What Are Denver Bartenders Mixing for Thanksgiving Weekend?

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, Denver: Have you picked up your heritage, free-range, hand-fed, lovingly nurtured turkey? Baked your from-scratch, orchard-to-table pies? Decorated your table with festive decorative gourds? Worked out how to avoid conversation with your slightly sloppy, mildly offensive uncle? No?

Well, saddle up and pour yourself a drink. This is a friendly reminder to stock your bar cart: It'll make you popular with rowdy friends, and you're going to need it to survive the inevitable tumult of a red state-blue state family "discussion." This year, take your cues from some of Denver's finest bartenders and pour up something special for the occasion. Herewith, suggestions and recipes for seven Thanksgiving cocktails.

Mike Henderson, Beverage Director, Linger, Root Down and Ophelia's Electric Soapbox
"At the first Thanksgiving with my now-wife, we started the day with a batch of her grandma Rachel’s mulled wine. Being from Pittsburgh, she said her grandma used to take a warm thermos full of it into every Steeler's home game (I guess back when you could do that sort of thing). Now a Thanksgiving tradition, Grandma Rachel bequeathed me the book from which she got the recipe…which happens to be a very legit bar book, Patrick Gavin Duffy’s The Standard Bartender’s Guide. Here’s the (adapted) recipe:"

Grandma Rachel’s Mulled Wine
1 bottle red wine
12 ounces Grand Marnier
6 ounces fresh lemon juice
10 dashes Angostura bitters
32 ounces water
1 stick cinnamon
1 lemon sliced into wheels
(add sugar to taste if needed)

Combine all ingredients in a pot on the stove and warm until wine begins to simmer. Reduce heat to low and, using a ladle, portion into coffee mugs. Garnish with a lemon wheel and star anise.

Kevin Burke, Bar Manager, Ste. Ellie and Colt & Gray
"I usually roll in with a bottle of punch; my family has mixed politics, so I'm switching from guns to missiles this year and bringing a bottle of Manhattans to keep the peace. I also show up with a bottle of Champagne (always the real stuff), because it's still Thanksgiving."

Bottled Manhattans
In a clean and sterile 1-liter swing-top bottle, combine:
18 ounces Rittenhouse rye
6 ounces sweet vermouth
1 ounce Luxardo Maraschino
1/2 ounce Angostura bitters
7 ounces cold water (mimicking dilution)

Cap. Label. Throw in the fridge.

Garnish with cherries if you're inclined; I'm not opposed to a lemon twist these days.

Bryan Dayton, Co-Owner, Acorn and Oak at Fourteenth
"[This cocktail] is simple, fun and all about fall."

Autumn Sipper
1 1/2 ounces Ron Zacapa or other dark rum
1/3 ounce Ancho Reyes chile liqueur
1/2 ounce simple syrup*
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce apple cider

Shake. Garnish with grated nutmeg and cinnamon. You can do a punch with this if you multiply by five. Float with slices of orange and lemon, and clove.

Koan Goedman, Owner, Bar Fausto
"It's holiday season! It's holiday season? Yikes. Between family coming into town, last-minute dinner-party shopping and cold weather, we could all use a little bourbon. Bourbon Milk Punch will, at the very least, give you a little buzz. Enjoy this cocktail while donning your coziest sweater and listening to your favorite album, or make it for a group of friends: Just multiply everything by a factor of five, then taste, adjust, and serve."

Bourbon Milk Punch
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce dark rum
2 ounces milk (cream for a richer variation)
3/4 ounce simple syrup*
1 dash of vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, fill with ice.  Shake vigorously until shaker frosts up. Strain and pour into chilled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.

Chad Michael George, Owner, the Way Back
"The key here is to prevent a lukewarm Irish coffee. At the Way Back, we bathe the coffee and sugar mixture in a 170-degree water bath to make sure that when the whiskey is added, the drink stays hot. At home, keep the coffee and simple syrup mix warm before adding whiskey."

The Perfect Irish Coffee
2 ounces Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey
1/2 ounce raw-sugar simple syrup
6 ounces Method Roasters coffee

Combine in a mug and top with shaken heavy whipping cream and a dusting of nutmeg.

Allison Anderson, Beverage Manager, Frasca Food and Wine
Anderson says this hot buttered rum is a customer favorite this time of year.

Hot Buttered Rum:
1 ounce Smith and Cross Jamaican rum
1 ounce Lazzaroni amaretto liqueur
3 ounces boiling water
2 tablespoons compound butter*

*8 ounces unsalted butter whipped until creamy with 2/3 cup muscovado sugar, 1/4 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon dried ginger.

Combine spirits with water in a glass mug or cup. Top with the 2 tablespoons of compound butter and garnish with chopped candied ginger and grated nutmeg.

Beau Fontano, Bartender, Green Russell
"[This is a] refreshing and tart fall sipper with hints of pineapple, spiced pear, apple cinnamon and a full sage note on the nose. [It's a] perfect cocktail for after dinner that is friendly with any palate."

Thanksgiving in Trinidad
1 1/2 ounces Monkey Shoulder blended Scotch
1/2 ounce St. George spiced pear liqueur
1/2 ounce Plantation Pineapple
1 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce Pistachio Orgeat
2 dashes apple cinnamon bitters

Shake, and garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel and cinnamon, sugar and sage. Serve up.

* To make simple syrup for the recipes above, warm up equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool to room temperature before using. Store what you don't use in the refrigerator.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk