Thanksgiving is a time for celebration, stuffing our faces with food, and generally drinking way too much alcohol. So what if you're not drinking this year? Non-alcoholic drinks have come a long way in the past few years, and no adult should be relegated to drinking sparkling cider at the kids' table—unless that's what you want to drink, of course! From non-alcoholic beer to cocktails and wine, there are some truly sophisticated choices available that will complement your Thanksgiving perfectly, and ensure that everyone feels included.
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While You Cook
Back when we were drinking, cooking Thanksgiving dinner was just an excuse to drink wine all day. You can certainly replace that habit with some nice non-alcoholic wine (suggestions below), but this year we'll be sipping on bitters and soda throughout the day. Easy to make, this simple cocktail just requires a few dashes of cocktail bitters and unflavored sparkling water. We love the exuberant bubbles of Topo Chico, but any brand (or a SodaStream) will do.
Light and refreshing, bitters and soda is the perfect thing to drink all day. Any cocktail bitter will work but bear in mind that most are alcohol-based. All The Bitter is made without alcohol and is packed with herbs like dandelion, burdock, ginger, and milk thistle seed that benefit digestion and gut health—the perfect way to get your system ready for the avalanche of food that's coming!
Non-Alcoholic Wines for Thanksgiving
When selecting bottles for Thanksgiving, remember that you're not really trying to pair wines with individual dishes. Rather you want to choose wines that are going to go with a wide variety of food: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, etc. The best options are light and bright, wines with plenty of fresh fruit and acidity. In the red camp, the classic pairing is Pinot Noir, and for whites, crisp wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling work well. Chardonnay can be a good match, but it should be unoaked (think Chablis rather than California). Oh, and anything bubbly will work brilliantly, too.
Leitz makes one of our favorite ranges of non-alcoholic wine, and the entire lineup is tailor-made for Thanksgiving.
One of the top growers in Germany's Rheingau region, Weingut Josef Leitz has been producing wine since 1744 and has been making their excellent non-alcoholic "Einz Zwei Zero" line since 2007. While they're known for their Riesling, they also make an excellent Pinot Noir, unoaked Chardonnay, a white blend, and several sparkling wines. Across the board, these alcohol-free wines are vibrant, zippy, and true. Like all German wines, they possess a racy acidity, which really helps to balance the fact that de-alcoholized wines are all sweeter and juicier than their alcoholic counterparts. They're probably not going to fool anyone, but they are some of the best examples of NA wine made anywhere.
Non-Alcoholic Cocktails for Thanksgiving
Wine might be the classic drink of choice for Thanksgiving, but there's nothing wrong with sipping on a cocktail instead. You can find some great non-alcoholic cocktails on our recipes page, but there are two in particular that we'd recommend to match the flavors of Thanksgiving.
Bright and fruity but also tart and slightly bitter, this cocktail has just the right amount of acidity to complement all those wonderful dishes on your plate. Each sip begs for another bite of food, which in turn will have you wanting another sip to cleanse your palate—plus the flavor of hibiscus is just a perfect match for cranberry sauce and turkey. Get the recipe here.
Maple Old Fashioned
The granddaddy of classic cocktails, our take on an Old Fashioned incorporates a bit of maple syrup in place of the traditional sugar cube. That small change adds depth of flavor and texture while bringing this drink into the flavor wheelhouse of Autumn. Any non-alcoholic whiskey alternative will work, but we love this with The Spirit of Bourbon by Free Spirits. Get the recipe here.
More interested in a sipping spirit? It's not going to be the same as sipping on an alcoholic spirit (these alternatives are really intended for use in cocktails), but two of the best options we've tasted also happen to be perfect matches for Thanksgiving dinner. Try Spiritless' limited-release Kentucky 74 SPICED whiskey, or Lyre's new Scotch whisky alternative Highland Malt. Both are very enjoyable with 1 big ice cube and a few dashes of aromatic or orange bitters.
Non-Alcoholic Beer for Thanksgiving
There are a few directions you can go when pairing beer with Thanksgiving dinner.
Light, palate-cleansing beers like a pilsner or pale ale are good options. These beers won't overpower turkey, which is a fairly delicate meat, and they're light enough to keep your palate from getting fatigued through the long meal (as much as we love IPAs, they aren't the best choice for Thanksgiving—the aggressive bitterness fights for your attention with the mountain of food in front of you.) Our favorites in this category are Athletic Brewing Upside Dawn Golden and Heineken 0.0.
Possessing malty, caramelized flavors, amber ales match Thanksgiving dinner well, where a number of dishes are cooked in the oven and develop similar caramelized, browned flavors. More robust than pale ales, but not intense enough to overpower anything, this style is the perfect middle ground. Brooklyn Brewery Special Effects Hoppy Amber is our pick with its wonderful malt flavor, great hop character that's not overly bitter, and some zesty citrus notes that tie everything together. If they're still available around by Thanksgiving, seasonal beers like Athletic Brewing's Dark and Gourdy or Atmos Brewing Oktoberfest are pitch-perfect.
Sour beers work well with most foods, and Thanksgiving is no different. If you're looking for something to cut through the fat of turkey and gravy (especially fried turkey), buttery stuffing, or rich casseroles, sour beers are an incredible pairing. They're out of season and a little harder to find right now, but if you happen to see Untitled Art's mouth-puckeringly tart Florida Weisse, snag some! It's one of our favorite NA beers, period. Mikkeller's Limbo Raspberry is another great choice if you prefer your sours a little fruitier and less sour.
Non-Alcoholic Thanksgiving Dessert Pairings
Picking one style of drink for Thanksgiving dinner makes sense, but you may want to switch things up for dessert. Gewürztraminer, with its flavors of ginger and baking spice, is a wonderful match for the spices in both pumpkin and apple pie. Fortunately for those of us not drinking (or drinking less), Anderson Valley's Navarro Vineyards makes an incredible Gewürztraminer juice from their estate grapes. It's moderately sweet, matching the sweetness of Thanksgiving dessert beautifully. It sells out fast, though, so grab some before it's gone!
Not into sweet non-alcoholic drinks? The #1 rule of dessert pairing is the drink has to be as sweet as the dessert—otherwise, the flavor of the drink tends to get obliterated—but some rules are meant to be broken. We tried Three Spirit's sparkling white wine alternative Sharp and were shocked at how well it went with pumpkin pie. Crisp and dry with green fruit and herbal flavors, it's a pairing that has to be tasted to be believed (it shouldn't work, but it does!). Made with calming herbs like California poppy and clary sage, if the tryptophan in the turkey doesn't put you to sleep, Three Spirit's Sharp might just do the trick.
The Last Sip
There's no reason that anyone—including yourself!—should feel left out of the celebration on Thanksgiving. We spend so much time planning, prepping, and cooking, so why not take a few minutes to consider the folks who aren't drinking alcohol this year? By planning ahead and stocking a few non-alcoholic drinks, you'll make sure that everyone enjoys the same fabulous feast, beverages included.