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Turkey-Day Tipples

Legend has it that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in present-day Massachusetts, rather than traveling farther, because they were running low on provisions—namely beer. The first structure they built is even said to have been a brewery.Like so much about the Thanksgiving story, though, this an...

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Thanksgiving table with food, courtesy of Flickr user Mr. T in DC


Legend has it that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in present-day Massachusetts, rather than traveling farther, because they were running low on provisions—namely beer. The first structure they built is even said to have been a brewery.

Like so much about the Thanksgiving story, though, this anecdote is probably bogus. As Bob Skilnik, author of Beer & Food: An American History points out on his blog, the pilgrims were indeed fond of beer, but the evidence doesn't support either the beer shortage or the hasty brewery tale.

But even if the Pilgrims didn't hoist frothy mugs of ale at the first Thanksgiving, there's no reason you shouldn't.

In fact, in all the turkey vs. sides chatter going on lately, let's not forget the liquid portion of the meal. Even if your family doesn't drive you to drink, why not put as much thought into the beverages as the rest of the feast?

The Washington Post suggests serving up "iconic American wines" with the holiday meal, from California chardonnay, zinfandel and sparkling wine to Oregon pinot gris, Washington riesling, and local wines—which have been popping up in all sorts of unlikely places.

Another strategy is to go with a cocktail that highlights some of the flavors of the season. Chow has a couple of tasty-sounding candidates: the Log Cabin combines the classic fall ingredients of maple and apple, and Spiced Cranberry Sangria sounds like the perfect accompaniment to turkey with all the fixin's (or, just the fixin's, as the case may be). Leite's Culinaria offers up a recipe for a Fall Spice Cordial that seems like it would cap off the meal nicely.

You could also opt for a thematically appropriate cocktail. The Pilgrim is made with rum (New England rum would be proper, according to the CocktailDB recipe, but since it hasn't been made there since before the Prohibition era, other rums will do), lemon or lime juice and orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Orange Curacao). Some recipes (like this one at Drinks Mixer) also call for angostura bitters and pimento herbal liqueur. The Mayflower cocktail, with brandy, Cointreau, Pernod, dry and sweet vermouth and orange bitters, sounds like it would make you feel like a passenger on a transatlantic sea voyage.

Of course, let's not forget those frothy mugs. According to Serious Eats, "Malty beer resonates with the caramelized skin of a turkey and brings out the herbal flavors in stuffing. Beer's carbonation and bitterness cleanses and refreshes the palate between bites." Their recommended beer pairings include French-style farmhouse ales, American ambers and yeasty Belgian beers.

Whatever you decide to drink, be sure to raise a glass to all that you have to be thankful about—not least that you don't have to spend a dismal, death-filled winter in a strange new country, like the Pilgrims did.
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About Lisa Bramen
Lisa Bramen

Lisa Bramen was a frequent contributor to Smithsonian.com's Food and Think blog. She is based in northern New York and is also an associate editor at Adirondack Life magazine.

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