While a roast turkey may get top billing on Thanksgiving, we all know the sides are really the stars of the annual feast. Holiday darlings like cranberry sauce and stuffing are eaten no more than a few times a year, but are welcomed with open arms on the fourth Thursday of November. All of this is to say that on Thanksgiving, the meal is always top priority.
But what about the drinks? If your Thanksgiving celebration is wine all the way, we get it (check out our favorite wines for Thanksgiving here!), but if cocktails are in order, there are a number of directions to go in, each of which will feel appropriate for the occasion. Plus, many of them are ones that you can easily make at a moment’s notice, if necessary.
Of course, there are the classics. You can never go wrong with a spiritous Martini, an appetite-whetting Negroni, or a tart Cosmopolitan, all of which require just a handful of ingredients. But then there are also more exploratory creations like Apple Cider Bourbon Sour, or Annette Scratch, or Table’s Affordable Pear Act cocktail, which are celebrations of seasonal flavors.
No matter your preference, here are 48 of the best cocktail recipes to prep this Thanksgiving.
8 of the Best Low-ABV Thanksgiving Cocktails to Kick Off Cooking
13 of the Best Classic Cocktail Variations for Thanksgiving
8 of the Best Classic Cocktails to Serve at Thanksgiving
9 of the Best Cocktails for Serving With Thanksgiving Dessert
10 of the Best Thanksgiving Cocktails, According to Bartenders
To get a hefty meal prepped for your nearest and dearest, a nice sessionable cocktail is definitely in order — preferably one with a bit of bubbles. Kick off your Thanksgiving cooking this year with the Autumn Sparkler, a seasonal libation brimming with baked apple, pear, and cinnamon flavors and topped off with a sparkling wine float.
If apple picking isn’t your thing, this festive drink will transport you to the orchard without leaving your couch. Combine gin, lemon juice, and sparkling apple cider for a fruity and lower-ABV take on the classic French 75.
We say its better safe than sorry when it comes to stocking up on the right amount of wine before Turkey day, so if you happen to have a few too many bottles, consider tossing them into an Autumn Sangria. With dry white wine fusing with flavors like apples, cinnamon, and pomegranate, the fruity drink is perfect for big-batching and sipping through a few hours of prep work.
While the Campari in the Negroni Sbagliato may have you thinking it’s a classic after-dinner drink, the build’s sparkling wine makes it a perfect low-ABV drink to enjoy while you mash potatoes. The mixture of bitter Italian liqueur, bubbles, and sweet vermouth results in a vivacious, herbal treat that won’t put you to bed early.
Made with white rum, lemonade, and roasted pumpkin and thyme purée, this cocktail will give you something to be thankful for this year. With a nice balance between sweet and earthy flavors plus some smokiness from the thyme, this sipper is anything but another boring pumpkin-spiced drink.
Somewhat similar to a whiskey punch, the Maple Apple’s sessionable nature and flavor-packed profile makes it ideal for nursing while hovering over a steamy stove. The batch cocktail makes five servings and combines the cinnamon, vanilla, and baked apple notes of Crown Royal Regal Apple whiskey with flavors like apple cider, maple syrup, and a hint of citrus.
Speaking of stoves, if you have any space left on yours, why not fire up another burner to make some mulled wine to fend off the chill in the air? While the beverage is arguably most popular at European Christmas markets, it’s incredibly simple to make at home, and almost impossible to mess up. To make a batch for yourself, simply pour one bottle of your favorite dry red wine into a large pot with seasonal aromatics like cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and oranges and let the party begin.
While Scotch may not be the first spirit you think of when you think “daytime cocktail,” this seasonal highball bursting with autumnal aromas of cinnamon and pear is sure to prove you wrong. Shaken up with pear nectar, cinnamon syrup, and lemon juice and topped off with a splash of club soda, the concoction is equal parts smoky, sweet, and refreshing.
Created by Johnny Swet, co-owner and mixologist of NYC’s JIMMY at The James, this cocktail was inspired by a holiday staple. Fragrant and herbal, the G&T riff combines gin, simple syrup, lime juice, cranberry sauce, and tonic, and is topped with a sage leaf for extra aroma.
This drink takes the best part of a classic sweet potato casserole and infuses it into one of the world’s most popular cocktails — combining Scotch with toasted marshmallow syrup and aromatic bitters, and topping it off with a toasted marshmallow.
