Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. It's a day about family, food, and meeting around the table to reflect on all of the things we have to be thankful for. Which, it turns out, is mostly family and food. And cider, of course.
With multiple courses, competing flavors, and guests with different tastes, how can you pair cider with your Thanksgiving dinner? We have some ideas.
If you are entertaining, it's nice to have an arrival cocktail waiting for your guests. Cider, like champagne, can make for an elegant pre-meal mixer with various juices or spirits. Try this cider pomegranate spritzer for a festive start to your party: Two parts cider (we used Ash & Elm Dry, though any semi-dry cider would work), one part pomegranate juice, a few pomegranate seeds (you can bash them out of a fresh fruit or buy them ready to eat in most grocery stores), and a couple drops of lemon in a champagne flute. Hand it to your guests as they arrive and they'll be smiling as they approach the appetizer table...
Cheeses, cured meats, nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruit, crudite with creamy dips. Appetizers present a bit of a challenge when it comes to pairing since there's such a variety of flavor and texture to consider. You want something with character--consider your appetizer cider to be another dish on the table--but not a cider that will overwhelm or overwork the rest of the dishes. We like to go seasonal as well. Warm fall spices play nicely with lots of little bites. Threadbare Fall Spice has subtle cinnamon, sweet baked apple, and a tart finish.
When you sit down for your Thanksgiving feast, think about wine. Many people serve white wine with Thanksgiving dinner: a buttery Chardonnay, an herbal Sauvignon Blanc, or dry Riesling. Others pop a light, fruity red like the just-released Beaujolais Nouveau. These are all versatile wines that don't crowd out the big stars on the table. Maybe some acid, maybe some light tannins. Cider can play the same role as any of these, perhaps even better because the base fruit--apples--might show up in some of the dishes on your table. Apple sausage stuffing or cranberry and cider chutney, perhaps?
Think heritage ciders for your main course. Single varietal or blended, that's up to you. These ciders tend to be drier than their modern counterparts, often with bittersweet notes, bright acidity, and tight tannins from the cider-specific apples used. This makes heritage ciders food friendly, especially when you have a variety of flavors on your plate. We recently enjoyed a bottle of New York Cider Company's Hedgerow, a blend of heritage and wild apples. Lots of little bubbles from bottle conditioning make this dry, citrus-y, tannic cider fun to drink. It would be amazing on your Thanksgiving table.
For dessert, we're skipping cider. While there are many directions to take a pairing with traditional fruit or nut pies, we prefer a cup of coffee at this stage of the meal, and for good reason. After the dishes have been cleared and we're all sitting in a food coma, out comes the ice cider as a triumphant end to the feast. A little goes a long way. An ounce sipped cold--sweet, tart, viscous, warming--is the perfect end to a night around a table with the people who mean the most to you.
Cheers to family, food, cider, and the multitude of blessings we all have to be thankful for!