Thanksgiving Cocktail Hour Tips

Cocktail hours aren’t just for weddings

Get guests excited for their meal with fun fall-themed drinks!

You know the saying, "After the party it’s the after-party?" Well, when it comes to Thanksgiving, the after-party typically consists of slipping into a food coma on the couch. So instead of waiting until the end of the meal, we propose a new party theory:

"Before the party, it is the PRE-party."

To help us with this, Meaghan Dorman of The Raines Law Room in New York City has given us a few tips (and a few recipes) for hosting a successful Thanksgiving cocktail hour. 

For more turkey talk, visit The Daily Meal’s Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving!

The Daily Meal: What should a host keep in mind when setting up their cocktail bar?

Megan Dorman: The bar is the heart of the party. It is where people come to mingle, chat, and let loose. It is important make your bar as user-friendly as possible. My most important rule is to stock up on essential liquors and make sure to use fresh juices — there is no need for a dozen brands of alcohol or a rainbow of liqueurs. You should have your mainstays like American whiskey, rum, gin, and vodka.  Always be aware of guests' dislikes and allergies. Vikingfjord makes a certified gluten-free vodka that's a great buy.

TDM: What are your essential tools?

MD: In addition to essential liquors, it is important to have a dedicated set of tools. Reliable and unique tools will get the job done but also serve as great conversation starters. Invest in some nice tools for yourself that will last, like from Cocktail Kingdom. For example, no bar should be without a muddler, jigger, and tons of ice. With the right tools, you will be mixing like a pro, leaving your guests in awe!

TDM: When it comes to Thanksgiving, what is the best cocktail to serve?

MD: I recommended serving a seasonal drink that isn’t too strong or heavy. I like to use basic liquors and jazz them up with unexpected ingredients. It is important that your cocktail complements food nicely, yet has its own distinct taste. For example, the Cider Delight, which infuses apple cider, baked apple bitters, and allspice dram with Vikingfjord Vodka. Vodka drinks are always in demand, so this is a fun way to keep it seasonal. Another great drink is the Viking Age, which combines Linie Aquavit, ginger, palo cortado sherry, and Cherry Heering. Its spice and rich fruit flavors are perfect for Thanksgiving.

TDM: What is the best etiquette for cocktails? Should it be DIY or should the host be expected to make every drink?

MD: Thanksgiving is the perfect time to experiment and surprise guests with your mixology skills. But that certainly doesn’t mean making every drink! Having a bar set up for guests to give their hand at making a cocktail or two eases the pressure and allows more freedom for customization. Classic drinks like Old Fashioneds or martinis are easy to make, you can print up a recipe and encourage guests to make their own.

TDM: What are the best make-ahead signature cocktails? Any you should never make ahead?

MD: I typically don’t encourage pre-batching to guarantee freshness, but punches tend to sit well if you prepare an hour in advance and add the spirit to preserve the other ingredients. They are simple and delicious!

Click here for the Apple Pick Me Recipe!

Click here for the Cider Delighter Recipe!