Forget choosing the menu or deciding which stuffing to make, the most fun part of Thanksgiving planning for me is coming up with the liquor list. We’ll be nine this year: the whole family plus my son’s new fiancée, along with three of my older daughter’s friends who’ll be visiting from England. Two of those three are British and have never had a real American Thanksgiving before, so we’d like to make the day reasonably authentic. Mrs. Banks can of course be counted on to lay out a Thanksgiving spread so traditional that we’ll be referring to each other as “thee” and “thou” by the time dessert rolls around, but I’ll try to help keep things real, too, with a few tweaks to the liquor selection. As to the beer, for example, I’ll dispense with any new-age, craft-style selections and instead go with what we grew up with: old-fashioned, watered-down, American-style pilsner. Beer cognoscenti refer to this type of beer as “sessionable,” or what, in an earlier era, the Schaefer people meant when they promised that their beer was the one to have when you’re having more than one. That’s a definite plus. If there’s ever a day when one should pace oneself, Thanksgiving is that day.
I’ll of course lay in some bourbon—what can be more American?–both bottom-shelf (for the Manhattans) and some fancier stuff (for Mrs. Banks and the girls). Also scotch—no, not in any sort of latter-day nod to the Mother Country, but because my son likes it, having become a confirmed scotch drinker ever since a high school trip to Scotland. (Long story.) He prefers high-end, semi-obscure brands, but I’m trying, for his own sake, to wean him down to something more reasonable. That won’t go over well—it sure didn’t last year—so I’ll almost certainly end up bringing home a bottle of single-malt that has a name that’s nearly unpronounceable.
As to to the rest of my liquor list, there’s no sense stinting on the vermouth for the Manhattans. Carpano Antica, Punt e Mes, and Cocchi will work fine. Also, for after dinner, port. My pals at Franco’s here in New Canaan, who are rarely wrong on these matters, pointed me towards the ten-year aged tawny port from Noval and, at the higher end, the 2003 Taylor Fladgate or 2003 Graham’s.
We already have plenty of vodka on hand, but not Bloody Mary mix–which, if recent Thanksgivings are anything to go by, can come in handy on Friday morning. If people are feeling especially stricken, we’ll switch them up to gin.
Regarding the wines we’ll be serving, the family has forbidden me from having any say in the matter whatsoever ever since I brought home some Chardonnay made in (I think) Uruguay whose most notable feature was that it came in a box. (“If you drop it by accident, it won’t break,” is how I justified my choice.) But the folks at Franco’s do know a thing or two about wine. After an inquiry by me on what will go well with Thanksgiving dinner, here’s what they suggested. Also, I’ll be getting plenty of Champagne.
Finally, late in the evening some of us (and hopefully also the visiting Brits) might decide to channel our inner Lebowskis, so I must remember to get a bottle of Kahlua.
All this, and we’ll be well prepared. Oh yes, and we’ll also have roast turkey.