The Best Wines and Spirits to Drink on Thanksgiving, According to Experts

Bartenders and sommeliers share their favorite wines and spirits to drink on Turkey Day.

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No matter what your Thanksgiving looks like this year—whether it’s a socially-distanced soiree or a full-on family feast—you’re going to need a little vino to fuel the festivities. But this year, skip the traditional wine pairings and reach for bartender and sommelier-approved bottles.

“Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays to pair wines with,” describes Zack Musick, the beverage director at Merriman’s Hawaii. “No matter where you go, you can almost always guarantee certain dishes will probably be there, making it easy to pair.” That said, he recommends bringing a range of bottles. “Nobody knows what every member of the family likes to drink and chances are they all like different things, so the best option is to bring multiple affordable bottles.” Though after the collective year, consider cracking open a showpiece bottle, perhaps a bubbly or a complex red, to start the evening.

With the help of a panel of beverage experts, we paired out bottles for every dish on your holiday table. (Plus, our favorite after-dinner whiskeys and options to impress everyone from in-laws to the wine geeks in your life.)

Milan Nestarec, Gruner Veltliner, ‘WTF’ (What the Flor) 2017- Czech Republic

Pair With Politics Talk

“Are Uncle Mike and Aunt Karen talking about politics? It’s time to get weird,” says Ramon Manglano, a sommelier at New York’s The Musket Room. “The wines of Milan Nestarec never disappoint and ‘WTF’ has probably never been said more than in 2020. This wine rests under ‘flor’ the yeast that creates the famous sherries from Spain, but here it creates a juicy, floral, quince paste and Asian pear driven skin contact orange wine, with some tannic bite, invigorating tartness, and yeasty saline character. If you are a natural wine lover, this is for you.” $47.96

Pheasant’s Tears Rkatsiteli 2019 – Kakheti, Georgia

Pair with Deep-Fried Turkey

“Orange wine is a great wine for Thanksgiving – it’s rich enough to stand up to the meal, its aromas, flavors and texture will not be overpowered by the meal but in harmony with it,” says Doreen Winkler, a natural wine sommelier and the founder of Orange Glou. “Because of the skin contact, the wine is ‘bigger’ than a typical white wine and the layered texture works well with the Thanksgiving meal. But it’s also elegant. The wine’s aromas and flavors with orange zest, exotic spices, some nuttiness and honey notes pair beautifully with both the turkey itself, as well as other parts of the meal, especially roasted root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and brussels sprouts with bacon.”

“I especially love this wine with deep fried turkey for Thanksgiving – it’s an exceptional match for the crispy crust with juicy meat inside; the wine’s citrus notes cut through the fattiness.” 18.96

Line Drawing from Revel Cider – Ontario

Pair With Sweet Potatoes

“Cider’s a great pairing for Thanksgiving. For one, it’s often lighter in alcohol than your standard red wines. With all that food on the table, you don’t want to be loading yourself up with a 14.5% Napa Cab during dinner.” says Holly Berrigan, co- founder of MYSA Natural Wine. “It’s very gluggable and refreshing with citrus notes, and has enough acid to clear your palate after each bite. Traditional Thanksgiving fare is often a little heavier, and more fatty, so the acidity and bubbles help cut through that fat to make each bite feel new.

“With the fall apple harvest, it’s a super seasonal choice as well that goes well with other in-season fall spices and veggies like sweet potato, cinnamon, cranberries, and more. Because there’s very little residual sugar, the cider counteracts the natural sweetness in a lot of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes.” $21.95

FEW Spirits Immortal Rye

With After-Dinner Coffee

“For people who like to have a little afternoon tea as a kind of aperitif before gorging themselves on a huge Thanksgiving dinner, try pairing with FEW Immortal Rye,” advises Kevin Rogers, a bartender at Washington’s Service Bar. “FEW Immortal Rye is distinctive spicy rye whiskey is proofed to bottling strength with a delicate and fruity 8 Immortals oolong tea. The resulting whiskey provides an array of complimentary flavors for a traditional Thanksgiving meal including honeyed vanilla, peach, and baking spice notes.” $44.95

Pouilly Fuissé

The Best Alternative To Your Grandma’s Oaky Chardonnay

“The challenges of pouring an ideal wine for Thanksgiving dinner are that not everyone’s menu is the same, and many of the dishes are rather sweet.,” describes Master Sommelier Doug Frost. “But white wine seems pretty comfortable on all tables–Pouilly Fuissé once graced every wine list in the nation. But that was then; this is now. We see the French Chardonnay known as Pouilly-Fuissé less frequently these days, though the irony is that it’s never been better. Good Pouilly Fuissé straddles that line between tangy-mineral and creaminess. It’s more understated than most people’s notions of what Chardonnay is but, to me, that just makes it a friendlier match with turkey and an easier drink.” $26.99 

