat of your turkey.”


Alternative: Cru Beaujolais
Pro Suggestion: Domaine Julien Sunier Fleurie Cru Beaujolais
Colleen Hein (Wine Director, Eastern Standard): 

“Julien Sunier, another biodynamic winemaker, produces wine in Morgon and Fleurie, two of the 13 Crus deemed by France’s wine laws for producing superior Gamay. Sunier’s Fleurie is a current favorite as it is as precise in structure as it is supple with both bright cranberry and heady bramble fruit notes. Pair this pick with any of your favorite sides such as stuffing, green bean casserole, and sweet potato pie. Don’t forget, if you want to keep with the theme of combining “traditions with classics,” do as the French would and enjoy this wine with a proper chill for maximum drinking pleasure.”


Beer Back Bonus!: Pale Ale
Pro Suggestion: Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale
Megan Parker-Gray (Beer Director, Row 34)

“For all day Thanksgiving drinking, you need something that can stand up to the bold flavors of the meal, while also being refreshing and sessionable. A soft, citrus-forward pale ale is my favorite choice. Trillium is a brewery that neighbors Row 34. They are a small operation that makes some seriously quenchable ales. Their Fort Point Pale is a beautifully hazy, aromatic, citrus forward pale that I could drink all day.”


The After Dinner-Aid


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What to Drink: Amaro
Pro Suggestion: Meletti Amaro
Patrick Gaggiano (Beverage Director, Viale)

“For me, this is the one digestif that always comes to mind, especially for Thanksgiving. It’s smack dab in the middle in the Italian amaro spectrum: Montenegro being on the sweeter side and Fernet Branca on the very, very bitter end. It’s got this nice balance with caramel, dark spice, citrus rind, and just a touch of licorice. On the back end, there’s a little bit of earthiness and bitterness. It’s the kind of thing where you can pop a bottle and just put it in the middle of the table, have a whole bunch of rocks glasses, throw some ice in there, and you can have a couple of rounds without destroying your mouth. It also tastes good as a digestif, which is I think can be a very hit-or-miss thing in the amaro family.”


Alternative: Schwarzbier
Pro Suggestion: Cascadian Schwarzbier from Jack’s Abby
Megan Parker-Gray (Beer Director, Row 34)

“A mug of Schwarzbier that is elegantly hopped with bright roasted flavors and a dry finish is a great friend to spend the day with. Jack’s Abby, located in Framingham, brews only lagers and would be my pick for this category. The lager yeast used in this beer gives it a clean, crisp finish, making it similar to ending your meal with a digestif.”


The Nightcap


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What to Drink: American Whiskey
Suggestion: The Parker’s Heritage from Heaven Hill
Alec Riveros (Director of Operations, Rosebud American Kitchen and The Painted Burro)

“For the end of the meal you want something softer, so I suggest one with more wheat as opposed to rye in the mash bill. Every year Heaven Hill does a rotating single release of this Parker’s Heritage, and this year it’s going to be a wheat whiskey. It’s 51-percent wheat as opposed to corn, which is what you find in Kentucky bourbon. You get a much softer, more approachable, almost sweet flavor profile. At the end of the meal, when you’ve already had so many different things to eat and drink, you want something that will soothe the palate. This has more roundness and creaminess than most bourbons.”