Did you know that in 1939 Thanksgiving was moved from the 4th Thursday in November to the 3rd Thursday because FDR hoped that it would help boost the economy to have another week between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Well, the country hated it and 2 years later in 1941 it was changed back to the last Thursday of November as set by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Anyway…
There are many options for gifts and you know your friends/family members better than I do. So if you think that they would enjoy a candle, honey, a plant, etc. my only advice for those types of gifts would be to buy it from a local artisan or farm if possible. As a frequent host I would be so much more grateful for a thoughtful local-artisan-made anything than something found in Target made in who-knows-where. Of course there are exceptions, like a gift from a place that is special to you or to them.
If you are going with a homemade gift, one thing I like to do is bring my friends a tray of baked cookies along with a side stash of frozen cookie dough so that when all the guests have cleared and there are no more sweets left they remember that treat in the freezer that they can take and bake one or two at a time over the next few months. You can also give them a recipe card for the cookies and that really is the gift that keeps on giving!
As a culinary school grad I am going to go ahead and say as long as the host drinks, the best host gift you can bring would be wine, beer or liquor.
When choosing what to gift, think first about the host and what they prefer to drink. The next thing to consider is locality. If you are lucky enough to have great local options I would look into those. The beauty of being able to go to a local winery, brewery or distillery would be that you are able to tell them what you are looking for and they will be very thoughtful in their selections.
Since we are discussing Thanksgiving I will give you some suggestions to pair with the Thanksgiving meal which I will look at as the typical roasted turkey with all the trimmings. You want to choose/or create a drink that will complement your meal by either matching or contrasting flavors. I will give you examples for wine, beer and cocktails.
By all means, if you know that your host has a favorite wine, buy that. Perhaps you could search for the same grape from different countries to surprise them with a possible new favorite! They may choose not to serve it with dinner, so you don’t necessarily have to pair it with the meal.
This is my little Thanksgiving wine buying guide that might help if you are the host. When studying wine you learn to pair by the main ingredient, sauce and cooking method, so I chose the varietals that intersect on those charts. If you want to pair the wine with a typical Thanksgiving dinner, you will be looking for wines that pair with roasted turkey with gravy and root vegetables. I would suggest:
Medium to full bodied whites such as Muscat, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Chablis, Falanghina, Fumé Blanc, Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Sémillon, Albariño, Viognier, Condrieu, or Chardonnay. As you can imagine, the list goes on! Some that I have enjoyed that would work:
Condrieu, E Guigal, Northern Rhone 2016
Semillon, L’Ecole 41, Washington, US 2015
You can also try a Rosé or light to medium bodied dry red wine such as Bardolino, Valpolicella, Grignolino, Gamay, Chianti, Dolcetto, Barbera, Rioja Crianza or Pinot Noir. Again, the list goes on but these are some solid choices. Some great ones that I can recommend:
Centine Rosé, Banfi Tuscany 2017
Ferrari Brut Rosé, Trentino
As always, the best way to go is to check out the local wines. Some local wineries in/around Westchester/Fairfield counties that you should definitely check out:
Jones Winery, Shelton , CT.
While Silo Winery, Sherman, CT.
DiGrazia Vineyards and Winery, Brookfield, CT.
Millbrook Winery, Millbrook, NY.
Clinton Vineyards, Clinton Corners, NY.
South Salem Winery, South Salem, NY.
There are also fantastic wine enthusiasts that work at liquor stores all around the country. If you don’t know exactly what you want, make sure to ask someone at the store. They are there to help, from what I have found they are incredibly knowledgable and truly enjoy discussing wine. It’s always a learning experience when I go to buy a bottle of wine.
If you want to learn EVERYTHING about wine check out Exploring Wine by Kolpan, Smith and Weiss (who taught me everything I know.) I got an A in Wines at The Culinary Institute of America, which may not mean much to you if you did not attend the CIA, but it was an exciting accomplishment for me! I still refer back to this book all the time and sometimes just for fun. It is a beautiful book. They also offer a less detailed book if you just want to learn the basics. If you ever get a chance to visit The Culinary Institute of America check out the bookstore, it is heavenly.
If you are into buying online check out this woman owned company.
Beer may not seem like a great host gift to some, but craft beer is getting increasingly special and diverse. To me, it is the ultimate host gift!