Warm up by the fireplace with this festive take on a fall favorite. Made with bourbon, apple juice, cranberry juice, honey, and lemon, this cocktail combines the flavors of apple pie and cranberry sauce into one cozy concoction.
The Moscow Mule is a classic for a reason: The zippy combination of vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer is boozy yet balanced. This Thanksgiving, consider putting a twist on the original and sweetening things up with a bit of cranberry simple syrup. The winter berry brings an undercurrent of bitter flavors to the ginger-spiced cocktail.
Who says Fireball is only for college students? Consider upping your Hot Toddy game in a family-oriented setting with the Fiery Caramel Apple Hot Toddy, which employs a joint base of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and apple brandy. The caramel flavors and rich, succulent texture in the cocktail come from the use of turbinado simple syrup, which contains natural molasses. But fear not: Lemon bitters stop the drink from skewing saccharine and give the build a more herbaceous backbone.
As one of the world’s oldest cocktails, the Old Fashioned is a surefire Thanksgiving staple. This year, shake things up by putting a spin on the classic with a bit of maple syrup and walnut. The two seasonal flavors pair beautifully to elevate bourbon’s classic spiced vanilla and caramel notes.
While you can never go wrong with a standard Negroni, if you’re looking to serve something a little special this Turkey Day, rosemary-smoking the bitter classic is sure to be a hit. The herbaceous riff sees the classic’s traditional trio of ingredients — gin, Campari, and vermouth — combined before a sprig of rosemary is torched above the concoction. The flaming herb imparts the glass with the essence of smoke, creating a welcoming and complex sipper.
If standard pie isn’t enough to satiate your pumpkin cravings, a drinkable version may do the trick. This rich Gin Sour gets its smooth profile from an egg white and spiced pumpkin butter, with the latter offering seasonal flavors cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg. Gin’s herbal notes keep the whole build balanced.
While refreshing at its core, the Daiquiri is a wonderful cocktail for the winter months. And if you want to elevate the standard lime-forward original, the Rosemary and Honey Daiquiri is a green and near-effortless variation. The build swaps out typical simple syrup for honey syrup and adds a half sprig of rosemary, which adds a welcome earthy note.
The beauty of the Hot Toddy is its simplicity, which gives way to endless variations and reproductions. In this version, the classic’s whiskey base is swapped for rum, which results in a slightly sweeter cocktail spiced up with a variety of aromatics like allspice dram, cinnamon syrup, cloves, and a cinnamon stick. With a bit of lemon juice and hot water to make it, well, hot, the Rum Hot Toddy is sweet, spicy, bright, and definitely delicious.
With an abundance of food in your belly, downing a heavy cocktail may be the last thing on your mind. So if you’re looking for something light and refreshing without sacrificing any comfort, the Honey and Pear Whiskey Cocktail is a perfect compromise. The drink combines whiskey, lemon juice, pear juice, and honey syrup for a light, bright profile that will certainly keep the adult’s table kicking before the desserts roll out.
While lemonade is typically associated with the summer months, there’s no reason it shouldn’t deserve a place in your Thanksgiving lineup. Consider pairing the gin in this tangy beverage with a seasonal ingredient like pomegranate in a fruit-forward Martini. The mix of floral, sweet, and sour hits all the right notes between courses.
Developed by Pete Canny, a bartender at NYC’s The Wayland and Goodnight Sonny, the Cinnamon Sin is another all-star Scotch cocktail. With The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old as its base, this Old Fashioned variation of sorts employs cinnamon-infused agave, which brings a spiced vegetal aroma to the sweet sherry and vanilla notes present in the whisky. Angostura bitters further balance the cocktail, and the orange peel garnish provides a welcoming citrus expression.
If cranberry juice doesn’t make the Cosmo the perfect Thanksgiving cocktail, then we don’t know what does. “Sex and the City” jokes aside, the zippy combo of vodka, Cointreau, lime, and a little bit of cranberry is actually quite nice ahead of a big meal.
We can’t roll our eyes hard enough that Martinis are trending right now — we can’t think of a more timeless cocktail — but if a classic gin version is what your guests will be looking for, you might as well know how to make one (let’s be honest, you should probably know how to make one anyway). Fear not if someone requests theirs “dirty.” And for those who prefer theirs with vodka, we’ve got you covered.
Nothing whets the appetite quite like a well-made sweet-bitter-herbal Negroni. When you’re facing down a turkey and all the fixings, never mind apps and a full cheese board, one or two of these will get — or keep — folks hungry.
