What to Bring to Thanksgiving: Turkey Day with the Wagon

By: PJ Hoberman, Jess Hunter, Kevin Burke, and Jennifer Fowler

Thanksgiving.  Just reading the word sparks thoughts, memories, smells, tastes, panic attacks…

Turkeys in Folsom


Picking what to drink is a difficult task.  Between the turkey, cranberry, stuffing, volcano of mashed potatoes and gravy, green been casserole, pumpkin pie, bread rolls, and your toothpick, it’s hard to pick a pairing.  There isn’t just one.  Except for maybe a strong digestif at the end of the meal, like Fernet or Cynar.

Instead, pair your booze to your crowd.

Good company? Drink champagne. Drink many bottles of champagne. Be merry. Have another glass of champagne. And grin from ear to ear.

Bad company? Break out the Olde English Malt Liquor. Add a decanter for effect to let it breathe.

Situation depending, you choose your drinks.  And in this, you probably fit in one of these categories:

“The Orphan Thanksgiving”

Our Bar

Home bar.

So it’s dinner with your college buddies because none of you went home. High five. Do two rounds of good drinks. Go with Rieslings (Kabinetts), Cru Beajolais (not the Nouveau stuff), and Lambruscos.  Pull out the rye whiskey and the Plymouth Gin. Grab your cellared Avery Czar, Ommegang’s Three Philosophers, or Lost Abbey Red Barn.  And then follow that up with a lot of PBR or Schlitz and bitters.

You bring a significant other

You need to bring what your significant other drinks. You want to protect them. A liquid shield is in order. And you need to bring something for yourself. Guard it with your life. A flask is understandable.

You are the significant other

You’re investing here. Your behavior should be conservative in what you drink, but you should be complimentary in what you bring.  You want to allow yourself to be hosted in their home.  So you bring something that they don’t plan on opening that night. Overbearing dad who holds that welcome handshake a bit too long and a bit too strong? A nice bottle of whiskey, with the words “this is for later.” For mom? Introduce her to a local spirit like Leopold’s Coffee Liqueur or a nice bottle of Bedrock Rosé.

However, after the adults go to bed, bring something special for yourself and man/ladyfriend.  A nightcap to end all nightcaps.

The Big Family/You are the host

Crazy Uncle Terry

Crazy Uncle Jim

Crazy Uncle Jim, Drunk Grandpa Miller, Smelly Aunt Sally… you’ve graduated from the kids table.

You need to make everyone happy and sufficiently lube all the livers. Grab a case of some cheap beer, a bottle of vodka, gin, whiskey, and rum. You’re about to build a basic bar. A few mixers – soda, tonic, Coke, vermouth, and Angostura – a few accouterments – lemon, lime, cherries – and a metric shit tonne of ice, and you can make just about any drink for any occasion. Throw something special in for yourself. Ask your guests to bring the wine.

The In-Laws

Level 1: You actually like your in-laws. Pop open a bottle of go-to-hell, you lucky bastard.

Level 2: They’re annoying. You wouldn’t call most of them up to watch the game. But they’re tolerable. Mix yourself something nice from the bar they have set up. Because if they’re tolerable, they have a bar set up.

Level 3: You’d rather be here than a few other places. Those places include the Middle Ages during the Black Plague, inside the Coliseum when the tigers are released, and Detroit. Make sure you bring a flask, and spike your drink.

Level 4: All that is holy and good in this world cannot save you from the screeching voice of your mother-in-law.  You have two paths to take: drink until you can’t hear, or cause everyone else to drink until they can’t speak. Pro tip: both paths equate to faster relief. A little Everclear never hurt anyone…




In the end, those you spend Thanksgiving with are family. Blood or not, you’re stuck with them for the weekend. Serve yourself, serve your loved ones, and make sure everyone’s drinks are topped off. PBR or Unicum, Jack Daniels or Pappy van Winkle 23, Thunderbird or Gigondas, clink and drink.

Happy Thanksgiving.

About Jess Hunter

Jess is a lady and a scholar. If she's not mulling over the various names of famous mustaches and their respective bitter cocktails, she's nibbling on American Craft Singles and Cantillon. Connect with her by email at jesshunter@denveroffthewagon.com.