T-Day Drinks

Pairing Thanksgiving With Cocktails

Legendary bartender Dale DeGroff weighs in on the perfect holiday drinks.


Thanksgiving, if you believe the TV cartoon specials and elementary school reenactments, is all about acknowledging your limitations and asking for help.

In that spirit, I have to admit that I’m not sure what drinks to mix up this Thursday. While I’ve made peace with the fact that my family only wants wine with the meal, I think the day warrants its own special and festive cocktail.

So I did what any self-respecting pilgrim would do and swallowed my pride and called the person who knows more about drinks than just anybody else on the planet: Dale DeGroff. He’s the father of the rebirth of the cocktail (no joke, it’s because of him that you’re now easily able to order a delicious Old-Fashioned or a classic Daiquiri) and author of one of the best books on the subject, The Craft of the Cocktail.

DeGroff admitted that when he grew up his family would drink bourbon Old-Fashions and that he has served Beaujolais nouveau in the past. But he has also created several special drink recipes for the big day that work great before or after the feast.

His aptly named Pilgrim Cocktail is a delicious treat and serves a crowd. It combines two types of rum with a range of citrus ingredients. While rum might sound like an odd choice, the colonists were not only fans of the spirit but also produced it in great quantities.

Pilgrim Cocktail

Created by Dale DeGroff


3 oz Dark Rum

3 oz Light Rum

3.5 oz Orange Curaçao

10 oz fresh Orange juice

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2.5 oz fresh Lime juice

4 dashes Dale DeGroff Pimento Bitters

Garnish: Orange slice and grated nutmeg

Glass: Small wine glass or punch cup


This drink can be served hot or cold. For the cold version: Add all the ingredients to a large pitcher and fill with ice. Stir and strain into small wine glasses. Garnish each glass with an orange slice and a dusting of fresh grated nutmeg. The recipe serves six.

For the version: Add all the ingredients to a sauce pan, plus 6 ounces of sweetened orange pekoe tea. Heat the drink to just under a boil, and serve in a punch cup dusted with fresh grated nutmeg.

You can usually easily find fresh apple cider this time of year and DeGroff pairs the seasonal beverage with two other fall favorites, bourbon and maple syrup, in his General Harrison’s Whiskey Sour. The drink is a riff on the non-alcoholic General Harrison’s Eggnog that dates back to the 1860s.

While you could make the recipe without liquor, the whiskey adds a richness and it’s, of course, a special day. Cheers!

General Harrison’s Whiskey Sour

Created by Dale DeGroff


1.5 oz Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon

1 oz fresh Apple cider

.5 oz fresh Lemon juice’

.75 oz Maple syrup

.75 oz Emulsified whole egg*

Garnish: Grated nutmeg and apple slice

Glass: Double Old-Fashioned


Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and strain into a double Old-Fashioned glass filled with fresh large ice cubes. Garnish with a dusting of nutmeg and an apple slice.

*When serving a large number of party guests, the best way to prepare the eggs for the drink is to whisk a dozen of them at a time for about three minutes or until they are emulsified and pourable. Put them in a container with a spout and keep refrigerated. The dozen eggs should make 24 drinks and larger eggs will make even more.