Which Drinks Pair Well With Turkey?

Wine, Beer, Cocktail, Whiskey, and Tea Pairing Ideas for Your Holiday Dinner

Friends toasting wine glasses
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Turkey is the main course for Thanksgiving Day dinner and many other special occasions throughout the year. While the food will taste great, have you considered which drinks would be the best to serve? Whether you're a wine drinker, a beer lover, or are looking for some cocktail, whiskey, and tea suggestions, we have some great beverage pairings for your turkey dinner.

Wines for Your Turkey

A good glass of wine and traditional Thanksgiving meals go hand-in-hand.

Thankfully, there are plenty of options to suit virtually every palate when it comes to partnering our favorite wines with turkey.

For red wine enthusiasts, Pinot Noir is an all time favorite and for good reason. Its low tannin content allows it to meld well with both turkey meat and seasonal sides.

White wine lovers can't go wrong with either a Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc. The herby, earthy qualities found in many Sauvignon Blancs make a perfect complement to the herb-filled stuffing and well seasoned mashed potatoes.

Beer for Your Turkey

The Thanksgiving feast is also perfect for beer. The meal has every flavor imaginable so when you think of pairing a beer with turkey or any other bird, it's also necessary to think of all of those other dishes that are likely to accompany it. The beer you choose should be complex but not so much that it overpowers all of those flavors.

A good choice is Saison, a once-obscure style that has enjoyed a strong resurgence in recent years.

Saison originated in southern Belgium and is now popular with craft brewers who often take it on as an autumn seasonal.

You'll find this beer is a rich, complex ale full of spice and notes of rich, late-season fruit. It is deliberately soured so it carries just a touch of tanginess as well. This makes it not just a great companion for the foods of the holiday table but it is also a very nice palate cleanser.

Cocktails for Your Turkey

Probably the most appropriate cocktail, both in name and flavor profile, for a full-course turkey dinner is the Thanksgiving cocktail. No matter which seasonings you choose for your bird, the combination in this drink of dry gin and vermouth, sweet apricot brandy, and lemon juice pair perfectly with the savory turkey. It makes both an excellent aperitif and a refreshing sipper during the meal.

Gin really is one of your better options for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The spirit's botanicals add dimension to your palate but they're also light enough to be complementary to a variety of side dishes. If you're in a pinch, the reliable gin and tonic is the ideal cocktail for any meal, whether it has turkey or not.

If you're not a fan of gin, there are other cocktails that are perfect for Thanksgiving. From a brandy pear cobbler to a tall and refreshing vodka and cider, mixing up an impressive drink will certainly add to the holiday spirit.

Whiskey for Your Turkey

A short glass of whiskey is a fantastic addition to any turkey dinner. Sipping on a flavorful bourbon or scotch in between bites can really open up your palate to the food's flavors, you just want to keep it under control.

A short pour of a finger or two with a couple large ice cubes should get you through the meal. After all, it is family time and you don't want to get too tipsy and put a damper on the festive spirit.

For bourbon, something that is full-flavored like Booker's or anything that's high-proof and needs a bit of water will be a great choice. If Tennessee whiskey is your thing, take this holiday to upgrade to the smoky caramel and dried fruits of Gentleman Jack. Is someone at the table a fan of rye? Give Templeton or WhistlePig a pour because their spice is great with any roasted meats.

Scotch is a good companion for any meal as well and a special occasion calls for a special bottle. For single malts, stick with the super smooth, not-too-smoky whiskies. A Speyside like anything from The Glenlivet is an excellent choice.

On the blended scotch side, almost anything will pair nicely with the feast. Consider an upgrade, though. If, for instance, you're used to Johnnie Walker Red Label, pick up a bottle of the Black Label. The cost difference is not significant, but the smoother taste is a much better fit for a meal you put some considerable effort into.

Teas for Your Turkey

It's important that we don't discount the non-alcoholic beverages. Tea is just as well suited to a great food pairing as any other drink and it's something everyone at the table can enjoy.

As a general rule, black teas are your best option for a turkey dinner. For something crisp and palate cleansing, choose a Ceylon (Sri Lankan) black tea. These teas are often bold with medium tannins and notes of spice and lemon.

If you prefer something a little less brisk, go with Darjeeling second flush (or summer picked Darjeeling). It often has a complex flavor with subtle undertones of Muscat grape and stonefruit. Alternately, "Oriental Beauty" oolong has a smooth, rich and fruit-sweet flavor that many people love with turkey.