For most of us, Thanksgiving is a day of zero obligations. No one is letting you cook, so you simply need to be present, and perhaps occasionally stir something or carry a platter to the dining room table. That also means you have the bulk of the day to indulge. Now while most folks choose to calorie-load on food, the most savvy among us know strong drink is the better option. How else to handle a full day cooped up with family?
Thus, we present a guide for pacing yourself all day on that one day in which you’ll want to drink all day. That’ll mean building a sturdy base early, coasting through the middle of the day, managing to still be (somewhat) dignified by dinner time, and getting a little silly once the tryptophan has begun to roofie you.
Below, your hour-by-hour guide on what to drink during Thanksgiving day and your reasons for justifying such constant consumption.
10 AM — The eye-opener
You’re drinking: Founders Breakfast Stout (or another coffee beer)
You tried to sleep in, but instead you’re awakened by someone chopping vegetables and opening and closing the damn oven door. Stumble downstairs, still bleary-eyed, and surreptitiously push aside the OJ in the fridge to snag a Breakfast Stout. As the label reads, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning,” and mom will be too busy to notice you’re doing so as long as you pour that coffee beer into a coffee cup. As a bonus: Founders uses real coffee (and chocolate) so you’ll get a little caffeine boost.
11 AM — Warming up
You’re drinking: Milk punch
Now that the fog is starting to clear, it’s time to move onto more brunch-like cocktails. Thanksgiving, however, is not the time to opt for the kinds of lame-ass ones typically served in “bottomless” form (your mimosas, your bellinis, etc.). Instead, go for a milk punch, the bourbon-based New Orleans specialty that’ll coat your stomach with a wall of lactose for the long day ahead. Of course, if you attended Blackout Wednesday the night before and your constitution is feeling a little weak this morning, the milk might help you boot before the day has even begun, allowing you to then rally for the marathon ahead.
Noon — Pre-gaming
You’re drinking: Your uncle’s preferred macro-beer
Even worse than political discussion, the constant blight on Thanksgiving day is always a Detroit Lions football game. They face the Vikings in the early slot this year and you’ll want to plant yourself on the couch and begin getting lubricated with your binge-drinkingest relatives. Your uncle thankfully won’t have time to discuss his political theories if he has a can of cheap beer in his face at all times, and you shall join him in drinking his preferred toot. And, you know what, you will enjoy the hell out of that Genny Cream/Schaefer’s/Labatt Blue/Old Milwaukee!
1 PM — Kicking-off
You’re drinking: Your preferred IPA
Turnabout is fair play. And, you know what, your uncle may not enjoy the hell out of your “fancy,” “weird,” beer from Alpine/Stone/Other Half/Trillium/Tree House, but he won’t deny it gets him drunker a whole lot quicker than the “real” American beer he drinks (please don’t tell him a foreign conglomerate now owns it).
2 PM — Appetizing
You’re drinking: A homemade punch you just created on the fly
With the meal soon approaching, appetites will be forming, and mom might throw out some finger foods to calm all the “how soon?” inquiries. You will be feeling bolstered by several hours of alcohol consumption to whip up your own treat for the gathered guests of which even the most puritan are finally feeling thirsty. Making cocktails to order is too labor-intensive, though, so instead go for a punch. Grab the biggest serving bowl you can find—and hopefully not the one mom was planning to use for the mashed potatoes—and go nuts. There should be some ice, sure, some citrus and fall spices like cloves might be nice too. Then, you’re gonna add a whole lotta liquid. Ginger ale, cider, dark rum, whiskey, pour it all in and stir. Because believe me—it’s hard to fuck up punch.
3 PM — Turkeying around
You’re drinking: Wild Turkey 101
Drinking the turkey is always better than eating it, and that’s just the kind of joke that all the dads in the room will laugh at (even if you’ve made the same crack for ten years running). Wild Turkey’s flagship 101 is still one of the best values in whiskey—under $20 a bottle—and perfectly tasty neat, on ice, or in a mixed drink. If you’re feeling a little flush, or dad took you to the liquor store the night before, opt for some Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit or Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and sip it slowly as mealtime approaches.
4 PM — Mealtime
You’re drinking: Whatever wine mom serves
Sure, it might be some lame $15 wine mom thinks is “nice,” but now is not the time to flex your pseudo-somm knowledge on her. Instead, grab a bottle opener and make yourself useful, honey.
5 PM — After-dinner drinking
You’re drinking: Mexican coffee
If your family is like my family, the lot of you can probably plow through a multi-course Thanksgiving meal easily in under an hour. But afterwards you might spend another full hour dicking around at the table, schmoozing and noshing on desserts, and refueling with some coffee. Mix that coffee with dessert and it can become an alcoholic libation, Mexican coffee, a superior version of Irish coffee. (Recipe: brown sugar, tequila lit on fire to caramelize the sugar, Kahlúa, strong coffee, and a big dollop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream).
6 PM — Road-tripping
You’re drinking: A road soda
By now, the “adults” will have unbuckled the top button on their jeans and be close to retiring for the evening, but the younger bucks will still want to party. Thanksgiving is nothing if not the day to bond heavily with the siblings, cousins, and even step- and half-whatevers you don’t really care for. “Are any bars open by now?” one of them will wonder. And then someone, hopefully a still-sober someone, will offer to drive this ragtag group of semi-related dipsomaniacs around. Grab your flask, or a road soda for the car ride, because in most cities and towns you will be driving for awhile until you find a place that has a liquor license and its lights on.
7 PM — Chain restaurant
You’re drinking: A frozen margarita or a mudslide or something blue and sickly sweet
Unfortunately, every damn bar in town will be closed for the day but, uh oh, why is the Chili’s/Friday’s/Ruby Tuesday’s/The Cheesecake Factory parking lot packed? Because their bar is serving and it will also be packed with people like you who had similar alcoholic ambitions. When in Rome you say, and opt for one of those ostentatious cocktails depicted in full color on the spiral-bound drinks menu. You’ll regret this tomorrow more than anything else you put in your body on Thanksgiving day.
8 PM — Bad decisions
You’re drinking: Shots!
Shots are stupid. Drinking at a chain restaurant on Thanksgiving night is stupider. So why not make things truly stupid and order some shots for the family you’re still hanging with? Has your uncle ever had Fernet? Has your out-of-town cousin ever tried an expensive rye? Now they will have—because you’re paying.
9 PM — Toddying home
You’re drinking: Hot toddy
And hopefully there’s an early last call, or someone is smart enough to get you back home in one piece. Maybe grandma is still awake because old people never go to sleep. Maybe she’s drinking hot toddies because that’s something old people drink before bedtime. Maybe she’ll make you one! Maybe she won’t ask you if you’re ever going to get married while you drink them together!
10 PM — Nightcap
You’re drinking: In bed
It’s not a perfect Thanksgiving day unless you finish it with some much-needed drunk food. So make a gobbler sandwich with the leftovers in the fridge and take it back to your childhood bedroom. Don’t forget to also grab one final beer, which you will take a single sip of but not finish, then awake the next day to find it on your nightstand, not remembering how exactly it got there. Which is great, because a morning bed-chug will be the perfect way to fortify yourself for a shitty Black Friday at the mall.