Arts & Entertainment

Dowd On Drinks: Special Cocktails for the Holidays

I live on a hilltop in upstate New York overlooking the Hudson River, a pastoral place that once was inhabited only by deer, foxes, rabbits, birds — and really big birds, in the form of wild turkeys.

A few years ago, a new neighbor moved in down the road, relocating after a lifetime of dwelling in New York City where wildlife was something you ran across only at the Bronx Zoo or when you waded through flocks of pigeons in Central Park. He knew little of the ways of true wildlife.

One summer afternoon he was in his backyard hammering something together when one of our local wild turkeys came running toward him. Not knowing turkeys need to gather a head of steam to take off, he panicked and assumed the bird was attacking. He swung the hammer in the bird’s general direction and scampered off to the safety of his house.

After learning of this happening, I sneaked into his yard later that day and put a small bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon liqueur on the porch. I then called him to report “another wild turkey” was on his property. He came dashing out with the hammer and was relieved to find out what sort of “turkey” awaited him.

It is to this neighbor I dedicate this seasonal cocktail, the “Thanksgiving 101,” supplied by Lisa Cifuentes of the Thomas Collective PR firm representing the folks at Austin Nichols’ Wild Turkey.

This particular expression of the bourbon is 50.5 percent abv (101 proof) and retails for about $20 for the 750ml bottle. As Lisa said in a note to me:

“Thanksgiving 101 is the quintessential classic American cocktail, and is a sure-fire way to get you through another family affair that is bound to bring some drama. It’s so easy to prepare, there’s no need to learn how to cook — as long as you have a bottle of Wild Turkey 101, everyone can still get their fill of bird for the day and salute to the ‘American spirit.”‘


Wild Turkey 101



Serve the whiskey over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with several cranberries and a sprig of rosemary.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) is an industry organization that lobbies on behalf of its members, distributes research statistics, pushes responsible drinking campaigns and does other related work.

It also is pretty handy at getting top mixologists to contribute cocktail recipes for consumers to enjoy during the upcoming holiday seasons. Here’s a sampling of “simple cocktails with fresh ingredients pulled straight from the holiday table.”


Brian Van Flandern, of Creative Cocktail Consultants Corp. in New York (and previously of Per Se and Bemelmans) serves versatile cocktails with “a whole lot of fresh flavor” for his Thanksgiving get-togethers. “My favorite is a refreshing autumnal cocktail that I call Cider House Rules. The crisp flavors of apples and cinnamon conjure images of the holidays — and works well with meals from early fall right through the end of winter.”

1½ ounces 100 percent blue agave tequila

1½ ounces fresh-squeezed apple cider

½ ounce sparkling water

¼ ounce fresh lemon juice

½ ounce agave nectar or cane sugar simple syrup

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients, and serve in a martini glass garnished with an apple wedge.


Cameron Bogue, executive bar manager for Lumiere and db bistro moderne in

New York, prefers classic cocktails updated with fresh ingredients already on his holiday shopping list. “The spice of a good falernum always reminds me of the brisk days during the holiday season. I blend it with Turkey Day ingredients, like fresh-squeezed cranberry juice, to add tart acidity and highlight the other flavors I already have on the table.”

1 ounce aged white rum

¾ ounce homemade or commercial falernum

1¼ ounces pure cranberry juice

Shake and pour in a tall glass over crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprig. (To make falernum, combine one part rum infused 24 hours with lime peels, cloves and ginger, one part orgeat and two parts simple syrup.)


Adam Seger of Chicago’s Nacional 27 translates traditional holiday recipes into new, creative cocktails. “My delicious adult interpretation of holiday cranberries will put smiles on your guests’ faces, as well as a bit of stress relief for the host because it tastes as delicious with the meal as it does while sampling the appetizers and reminiscing with guests.”

3 teaspoons rum-marinated cranberries

3 lime wedges

3 orange wedges

3 generous pinches fresh mint leaves

1¼ ounces rum

1 ounce pure cranberry juice

1 ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice

1 ounce mint syrup

Rub a lime around the lip of a strong pint glass and frost glass by inverting in a bowl of superfine bar sugar. Add cranberries to glass and muddle well until you crush some berries and smell fragrant cranberries.

Add lime and orange wedges, and mint. Muddle until mint is fragrant. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Fill glass with ice and top with club soda.

(To make mint syrup, blend 2 cups sugar with 2 cups water in a sauce pan until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and add generous pinch of bruised mint leaves to syrup while still hot. Cool and strain syrup into a sealable container.)

(William M. Dowd covers the global alcoholic beverage field online at