Stags’ Leap Winery Napa Valley Viognier

With Apple Pie

“New World Viognier has always been the last thing on most wine drinkers’ minds,” describes sommelier Tonya Pitts. “But, the insiders know that Stags’ Leap Winery Napa Valley Viognier is fresh and bright with racy acidity and aromas of white flower, honeysuckle and golden delicious apples. It’s the wine that mom, grandma, aunts, and uncles will love. It is more reminiscent of sun-kissed and cool climate white wine. My favorite food and wine pairing is traditional roasted turkey with savory sausage cornbread stuffing with a side of candied sweet potatoes. I bet this wine transitions to apple pie too!” $25.99

Whitcraft Vineyard Syrah

For Overcooked Turkey

“I seriously think Drake Whitcraft is making some of the best wines in California!” says Kristin Olszewski, the wine director of Gigi’s in LA and the co-founder of Nomadica. “This restrained Syrah is insanely aromatic; savory herbs and juicy red fruits will balance out even the most overcooked turkey.” $38

Château de Trinquevedel Tavel Rosé

For Vegetarians and Vegans

“This is the perfect rosé to stand up to those bitter winter vegetable salads; bringing this blood orange, red currant roundness to the table,” says Olszewski. “It will complement everything from brussel sprouts to winter chicories.” $14.95

Enate Crianza

For Drinkers on a Budget

“I love going to Spain in terms of my wine choices for the holidays,” says sommelier Lydia Richards. “The quality/value ratio is unparalleled so you’ll be getting wonderful choices to impress those annoying relatives at manageable prices, something that’s particularly important this year.”

“Spanish wines are very food friendly and will complement your holiday meal perfectly. Tempranillo, Spain’s star grape, is one of those examples: its richness, ripe fruit notes and balanced acidity pairs wonderfully with a variety of holiday favorites like sweet potato casserole, glazed ham and even turkey.” $12.95

Vouette et Sorbée Fidèle

For Celebrating

“Since it’s such an indulgent evening and most dishes are full of fat (and we love that!) I would begin the night with some crisp bubbles like the Vouette et Sorbee Fidele, one of my all time favorite grower Champagnes that will set off the evening with beautiful gingersnap, clove and dried cherry notes,” describes Mariel Dalmau of Margot at Nikki Beach. “This will already have your palate dancing with all the beautiful flavors of the fall and celebratory bubbles. It’s a great to complement to cheese boards, a sweet potato casserole, salads and most vegetable dishes” $66.50

Arianna Occhipinti Sp68 Bianco

For Impressing a Crowd

“As we lead into main courses, I can’t help but crave the SP68 Bianco from Arianna Occhipinti, a divine Sicilian skin contact blend of the indigenous varieties Albanello and Zibbibo,” says Dalmau. “Its fuller body gives hints of saffron, poached peaches and marjoram with firm tannins that stand up to more complex and fatty dishes (think Roasted Turkey with gravy, stuffing, roasted vegetables and casseroles!).” $32.99

Disaronno Velvet

For Sipping By a Fire

“Disaronno Velvet is the ideal Italian liqueur to pair with Thanksgiving desserts, like a Maple Vanilla Pumpkin Pie,” describes Jules Gomez, the head bartender at ZUMA Miami. “The richness of the velvety cream in this liqueur really goes nicely with the maple and vanilla flavors found in this pie pairing. For Thanksgiving you can either enjoy Disaronno Velvet on the rocks or try a Velvet White Espresso Martini.” $31.57

Mijenta Tequila

Pair with Cocktail Hour

“I really feel balance and smoothness in this bottle,” says Takuma Watanabe, the head Bartender at Angel’s Share. “I could feel the artisanal touch of the craftsman and their passion towards producing it. I got a bright, refreshing lemongrass expression and the rich sweet potato profile that is versatile with many dishes at Thanksgiving, like a traditional pumpkin pie. Its delicate nature coincides well with various earthy vegetables and having it on the rocks is great with grilled meats.” $53.20

Clemens Busch, Riesling Trocken 2017

Pair with Peking Duck

“Clemens Busch is a pioneer of organic and biodynamic winemaking in Germany,” describes Michael Acheson, the wine director of Citarella Wines & Spirits. “His wines are somehow both wild and graceful at the same time, combining the natural power of Riesling with an exotic note as well. Trocken means “dry” in German, and wow is this wine ever! Bristling with acidity, it’s like a lime pith inflected ice pick, ready to cut through the richness of any of the dishes on your table.” $19.99

Glenlivet 12 Year Old

For a Nightcap

“The Glenlivet 12 Year Old starts out strong with orchard fruit and ends high on ripe apple,” describes bar expert Jane Danger. “You guessed it, Apple Pie is the dessert for you. The middle and nose have oaky spice and buttery vanilla to make the flakey pie crust even richer. Try this neat or in a spiced Apple Glenlivet 12 toddy.” $49.46