Preparing Thanksgiving dinner is an all-day affair, filled with snacking, tasting and, if you’re like us, drinking. It is crucial, however, not to get too merry too quickly. Maintaining an even keel while cooking is an imperative—knives and fire are dangerous, after all—and you want to remain a somewhat functional host by the time your guests arrive. Our tried and true solution: low ABV spirits and aperitivi.
Here, our picks for spirits that will stimulate your appetite and prepare your body, mind and palate for a long night of eating and drinking. When you’re popping open that fourth bottle of wine and refilling your plate for a third time, you’ll thank us.
Cappelletti Amaro Sfumato $22
The new amaro from the Cappelletti family is made with a rare variety of rhubarb specific to the Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto regions of Italy. Rich and fruity, it has subtle smoky notes, flint and earthiness that are counterbalanced with savory-sweet sassafras. We like to mix it with prosecco and nibbles of buttery Castelvetrano olives.
Genepy de Alpes $30
Similar to Chartreuse, this herbaceous liqueur is made with genepy (or génépi), an Alpine worwood for which the spirit is named. Genepy can be sipped on its own, over crushed ice or with a splash of soda water. It can also be made into a refreshing aperitif by mixing one ounce of Genepy with equal parts fresh lemon and orange juices, egg whites and a spoonful of orange marmalade. Shake until frothy and serve over ice in a Collins glass.
Byrrh is an aromatized wine from France that combines mistelle (an unfermented grape juice) with red wine, quinquina bark and exotic spices. It’s deliciously woodsy, with flavors of tart cherry and dark berry jam. Stirring equal parts Byrrh and London dry gin with a lemon twist creates a Byrrh Special—one of the most delicious (and most underappreciated) aperitifs.
The Long Island winery makes six different small batch vermouths, but the No. 1 is our favorite. It’s made with Sauvignon Blanc, grape brandy and over 30 different botanicals including fennel, sage, nasturtium, lemon balm and basil. This vermouth is vivacious and bright, with flavors of fresh cut grass, green pepper and honey, and it gives off a green-garden, floral bouquet. A staple in our kitchens, we drink it on its own, with seltzer and a lemon twist, or in a Reverse Martini (two ounces of vermouth to one ounce of London dry gin, served ice cold in a chilled coupe).
Pernod Pastis $35
Pastis is the perfect pick for the Absinthe lover who doesn’t want to start their holiday drinking with a 136-proof spirit. Created in 1915 after the French government banned the sale and production of absinthe, this anise-flavored liqueur is a fantastic low ABV, wormwood-free absinthe substitute. Traditionally served diluted with equal parts water to spirit, we recommend the addition of crushed ice and a fat swath of lemon peel.
There’s probably a bottle of this whiskey at the back of your liquor cabinet (or under your kitchen sink) accumulating cobwebs right now. If not, buy yourself a bottle. This is the exception to our low ABV rule. When those pesky in-laws arrive early, you realize you forgot to make dessert and your fried turkey experiment went terribly, terribly wrong, that’s when you turn to this whiskey. Thanksgiving is totally ruined and sobriety just is not an option.