1 1/2 oz Aperol
1 oz Dry Vermouth <Dolin>
1/2 oz Cranberry Liqueur * <Grand Ten Craneberry>
4 oz Dry Hard Cider <Bantam Wunderkind>
Combine the first three ingredients in a glass, stir with ice. Stain into an empty stemmed glass, top with 4 oz hard cider. Garnish by floating about 5 fresh cranberries in the glass.
Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. It knows what it’s about. Food, drinks, football and family. No crazy decorations. No mile long gift lists. Just good old fashioned gluttony. Wine is usually the drink of choice on most holiday tables, but I’m here to preach another angle. Hard Cider.
When you think hard cider, images of Woodchucks and Stronbows might pop in your head. While those are decent choices, they tend to be on the sweet side. Instead, look for one of many craft cideries popping up. Bantam and Downeast are two of my favorites in the Boston area. These types of breweries produce a drier, more crisp cider that really lets the apples shine. They are no slouches in the food pairing department either. They compliment most dishes you’ll find on the table this week.
And since you’ve got some hard cider in the house, why not make a cocktail while you’re at it? And not just for the sake of making cocktails. I actually want this to serve a purpose. Fashion and function. A bright and crisp drink to sip on before that meal that gets you ready for the impending food assault. Low alcohol is also a requirement, as we all know Thanksgiving dinner is a marathon not a sprint.
With all that in mind, Aperol is the perfect base spirit. While it shares some bitter, citrusy flavors with its bolder cousin Campari, everything is dialed back to a more manageable level. These flavors are perfect for prepping the palate for multiple overflowing plates. Plus, it’s not as strong as Campari either, clocking in at 20 proof.
The close relationship to Campari got me thinking about the Americano, one of my all time favorite low-proof sippers, and pointed me in the vermouth direction. Here, I opted for dry vermouth to accentuate the dryness in the cider.
Finally, what is Thanksgiving without cranberries? The guys at Grand Ten must have had the Thanksgiving table in mind when they came up with their Craneberry liqueur. This bottle couldn’t be more at home with the rest of the feast. Its boozy tartness makes this drink really sing.
The first thing you notice about this drink is the striking color. Your mouth starts watering just looking at it. The nose is like a two ingredient fruit salad, all apples and cranberries. A whisp of citrus from the Aperol lingers in the background. The sip is bright and bubbly thanks to the cider, and has some grape notes from the vermouth. Everything finishes where it started with apples and cranberries lingering on the tongue after the swallow.
Even if you went a little hard during the appetizer course, I’m sure the Cornucopia Spritz will get your mouth and belly ready for the full meal. And it’s low enough in alcohol that you won’t feel bad if you decide to knock back one more before you grab your seat at the table.
So wherever you’re spending your Thanksgiving meal, try showing up with a bottle or two (or six pack) of dry hard cider. It will be a welcome change from the normal beer and wine. If you’ve got everything to make this drink, than you’re definitely in luck (and kudos to whoever’s bar is well stocked). If not, don’t fret. You’d be amazed at how far you can go by making a spritz with whatever bottle(s) you can find and some hard cider. Happy Thanksgiving!
* If you don’t have a cranberry liqueur, you can use 1/4 oz cranberry juice. Increase the Aperol to 1 3/4 oz to compensate for the tartness lost by using juice instead of liqueur.
** Finally, this being Thanksgiving, I’d like to give a quick thanks to everyone who’s been reading this blog. I started almost a year ago with my main plan being I’d just start sharing with the world what I was already doing at home. Hearing from total strangers (and friends and family, of course) in the comments or on instagram reminds me that people are enjoying what I’m doing, and that’s what makes it so fun. So thanks again for reading, and have a good Thanksgiving. Cheers!