What to drink on Thanksgiving: BIPOC bottles and more

We get it. The holidays can be tough. Even families that love each other can start to get on each other’s nerves when they’re trapped in a hot kitchen. And there is no shortage of things to argue about these days: the World Cup, whatever Elon Musk is doing to Twitter, college football, elections, NFL football, when your brother is going to finally propose, the Supreme Court, Taylor Swift tickets, whether or not to see Avatar 2 in theaters, climate change. You get the idea.

And if you need a little booze to get through the next few days, we won’t tell. Here are a few recommendations for the perfect bottle to bring to your in-laws’ house. Plus a chance to support a few BIPOC businesses.

For the history buff: Uncle Nearest 1856 – Jack Daniel’s is one of the most recognized whiskey brands in the world. But until a few years ago, few people had ever heard of the man who taught Jack Daniel to make whiskey. Nearest Green was an enslaved man on a nearby plantation who taught a young Daniel to distill. Today, Nearest Green Distillery is one of the largest Black-owned liquor brands in the world. They just opened a beautiful, brand-new space in Tennessee. And the whiskey is really, really good. I sat down with the CEO of Nearest Green for an early episode of the Reckon Interview. Listen here.

For the rum drinker: Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced – Way back in 1865, Juan Serrallés Colón began distilling rum in Puerto Rico. And his great-grandson, Felix Juan Serrallés, Jr. oversees the business today. The name “Don Q” is a reference to Don Quixote, and if you drink enough of this, you’ll find yourself tilting at windmills too. Go with one of the darker rums like the Oak Barrel Spice to warm you up on a cold Autumn night.

For the peanut butter lover: Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey – Everything tastes a little better with peanut butter, right? Steve Yeng immigrated to the United States as a refugee from Cambodia and was introduced to the flavor of peanut butter. He started by developing a peanut butter whiskey cocktail at a bar in California before he and his wife launched the brand that has become one of the most popular novelty shots in the world.

Why it’s hard to track down liquor brands owned by Indigenous Americans: For 180 years, Indigenous people were barred by the American government from (legally) distilling liquor on tribal land due to an obscure law from 1834 (seriously). That changed in 2020, thankfully. It takes a while to scale up a national distribution operation, but if you happen to live in Washington state, you can pick up a bottle from one of the first Tribal-owned distilleries in the country: Talking Cedar. There’s also a distillery owned by Indigenous people operating out of Wisconsin called Copper Crow. Obviously, I can’t personally vouch for the taste of either but if you give them a shot, let me know what they’re like.

A celebrity liquor brand that’s actually good: Mulholland Gin – If I’m being honest, my favorite gin is a bottle of Hendrick’s. But I can’t very well recommend a Scottish gin for an American holiday. So get yourself a bottle of Mulholland Gin, one of the few celebrity-owned liquor companies that’s actually very good. Mulholland is co-owned by Walton Goggins, star of Justified and the Righteous Gemstones. It’ll leave you hollering “gotdam!”

For the new dad: Wild Turkey 101 – Congratulations, you’re a dad now! And therefore, it is your solemn responsibility to walk into a room with a bottle of Wild Turkey and say “what’s Thanksgiving without a little turkey?” The audible groans will only increase your power. Besides, Wild Turkey 101 is legitimately good.

For the new dad that prefers ham over turkey: Whistlepig Rye – You can basically use the same joke with Whistlepig if you’re at a house that serves ham. It won’t land quite as well but people might appreciate the effort. And this is a strong liquor option if you’re making Manhattans. If you’re at a vegan thanksgiving, I don’t know, bring a bottle of kombucha or something, I guess.

For more bourbon recommendations from a bonafide bourbon expert, check out this story from last year.

John Hammontree

John Hammontree |

John Hammontree is a co-founder of Reckon. He currently serves as Executive Producer of Reckon Radio, host of the Reckon Interview podcast, and author of The Conversation, a weekly newsletter that digs into ideas, perspectives and people that you're not likely to find in other media.

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