12 Best Boozy Pairings For Thanksgiving Dishes

Let's be honest, Thanksgiving is a dream holiday for all food lovers. If you have already decided on the menu, it's high time to plan out the drinks you will be serving with your Thanksgiving favorites. Although they typically don't take center stage and are generally less talked about, drinks are essential to every Thanksgiving. They are here to accompany dishes and are not merely supporting actors, but vital components that help to boost all those delicious flavors on the abundant Thanksgiving table.

You may think it is best to choose one all-rounder wine that could accompany the entire meal, but Thanksgiving dinners feature many dishes with lots of contrasting flavors, meaning that it's almost impossible to find one beverage that would be an ideal partner throughout the dinner. That's why you should think about all the elements separately and then decide on the ultimate Thanksgiving pairings. We have rounded up some classic options and several surprising pairing suggestions that can help you take your Thanksgiving to the next level.

Aperitif + Champagne

Champagne is the benchmark for all sparkling wines. This legendary name is mainly associated with festive events and celebrations, and Thanksgiving perfectly fits the description. As Thanksgiving is a lengthy affair, starting the festivities with a glass of bubbly is a great idea. Champagne is the firm sparkling favorite due to its superior quality, but not all Champagne is created equal. If you choose the Champagne route for the Thanksgiving aperitif, make sure you pick the best sparkling wine style for the occasion.

J.Charpentier recommends brut or extra brut Champagnes as ideal aperitif options. These styles are dry and low in sugar, so they work best as aperitifs. Alternatively, Blanc de Blancs (made entirely from white grapes) could also work as an elegant aperitif bubbly. Canard-Duchêne also suggests brut or extra brut Champagnes, pointing out that Blanc de Blancs or Blanc de Noirs (as the more aromatic version) with a dominant mineral character can make excellent aperitif Champagne.

Regarding temperature, J.Charpentier explains that the ideal drinking temperature of aperitif Champagne should be between 47 and 55 F. For a flawless experience, choose champagne glasses or the flute to serve aperitif Champagne.

Appetizers + Gin and tonic

Gin and tonic is a cocktail classic that requires no special bartending skills and does not call for exotic ingredients. Pour a splash of herbaceous gin and bitter tonic water into an ice-filled glass, and you've got yourself a perfectly balanced drink that can only be improved by adding a slice of lemon or lime. You may think that gin and tonic is a surprising addition to the Thanksgiving menu, but in practice, gin and tonics make perfect companions with appetizers. Along with their growing popularity, gins are now extensively used in mixology and come in a wide array of offerings, so you can adjust the flavors to match the meat and cheese selection on your charcuterie boards or with various savory snacks and bites that you plan to serve as an interlude to Thanksgiving dinner.

The herbaceous notes found in standard gins are a great partner with spice, herb, and fat-laden cold cuts that typically find a place on the extensive list of appetizers. Gin and tonics are also great with fresh berries and grapes, which are prominent appetizer options. Lastly, a glass of refreshing gin and tonic is fantastic with pungent cheese varieties and nuts (via Spirit of York).

Champagne often springs to mind as a great pairing with appetizers, but because of its complexity and elegant character, it can often be overpowered by strong flavors in savory bites and snacks that we typically serve as starters.

Stuffing + Pinot Noir

Stuffing is a Thanksgiving staple. Although it has a murky origin within the American culinary narrative, stuffing was already featured on 19th-century Thanksgiving menus. Stuffing comes in many forms — ranging from the classic New England version to the cornbread and meat varieties typical for the American South (via Arcadia Publishing). Because of its versatility, this popular side dish can be a challenging pairing partner, but one variety stands out as strong and elegant enough to suit the multiple flavors inside your favorite stuffing.

The safest pairing with stuffing is a bottle of fine Pinot Noir. As it is wonderfully subtle, it can match various flavors, but it has enough character to partner with some heavier and more robust elements. It's the ideal choice for classic stuffing as it goes well with earthy and herbal nuances delivered by celery, onions, and herbs. Pinot Noir and mushrooms are a match made in heaven, so if you're serving mushroom stuffing, the safest bet is to go with this pairing, as the earthy elements in both ingredients complement each other perfectly. Ideally, look for Pinot Noir from Burgundy or Oregon as they make great food partners due to higher acidity (via My Wine Tribe).