If gin’s not your thing or you’ve got more bourbon lovers among you, but you still like the sound of a Negroni, opt instead for its whiskey sibling, the Boulevardier. A little bit richer and a little more complex, it’s just as good over a big ice cube as it is served up.
Another one for whiskey fans, a classic Manhattan — made with rye, sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of bitters — is quick to come together and usually pleases a crowd. If you’ve already perfected your Manhattan recipe and are looking for a little twist to shake things up, try the Perfect Manhattan, which splits the vermouth between dry and sweet.
If, like us, you find the combination of whiskey and lemon extremely appealing but don’t feel like messing around with egg whites (ahem Whiskey Sour), a Gold Rush is the Thanksgiving cocktail for you. Just be sure to prep the honey syrup a few hours in advance so it has time to cool, then you’re golden.
The Penicillin may not be able to cure you of any actual ailments, but it sure as hell can liven up the “big kids” table this holiday season. The classic Scotch cocktail combines freshly squeezed lemon juice, ginger, and honey simple syrup with the blended Scottish spirit and gets an extra-smoky kick from an Islay Scotch float. While certainly boozy, the zesty Penicillin will wake up your guests.
Floral and slightly sweeter than its red counterpart, the White Negroni swaps out its Campari in favor of a bitter gentian root liqueur, like Suze. The cocktail also subs the standard Negroni’s sweet vermouth for the slightly less sweet white vermouth to balance the gentian liqueur’s bitter flavor profile. Rounded out with herbaceous and floral gin, the White Negroni is elegant, aromatic and bittersweet.
Light, refreshing, and seasonally spiced, this take on the Whiskey Sour incorporates fresh apple cider for festive flair. Combine bourbon, lemon juice, apple cider, agave nectar, and egg white in a shaker, strain into a coupe glass, and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
For a pumpkin sipper that’s anything but basic, combine rum, pumpkin purée, spiced honey syrup, and egg white for a frothy cocktail with authentic pumpkin flavor — no artificial syrups necessary. Top with pumpkin spice blend for garnish.
If an apple pie isn’t enough to scratch your guests’ dessert itch, its cocktail equivalent could help fill the void. The staple’s beloved flavors of caramel, apple, and cinnamon get a boozy boost of Crown Royal Regal Apple Whisky, which has slight spice and caramel notes of its own.
While there are a number of Hot Toddy variations on this list, there are none more dessert course-friendly than the Aperitivo Toddy. Conceived at NYC Italian restaurant Don Angie, the low-ABV sipper employs a joint base of Contratto Aperitif and Cappelletti Aperitivo, both of which are ideal for serving on their own after a large meal. The spirits get a citrusy lift from blood orange and lemon juices and a touch of sweetness from simple syrup.
If you thought brandy was exclusively only for your older relatives, think again. Calvados, a French brandy made from apples or pears, is as fall-adjacent as it gets and makes for a perfect base in the Autumn Daiquiri. The spirit, which contains floral notes and baking spice flavors, is shaken up with lime juice, honey syrup, and aromatic bitters for a luscious sipper ideal for serving alongside Thanksgiving dessert.
This variation on the classic Manhattan shakes together rye whiskey, amaro, tangerine juice, honey syrup, and aromatic bitters for a build that’s warming from the inside out, though it still pairs well with fireside sipping.
Created at restaurant Annette Scratch to Table in Aurora, Colo., the Affordable Pear Act is slightly spiced and warming, making it perfect for soothing a stuffed-full stomach. The cocktail pairs pear chamomile tea-infused apple brandy with honey simple syrup and a squeeze of lemon juice for a boozy sipper ideal for enjoying after something sweet.
If you live in a region that experiences cold weather on Thanksgiving and wish you didn’t — or if you’re just looking for a bit of sunshine to spirit up your guests — the Autumn in the Tropics is the cocktail for you. The rum- and Aperol-based build contains both pineapple and lemon juices for a tropical essence and muddled blueberries that bring a Northeastern flair. The resulting cocktail is brimming with notes of baking spices from the rum and an abundance of juicy fruit flavors.
No matter how you may personally feel about cranberry sauce, there’s no denying the bitter berry’s place at the Thanksgiving table. The Smoky Cranberry Mezcal Madras was inspired by the controversial Turkey Day side and combines the berry’s juice with mezcal, orange liqueur, and lime juice for a smoky take on the Madras cocktail.
