Here’s the problem with an article like this: Thanksgiving is not one single event. It’s not even confined to a single time of day. Thanksgiving is a marathon — a slog through a gluttonous celebration of delicious awesomeness that sprawls from the early morning into the late evening. So to make it a little easier, I’m going to break down the different components of Thanksgiving and try to provide a solid recommendation for some whiskey that would be most appropriate for each.
Best Whiskey to Bring As A Thanksgiving Gift
Some people like making Thanksgiving dinner. (Others, like me, very much prefer to go to someone else’s house where they are doing the cooking and all I have to do occasionally play bartender.) In those situations in which you’re a guest, bringing a gift is probably a good idea.
Generally speaking, a bourbon is the right kind of whiskey for a gift. Not only is it — by definition– an American spirit, it is also typically sweeter than the other options, which is more appealing for the majority of whiskey drinkers, so more likely to be enjoyed by your host. And the flavor profile makes it one of the most versatile spirits on the market. I’d recommend staying away from straight bourbons, however, as the flavor profile there might be a little too bold.
As for the price range, typically $40 is right about the sweet spot.
Given those constraints, here’s the top five recommendations from all of the spirits we’ve ever reviewed:
Best Whiskey to Drink while Making Thanksgiving Dinner
This one isn’t what you might expect.
Looking at this situation, your first thought might be that you want something smooth and easy drinking. Something that you could sip for a long time without necessarily getting sloshed, something that doesn’t pack a huge punch of flavor that will knock out your taste buds before the gravy boat has even launched. And you’d be right… except none of this takes into consideration one important thing: ice.
Working in a hot kitchen all day, you’re going to want to have a whiskey on the rocks. Not necessarily a cocktail, just something to keep you company. And for the flavors in the whiskey to come through in that setting you’re going to want something bolder with a bit more flavor. You’re going to want a straight bourbon.
Of all the straight bourbons we’ve reviewed, these are our current top five:
Best Whiskey for Eating Thanksgiving Dinner
If you’re going to pay homage to America with dinnertime whiskey choices, then there’s only one option here: a rye.
While the use of corn for whiskey is more common these days, rye grain based whiskey is actually where America got its start. The hearty cereal crop grew plentifully in New England, with plenty to spare for making a delicious spirit.
A rye is also the right choice thanks to the flavor profile. That spicy kick from the rye grains is just what you need to cut through the heavy foods you’ll be consuming (and will pair nicely with the cranberry sauce).
The trick here is to make sure you select an American rye whiskey, since these days Canada is better known for that particular style. In fact, WhistlePig, one of the more well-known rye brands, might be an American company but it sources its rye from Canada. That said, I’m not going to hold it against them — its hard enough finding good American rye whiskey, we can’t be too picky.
Our current the top five American rye whiskies are:
Best Whiskey for After Thanksgiving Dinner
With everything done and the dishes washed (or at least soaking in the sink), it’s time for a well deserved break. And when I think “break time”, I think single malt whiskey.
(Note that I didn’t say Scotch whiskey. Single malt isn’t unique to Scotland — we do it here in the States as well. And, if I’m honest, it makes for the perfect after dinner drink.)
American single malt whiskey tends to have a fruitier, sweeter flavor profile. Sometimes, that’s attenuated with a bit of peat or smoke like from a BBQ pit, other times it’s left to its own devices. Either way, now that all the cooking is done and you have time to actually focus on what you’re drinking, the single malt will give you something that is a delicious talking point with your gathered friends and family.
And when it comes to American single malt, you can’t go wrong with our current top five:
All that said, Thanksgiving is about getting together with family and celebrating. Whatever you pick for your celebration, if it’s something that brings you all closer together, then that’s the right choice. If you’re all about a good rum, then we’ve got some throughs on that as well. Or a number of other spirits.
But as long as everyone is together and having a good time, then you’ve made the right call.