A Grand Entrance

Thanksgiving is almost upon us, meaning it's time to marginally freak out about hosting or contributing to the greatest feast of the year. After years of helping my family with cooking and taking my first shot at hosting both families with my husband, I've learned to seek that perfect balance between dishes that are impressive yet reasonably simple to prepare. This is one of the few occasions you can depend on for meaningful interaction with all your family or friends. You want to spend that time engaging with them and experiencing the meal for yourself, not running around madly until you collapse on the nearest couch.

I'm here to help you achieve just that on the cocktail front with three inventive autumnal beverages. Either prepare all three as you progress through the evening or select your favorite to share with the lucky guests. As always, I'll provide the inspiration and you'll choose your own adventure. 

The first cocktail of the series is inspired by my FAVORITE relish recipe and is the ideal libation for welcoming your guests. A sweet-tart syrup of cranberry, raspberry and orange shapes the main flavor profile while ginger liqueur adds a a hint of spice, lime maintains balance and club soda bubbles keep it festive. I chose to feature vodka in this cocktail for flavor neutrality but you could experiment with bourbon or rye whiskey if you or your guests prefer it to vodka. As an added bonus, this cocktail can be prepared individually or as a punch, just scale up the recipe if needed. 

A Grand Entrance

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 0.5 oz ginger liqueur (I recommend Domaine de Canton)
  • 1.5 oz cranberry raspberry orange syrup*
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Club soda to top
  • 3 cranberries for garnish

To make individual drinks. mix first four ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake until chilled and strain into a stemmed glass. Top with a splash of club soda and garnish with fresh cranberries on a cocktail spear. To make the drink in bulk, scale up the recipe for your desired quantity and add first four ingredients (ideally chilled) to a punch bowl. Top with club soda (no more than 1 oz per drink) right before serving and add some floating cranberries, raspberries and/or orange slices for decoration. Enjoy while welcoming your loved ones to gather around the Thanksgiving table.

*To make syrup, add 6 oz cranberries, 6 oz raspberries, 3 strips of orange peel (try to avoid the white pith as it adds bitterness), 2 cups water and 0.5 cup sugar to a small saucepan. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes, or until berries start to fall apart. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, using a spoon to press out all the liquid. Allow to cool and store excess in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Note that this recipe makes about 16 oz of syrup (or enough for roughly 10 drinks) so scale it up if you're planning for more.

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the lovely glasses, dishware and other table adornments.

 

Wingding Juniper, Inspired by Holiday Cheer

Flavor profile: tart, herbal, refreshing

Holiday cheer before Thanksgiving confuses me. However, after a wonderful dinner celebration with friends and family, cold weather setting in and December just around the corner, I embrace it 110% - the aroma of fresh cut frasier firs, holiday lights twinkling in the windows, Celtic Christmas tunes and, of course, holiday-themed booze.

Today's cocktail is brought to you by me switching to full-on holiday mode and Will's father mis-hearing another cocktail I had mentioned (whiskey ginger) as "Wingding Juniper." An excellent name if I ever heard one.

There is no liquor that makes me more nostalgic for the holidays than, you guessed it, gin. It is commonly accepted knowledge that gin tastes like Christmas, especially when paired with cranberry flavor. I chose to add egg white to mellow out the tartness and it worked perfectly. We were also lucky to get to try all sorts of fancy new gins thanks to our engagement bottle shower - Nolet's is delicious! So here's a little gin-filled taste of Christmas for you all to enjoy:

The Wingding Juniper

  • 2 oz gin
  • 4 oz cranberry juice (I recommend spending a bit more to get the more flavorful 100% cranberry juice)
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1 pasteurized egg white
  • 2 tbsp ginger liqueur (Domaine de Canton is the best choice)
  • Several drops of orange bitters

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously without ice to start forming foam. After 30 or so seconds, add ice and shake until the shaker frosts over (it's nice to use a kitchen towel to hold the shaker so your hands don't freeze). Strain into a stemmed glass and serve up while decorating your tree and listening to holiday tunes!