When it comes to pairing beer with our traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner I reached out to my favorite Brewmaster, Hutch Kugeman, who taught me everything I know about brewing beer at The Brewery at The Culinary Institute of America.
Hutch suggests either brown ale or an Octoberfest as the approachable and complimentary beer flavors to highlight the food, so the food remains the star of the meal. Those styles have “enough toasty/roasty malt flavors to pair well with roasted poultry and a variety of root vegetables.” If you like a darker style, a porter would also work or you could go a little lighter with a Vienna lager such as Brooklyn Lager or a pilsner.
Hutch even suggested some dessert pairings! He is looking for beers with enough sweetness to stand up to the traditional pies so that the pairing doesn’t make the beer taste bitter. He’s going with a flavored imperial stout with his pecan pie (yum!) and with apple or pumpkin pie he suggests brown ale, Octoberfest, a pumpkin beer or a Belgian dubbel or trippel “because of the fruity spice notes of the beers and their dry finish.” That just made me so hungry!
For my Thanksgiving table I will be trying the special holiday beer that is being brewed at Industrial Arts Brewing Co. called K-Thx that is a hoppy IPA brewed with purple sweet potato. I will also be stocking up on their Naked Pilsner and Autumn Landscape NY Common Lager. Also, thanks to Hutch’s suggestions I will be seeking out a flavored imperial stout. I haven’t found any local flavored imperial stouts, but testing some with promise this weekend! I will post that on my Instagram page when I choose one that earns a spot at our table!
I want to give a special shout out to Warehouse Wines and Liquors in Danbury, CT who have an incredible beer selection and very knowledgeable and helpful staff.
There are so many good breweries around here it can get overwhelming.
Some of my favorites in NY:
Sloop Brewing Co. in East Fishkill, NY.
Industrial Arts Brewing Co. in Garnerville and Beacon, NY.
Plan Bee Farm Brewery in Poughkeepsie, NY.
Captain Lawrence in Elmsford, NY.
Some great ones in CT:
Bad Sons Beer Co. in Derby, CT.
Nod Hill Brewery in Ridgefield, CT.
Broken Symmetry in Bethel, CT.
Tribus Beer Co. in Milford, CT.
Get out there and support these incredible breweries that are creating amazing beers, most of them using local ingredients. What a fun and delicious way to support the local economy.
If you know that someone has a favorite… that’s probably a good bet. However, if the host really loves a good whiskey and you find a great local distillery that would be a very special gift.
For Thanksgiving pairing as a host, you could go with a fun “signature” cocktail. I would serve the cocktail as an aperitif or with the dessert if you go with a very sweet drink. However, you certainly can pair your cocktail with your meal. Keep in mind that when pairing you want to craft a drink with some acidity to cut through the fattiness in the meal and have an element of the drink that complements the flavors of your meal. That can mean herbs or spices that you have used in your entrée for a unique twist.
When it comes to combinations, the options are endless. This would be something fun to play around with before Thanksgiving, pick your favorite liquor/s and infuse it with apple, pumpkin spice, cranberry, orange, pecan or pomegranate. The flavor infusion can be juice, a mash or you can make a simple syrup with your desired flavor. Pick the appropriate glass and make a small edible garnish and you’ve become a mixologist. Don’t forget to include the kids, many drinks can easily be made non-alcoholic for the kiddos with seltzer or juices! Just make sure they look different enough to not be mixed up with the adult drinks!
Let me know if you come up with a winning combination and I can publish your recipe here on my site! I’ll add the most creative one right here on this post!
Here are some local distilleries to check out:
Litchfield Distillery, Litchfield, CT.
Fifth State Distillery, Bridgeport, CT.
Mine Hill Distillery, Roxbury, CT.
Sono 1420 American Craft Distillers, Norwalk, CT.
Hudson Valley Distillers, Germantown, NY.
There are so many more, like, so many! Search for the ones nearest you and please go check them out, local businesses need us now more than ever and they happen to have the best products!
I hope this information is enough to help you pick out the gift that your host will love and if you are the host I hope this helped you pick your pairings!
Special thanks to Brewmaster Hutch Kugeman and all the wineries, breweries and distilleries who were willing to help me put together all of this great information for you and are there ready to serve the community!
Please share this post, friends and if you have a question, feel free to comment here!