Thanksgiving in a glass: Seasonal cocktails for Thursday’s feast

Sweater Weather, a cranberry cocktail from MG Road.

As far as Thanksgiving beverages go, Xpress has covered beer pairings, and we’ve covered wine. But cocktails allow room for copious creativity — and can even incorporate ingredients from off the dinner menu.

Now, I’ll be honest with you. At first, I scoured the internet for the perfect Thanksgiving cocktail. Pumpkin pie martinis and “harvest” margaritas flooded my search. I finally settled on something called “Shoot A Wild Turkey.” Turkey in the name? Check. Sweet potato in the ingredients? Check. Mini marshmallows slightly toasted on top? Check. From the picture, it looked like Thanksgiving in a glass. I was on board.

However, my cocktail turned out to be one of those expectations vs. reality situations.

It’s festive. It’s alcoholic. It looks alright — though the recipe called for a creme brule torch for the marshmallows. I do not own a creme brule torch. I used a lighter. The marshmallows caught fire. Close enough.

Here’s the recipe, a la

Shoot A Wild Turkey


  • 2 ounces Wild Turkey
  • 1 ounce butterscotch schnapps
  • 1/2 cup canned sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg


  • Mini marshmallows
  • Creme brule torch

How to: “Add whiskey, butterscotch schnapps, canned sweet potatoes and nutmeg to a blender and whir until smooth. Pour into two shooter glasses and top with mini marshmallows. Brown the marshmallows to your liking, from a golden brown to a charred, blackened patina. Let cool for a moment and then swallow drink in one gluttonous mouthful. Give thanks to the fact that your favorite Turkey Day side dish now comes in convenient shot glass form.”

After blending all of the ingredients, I decided it was too strong (for noon on a Saturday, at least). So I added soy nog. It seemed like a good idea. As you can read in the directions, this is supposed to be a shot. I didn’t get the memo (i.e. didn’t finish reading the directions) and put the entire blender-full in a glass. It would definitely be better enjoyed as a shot.

Following this sweet potato monstrosity, I turned from the internet to the local experts for help. None of them recommended sweet potato drinks. There is probably a reason for this, despite what Pinterest may lure you into.

Mixologist Dezi Siler at Lex 18 helped out with some great moonshine concoctions for a true Appalachian-style Thanksgiving. Have relatives coming from out-of-area? Welcome them to the mountains with some moonshine.

Lex 18, Siler says, changed its cocktail menu for the season on Nov. 1 to reflect fall flavors, so this first one is available now at the restaurant, if you’d rather not try it on your own.

“One of our most popular drinks right now is the Carolina Orchard,” Siler says. “It’s something that you can drink in the morning, throughout the meal, at night. It’s delicious any time of day — really any time of year.”

fireflyCarolina Orchard


    • 1.5 ounces Firefly Apple Pie Moonshine
    • 1 ounce agave syrup
    • 1/2 lemon squeezed into drink
    • 1 healthy shake of cocoa cinnamon powder

How to: “Shake it all together with ice,” Siler says. “And pour, with the ice, right into a glass. When it’s shaken over ice, it gives the drink a nice cloudy, spicy, chai kind of look. It’s a really attractive drink. Garnish with a slice of apple.”

Moonshine, Siler says, can be found oftentimes in the regional section of liquor stores. “There are lot of great ones made right here in North Carolina,” she explains. “It’s a great way to really broaden your horizon [with drink-mixing]. Just like any type of alcohol, it’s a big world out there, and you can also play around with moonshine quite a bit.

“With the flavors, there’s really a lot of options. Moonshine’s got a kind of, ‘Whoa, that’s crazy’ stigma to it, like it’s more extreme and more wild than other kinds of alcohol. But really, it’s just different. There’s something for everyone in the world of moonshine.”

Siler also recommends this as a Thanksgiving brunch (or any time) drink:

Cranberry Moonshine Mimosa


    • champagne
    • shot of cranberry moonshine
    • splash of cranberry juice

“It’s a very ladylike drink,” she says. “It’s pink, and it’s pretty. But it’s palatable for anybody.”

And Siler’s next ideas seem like the perfect way to cool off (or warm up) after a long day of cooking:

Fall Hot Toddy


    • 1.5 ounces caramel (or butterscotch) moonshine
    • 1 tablespoon of honey
    • hot water
    • dash of cinnamon
    • lemon juice to taste, depending on how tart you want it

And her last idea is simple — eggnog moonshine (made by Old Smoky) in coffee for a variation on “Irish” coffee, that Siler says “is way more interesting than Irish coffee every day of the week. It’s very festive and seasonally appropriate. It’s really light and mellow, not weighty [like eggnog] as you drink it.”

Jesse Ratliff at MG Road recommends a drink that may be for the advanced to try, but looks and sounds absolutely delicious.

Sweater Weather (main photo)


  • 1.5 ounces Wild Turkey Rye
  • 1/2 ounce Cranberry Shrub
  • 1/2 ounce Lemon Cordial
  • Allspice Dram
  • Soda water
How to: “Add everything but soda water to a mixing glass and stir with ice until chilled,” Ratliff says. “Strain into a cocktail glass or serve over ice. Top with soda and garnish with candied cranberries and rosemary sprig.”

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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