Mac and cheese + Riesling

Macaroni and cheese is a comfort in a dish. This classic American combination of pasta and cheese is a great year-round dish, but it is also a traditional option for Thanksgiving. The standard version of mac and cheese is a great playing ground that can be boosted with the addition of bacon or veggies, but you can also play with some fancy toppings such as lobster or truffles. You can experiment with different cheese varieties to give the dish that special oomph. Though versatility is one of its outstanding characteristics, it can also cause problems with wine pairing. Chablis often tops the list as the best mac and cheese match, and though we can't argue against it, we went the less blatant route and chose Riesling as the superior pairing recommendation.

The Wine Daily conducted a taste test comparing Chablis and off-dry Riesling as a mac and cheese pairing, and Riesling proved to be the clear winner. The aromatic complexity of the wine and the intense floral and fruit notes made the dish even better, and as mac and cheese is not flavor dominant, all the elegant nuances in the wine were able to pierce through.

Off-dry Riesling would work best with the savory flavors of mac and cheese, and it can also work with some demanding combinations of spicy additions. The acidity in the wine will work wonderfully as a palate cleanser (via JJ Buckley).

Sweet potato casserole + Chardonnay (oaked)

Sweet potato casserole is a traditional Thanksgiving side dish, best described as a creamy mix of mashed sweet potatoes elevated with brown sugar and warming spices. Add a handful of marshmallows or candied pecans on top — which are essential to the dish — and you've got a very sweet side that can perfectly balance all the savory and tart flavors found on a traditional Thanksgiving menu. This distinctive sweetness makes the casserole stand out from the rest of the menu, but it also makes it a challenging pairing partner. Fruity, subtly sweet, or big and creamy styles could potentially work as a pairing option with sweet potatoes, but a bottle of oaked Chardonnay is probably the best and the safest choice (via The Vineyard District).

Because the dish packs intensive sweetness and aromatic warming spices, you need a wine that balances the intensity and has good acidity. Most light white wines would be overpowered during the meal, but well-structured, sturdier Chardonnay would make a great pairing choice. Wine Enthusiasts recommends Chardonnay from the French Jura region, which typically has a fresh, citrusy, and mineral character.

Green bean casserole + Sauvignon Blanc

Some veggies are difficult for wine pairings — Brussels sprouts and asparagus first come to mind — but green beans fall right into the same category. This green veggie can be a problematic partner because of its tartness, which is usually difficult to match, as it can be too sharp for most wines. Things get even more complicated when the green bean casserole is included in the story. The dish features green beans in a creamy mushroom sauce, topped with heaps (preferably) of crispy fried onions.

Despite its challenging character, Sauvignon Blanc is the clear winner in this pairing equation. This variety is known for its "green" profile that can balance out all those difficult flavors in a green bean casserole. Wine Folly explains that green herbs and sautéed green veggies, especially those incorporated into creamy, fat-laden sauces, make great partners with the bright and crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Plant and Vine suggests the same pairing and recommends Sauvignon Blanc from Loire and Alto Adige as the best options for green bean casserole.

Mashed potatoes and gravy + Chardonnay

Mashed potatoes are an everyday side dish, but we can't imagine any Thanksgiving table without a bowl of this old-time favorite. Regardless of how you like your creamy taters, this dish is the perfect complement to roast turkey and the tart cranberry sauce, and because everybody loves a side of mashed potatoes, it's the safest bet for picky eaters. Regarding drinks, mashed potatoes with a side of gravy shouldn't be an overly complicated pairing option. With this classic, we chose an equally classic pairing: a glass of oaked Chardonnay.

As explained on Vivino, Californian Chardonnay would be the standard pairing with mashed potatoes and gravy. The dish and the wine are buttery, creamy, and rich, making them a perfect match. Because Californian Chardonnay also has a delicate fruity note, it also goes well with the accompanying gravy. Just make sure not to go with an overly oaky version with too much spice.

Cranberry sauce + Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is a French grape hailing from the Loire Valley, but it is now also known as a signature South African variety. It is a flexible grape that can be made into various styles, but most examples are known for bright acidity, medium body, and a fruity character often reminiscent of apples, pears, and tropical fruit. These characteristics make it an ideal pairing with cranberry sauce — the puckering side dish that delights with its tart flavor, chunky texture, and delightful color. As Vin Yang explains, Chenin is a great option that harmonizes with the entire Thanksgiving meal, including turkey and cranberry sauce.

In "The Food & Wine Pairing Guide," Katinka van Niekerk explains that cranberry sauce can be tricky to pair as it is usually too strong and can easily ruin some great red blends by completely dominating the flavor profile. She suggests fruity and acidic red wines as possible partners but stresses that Riesling and a medium-sweet Chenin Blanc can perfectly balance out its intensity.

Roast turkey + Beaujolais Cru

We all have a favorite Thanksgiving side, but turkey takes center stage. It is the MVP of every Thanksgiving, and regardless of how it's prepared, everybody will snatch their favorite piece and smother it with all those delectable dishes and spreads. Luckily, this Thanksgiving centerpiece makes a great partner with alcoholic drinks, and wines come as its natural pairing. Though many things could work with turkey, we chose a slightly less obvious option, the delightful Beaujolais cru from Burgundy.

You've most likely heard of Beaujolais nouveau, a light and not overly complicated juicy Gamay, but for the ideal turkey pairing, we suggest you go with Beaujolais cru, the richer and more elegant brother. These Gamay-based blends come from 10 designated wine appellations and usually have more structure and body, making them ideal partners with turkey (via Decanter). As explained in The Guardian, Beaujolais might be the less prestigious label than Burgundy's famed Pinot Noir wines, but the slightly warmer terroir creates round and deep wines that can successfully pair with turkey. As an additional plus, a fruity Beaujolais will also work well with the tart cranberry sauce that usually accompanies most turkey-based meals.

Pecan pie + Madeira

Even if you choose only one wine with your Thanksgiving meal, you will most likely have to reexamine the pairing when it comes to desserts. Most Thanksgiving dinners will feature more than one sweet treat at the end of the meal, and the most traditional option is to take the classic pie route. Along with apple and pumpkin, the rich and caramelized pecan pie is one of the most common desserts that garnish the Thanksgiving table. Pecan pie will be challenging to pair with some standard white and red blends as it will, by default, be the overpowering element, probably making wines bland and flat. For such a richly flavored dessert, we recommend an equally flavorful wine with similar flavor notes, the fortified Madeira wine.

Madeira can come in various styles, but at Wine, they recommend Malmsey (Malvasia) — the sweetest version — as the ideal partner with pecan pie. The wine is strong and full-bodied, with distinctive nutty and caramel-like notes, while the bracing acidity helps to tone down the sweetness without compromising the flavor. Cards of Wine suggest that Madeira could also work with bourbon or chocolate-tweaked pecan pies.

Apple pie + Moscato d'Asti

Apple pie is a fall classic. No other dessert has a stronger association with fall than this spice-laden pie loaded with diced or sliced apples. Of course, it's also a must for our favorite autumnal holiday. Apple pies come in many forms and sizes, but they are generally not overly sweet, especially when made with tart apples that help balance the sugar. Instead of going the standard way for apple pie and choosing a classic dessert style such as Sauternes or Port, we decided to go with Moscato d'Asti, a sparkling Italian style made with the aromatic Moscato variety. The wines fall in the dessert wine category but are not as syrupy and sweet as other dessert styles.

As explained by Decanter, Moscato d'Asti is a refreshing, incredibly aromatic wine with aromas reminiscent of citrus fruit, jasmine, and roses. The wines often have apple-like aromas and flavors, which makes them ideal pairing partners with apple pie. The acidity and the bubbles work great as a palate cleanser for butter-packed apple pie crusts and crumbles. As this is a style that is generally low in alcohol, it is an excellent addition to a lavish Thanksgiving dinner; it will be difficult to go overboard with such a refreshing tipple (via Drink and Pair).

Pumpkin pie + Port (Tawny)

According to Instacart, pumpkin pie takes second place on the list of favorite American pies and is most likely a firm favorite for every Thanksgiving dinner. It is the perfect ending to any Thanksgiving feast, and as a vital part of each dinner, it deserves to have a suitable drinking partner. The pie is often packed with spice, typically a blend of warming spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and can be a tricky pairing partner that calls for equally decadent wine. Port comes as the clear winner in this pairing challenge.

Port is a Portuguese fortified wine produced in various styles, with Tawny being its boldest representative. Vino Critic suggests Tawny Port as a suitable paring as it holds a lot of sweetness and comes packed with nut and spice-like flavors similar to those in a classic pumpkin pie, while the silky texture flawlessly matches the creaminess of the pie filling. Wine Folly explains that the notes of dry citrus fruit, spices, caramel, and figs found in a well-aged Tawny perfectly complement pumpkin pie.