A Sparkling Apple Cider Cocktail for Thanksgiving
Like most American families mine grew up with a Thanksgiving ritual. Each forth Thursday of November, Dad mashed potatoes by hand, until they were acceptably lumpy, and Mom tossed greens in a homemade vinaigrette. Then, they packed up my sister Anna and me—and drove across town to the home of friends. There, Anna and I would stuff ourselves with turkey at the kids’ table, until we were no longer able to sit upright. While our parents continued to chitchat (mostly formal, lawyer speak), we’d slip away and curl up in front of the television.
I’m certain that if we’d left the party planning to the adults, this tradition would have continued uninterrupted until we kids’ had kids of our own. But three years ago, the year that I returned to the United States from guidebook writing in Peru, I decided that our nation’s most nostalgic holiday could not be celebrated without a cocktail.
I’m not exactly sure where I got this idea. Maybe from the recent job interview I’d had at foodie website Chow, where I’d been asked to suggest a Thanksgiving cocktail. Maybe it came from a year of drinking Peruvian pisco sour cocktails at every slightly celebratory meal. Whatever my exact inspiration, the weeks before Thanksgiving 2007 were spent scanning the internet for cocktail recipes and then passing them on to Dad, who’d generously accepted the responsibilities of holiday bartender as well as potato masher.
When Thanksgiving arrived that year, we chilled one bottle of Champagne for each pound of mashed potatoes. Early afternoon, we towed both the pot of potatoes and the cool, clinking bottles across town. Before the mashers made it to the stove for reheating, Dad popped the first bottle of Champagne. He deftly dropped sugar cubes into long fluted glasses and poured apple brandy, apple cider, and orange bitters into a cocktail shaker. He was just as eager for a sparkling apple cider cocktails as we were.
When he was done mixing, we passed the slightly sweet, apple bubbles around the room. The volume rose and the laughter deepened, and by the time that we sat down to the table, you could barely keep up with the conversation next to you, let alone the ones at the other ends of the table. Formal, lawyer speak was gone (and thankfully so was the kids’ table). I raised my glass to Anna and said to my sister, “Don’t you think we ought to have a Thanksgiving cocktail every year?”
With that thought in mind, a couple of weeks ago, I began to search the web for this year’s cocktail. Pear and bourbon were on my mind. But before those sweet, fuzzy dreams could take shape into reality, the friends from across town called Mom. They didn’t want to host Thanksgiving this year. As a matter of fact, they thought they’d skip our celebration altogether. This year, they were looking for something a little quieter. Quieter, I imagined, didn’t serve cocktails.
The news surprised me; my sprinkling of boisterousness wasn’t exactly the seasoning that everyone wanted with the holiday. This realization settled in a bit icy, but as I began to warm to the idea, another thought occurred to me. I was done with my cocktail search. This year, we’d be making sparkling apple cider cocktails again. Anna and I had a new ritual to uphold.
Sparkling Apple Cider Cocktail
Apple is the undercurrent in this bubbly cocktail; it mingles with a touch of sweetness and crisp, sparkling wine for a drink that tastes of fall. Feel free to use Champagne, Prosecco, or Cava in this recipe. All work equally as well. Just make sure that whatever you choose is well chilled; a cold bottle of bubbly is easier to open (and less likely to spill over) than a warm one.
1 ounce apple brandy
1 ounce apple cider
2 dashes orange bitters
1 sugar cube
3-4 ounces chilled Champagne, Prosecco, or Cava
Combine the brandy, cider, orange bitters, and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly (at least 20 times).
Place sugar cube in Champagne flute, strain brandy mixture into glass, and top with Champagne.
For printable recipe, click here.