Thanksgiving is one of the best eating days of the whole year, obviously, but it’s also one of the best drinking holidays—a rare opportunity to day drink in front of your family and have a whole three days to recover afterwards. But only a veteran can pull off a proper Thanksgiving booze-up without killing the festive vibe for others. (Hint: If mom is crying and it’s not from chopping onions, you’re probably doing it wrong.)
In the pre-meal portion of the day, success is all about pacing. Towards the end, it’s all about showing no fear and trusting your body’s ability to push itself to the limit. Everyone’s Turkey Day is scheduled a little differently, but you can adjust the following timeline accordingly. Let’s get it cracking…
7am–noon: The Warmup
Yes, you should start drinking pretty much as soon as you wake up, but no, this is not college game day where it’s okay to be faced before kickoff. These hours are all about fortifying yourself for the day ahead, and also putting yourself in the sort of mild haze that makes it possible to field infuriating questions from family members. Have a bagel to settle yourself, then get into a Bloody Bull—essentially a Bloody Mary with beef bouillon. Thanksgiving is a savory holiday, and your pre-noon eye-opener should celebrate that.
Noon-2pm: Couch Drankin’
Time to crack the beers. This period is all about preservation: You don’t want to start snacking too hard for fear of spoiling your appetite, and you don’t want to dig yourself into a boozing ditch that you can’t get out of; what you need now is just some laid-back beer sipping while you mindlessly watch football/play with small children/nod at stories from old people. If your uncles are drinking cans of shitty beer, go with the flow—the good news is you can drink a lot of these without getting too twisted. If you want go the craft route, just stick with something low-ABV, like a sessionable 21st Amendment Bitter American. To keep yourself refreshed, it’s good to get outside for a little bit—challenge your cousins to a game of flag football, or wrestle in the leaves with any dogs on the premises. Either way, be sure to pack a roadie.
You’re in the danger zone now, so proceed with caution. Your stomach will be rumbling at this point, but snacking would be a grave mistake. Stopping drinking would also be a mistake—you’re in too deep. You need to be realistic about the fact that even though people are being told to get ready to eat, the meal is not even close to done. This is the calm before the storm, so it’s a good time to take a step back and regroup. Grab one beer—seriously, just one—to nurse for the next hour (because you’re not going to stop drinking entirely, obviously), but focus more on pounding water to hydrate and to expand your stomach for the feast.
3-3:30pm: Power (Half) Hour
Once you see someone actually beginning to carve the turkey, you’ve probably got about 15 to 30 minutes before you truly begin to feast. Now is the time to throw caution to the wind and pull a next-level, semi-controversial move: Shots! Yeah, it sounds crazy, but hear me out: If you drink heavily right before you start eating, the beginning of the feast will keep your sea legs under you, and then when the booze really hits you about 30 minutes in, you’ll be wasted in that “late-night unnecessary kebab” sort of way, which is exactly the mind-state you want to be in to tackle your second, third, and fourth plates of food. Caution: This technique can result in ralphing during Thanksgiving, which is a mega no-no, so don’t try it if you’re trying to impress your in-laws. Double caution: Do not drag college-age members of the family into this, because they will ralph for sure, and you will ultimately be blamed.
3:30-4pm: Feast Break
No drinking. Devote yourself entirely to the annihilation of your first plate of food. Wash it down with sparkling water.
4-5:30pm: Powering Through the Meal
Wine. Wine. Wine. Maybe cider. I like a palate-cleansing white like a 2010 Sandhi Chardonnay Santa Barbara County, or a medium-bodied, acidic red like 2010 Nicole Chanrion Cote de Brouilly. But the real point is: Don’t be a wuss. You’ve already been drinking all day, so to stop now would be foolish. Plus, you’re eating so much food that you can soak up more wine than you think. Go hard.
Immediately after you force the final hunk of whipped-cream slathered pie down your gob, break out some whiskey. There are a few reasons why this is a top idea: 1) You’re too full to take in much more volume, so you need something strong that’ll pack a punch without pushing your stomach beyond its distended state. 2) Whiskey is a pain reliever that will help you cope with the post-feasting agony you are about to suffer. 3) Whiskey rules. If possible, find a fireplace.
7pm-??: Come down or turn up
Play it by ear. If through some act of providence you actually feel good, stick with the whiskey and see where the night takes you. If tryptophan and booze are forming like Voltron in your body, let them take you to a happier place. You can always blackout on Black Friday.