“For me, Thanksgiving has always meant big family gatherings and big meals. I need something easy to make so I can catch up with my family, and not spend my entire day making drinks. For that, I love a Sazerac. It’s boozy and luscious so it doesn’t fill me up (gotta save room for stuffing), I can pre-batch it and keep it in the fridge for ease of access, and it’s nice before or after dinner.” —Brandon Thrash, general managers, Middle Child Clubhouse, Philadelphia
“Being raised in Harlem and the Bronx, my holidays were a lot different than most. Thanksgivings were held in the homes of loved ones in tenement buildings, full of family and friends. As you went up the elevator, each floor smelled of delicious foods. The hallways were always filled with the younger kids playing and staircases with the teens. The spirits of choice when you entered were Hennessy or Brugal, along with chasers like juices and sodas. Even though I no longer live in New York City, I will still make a Daiquiri variant where I substitute rum for Hennessy, cranberry juice for lime, and cinnamon syrup for simple syrup.” —Tito Pin-Perez, creative director, Rayo Cocktail Bar, Mexico City
“Guilty pleasure for me is an Amaretto Sour… but, I always add a bit of the leftover cranberry sauce to give it a bit more tartness. Who doesn’t love cranberry and almonds together, especially next to a perfectly cooked bird?” —Phil Collins, beverage director, TableOne Hospitality, Los Angeles, San Francisco, NYC
“During Thanksgiving, I love to sip on a simple cranberry sour. It’s one of my favorite cocktails to drink to pair with all of our Thanksgiving favorites and brighten up those fall flavors. My recipe is made with bourbon, lemon, homemade cranberry syrup, and cinnamon.” —Ivy Mix, co-founder of Speed Rack, co-owner Leyenda and FIASCO! Wine and Spirits, Brooklyn
“I usually make some sort of punch for the family — a non-alcoholic base that the young ones can taste and that the adults can add the spirit of their choice to. This year, I’ll be whipping up a spiced pear punch with vanilla and holiday spices.” —Coleen Morton, director of bars, Hotel Per La, Los Angeles
“I always drink hot apple cider with cinnamon and clove. For my guests, I always prepare an apple cinnamon clove Old Fashioned, which I start at the beginning of the month. I infuse bourbon with clove-studded Fuji apples, cinnamon sticks, and grated nutmeg. By Thanksgiving, it is ready to go.” —Gabe Sanchez, general manager, Midnight Rambler at The Joule, Dallas
“For Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, I always like to showcase a play on a bourbon sour using persimmon, clove, nutmeg, and a little cinnamon. The word savory always seems to come into play when thinking about cocktails and fare in fall. The persimmon and spices definitely lend to good bourbon — easy drinking with friends and family with all that delicious food at your table.” —Evan Cablayan, beverage director, Mercy Me at Yours Truly, Washington, D.C.
“My libations of choice for Thanksgiving are aperitif- and digestif-driven, with applejack as the spirit base (I love Arkansas Black for this) — Boulevardiers to start, Black Manhattans to finish, and still, dry cider during the meal itself. You can really tailor each cocktail to your meal depending on what kind of vermouth and bittering agent you’re using in the Boulevardier and what kind of amaro you’re using in the Black Manhattan. The aperitivo and digestifs will help your stomach throughout the feasting and the apple-based spirit will be in theme, both historically and palate-wise.” —Ulysses Toimil, bar manager, Uccello Lounge, San Francisco
“To me, the flavors of Thanksgiving scream ‘whiskey.’ From the spices to the caramel, there isn’t a better pairing in my opinion. My go-to within that category: a rye whiskey with plenty of spice such as Angel’s Envy. WhistlePig 10 Year Rye is a little bit higher alcohol, perfect for mixed drinks like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.” —Scott Taylor, beverage director, Harris’ Restaurant, San Francisco
“Thanksgiving is stuffing yourself with all of the comfort food, surrounded by friends and family. So for me, I would love a spiked cider or a Hot Toddy; something to warm and comfort you for the day, with fall vibes. Thanksgiving is also a long day that can be very tiring, so incorporating some low- or no-ABV options into your day may assist with that tryptophan hangover after dinner. And if dinner has got you too full, you can always reach for the nearest digestivo. Explaining Fernet to my family is always fun.” —Ashley Mac, beverage & service director, Moon Rabbit, Washington, D.C.
*Editor’s note: A handful of the above cocktails were selected from our sponsors, though their quality and seasonal flavors make them ideal for enjoying on Turkey Day.