As all but the drunkest of you know, the Thanksgiving Holiday arrives on Thursday, November 26. And more this year than most, due to COVID heavy drinking is in order. Not to mention the prophylactic benefit of the alcohol swirling around your mouth and the vapors wafting through your sinuses. For Thanksgiving our Drink of the Day will be the American Trilogy.
As a public service announcement in partnership with the CDC the editorial board of The Drunkard’s Almanac elected to publish this holiday’s Drink of the Day early. While we make a point of using only ordinary pantry items in recipes we present, we are all too aware that some of you are shamefully low on household staples and may not even have your local liquor emporium on speed dial. Sometimes it seems as though home economics classes should be revived, but for the moment we’ll simply provide adequate time in advance for the miscreants to catch up. You know who you are.
Now about that Thanksgiving thing. It started in 1621 after the native residents showed the Pilgrims how to grow corn and the first successful harvest was achieved. While records of what they indulged in don’t exist, it was apparently a three day bender of a feast. A good time was had so they did it again in 1623. Fast forward to the American Revolution and the Continental Congress designated one or more days a year and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government. John Adams and James Madison followed George’s lead, but it wasn’t until 1817 that New York became the first state to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday. It took until 1863 for Abraham Lincoln, at the height of the Civil War, to create the national holiday.
But enough about feasts and holidays, let’s talk about drinks. Lucky for us the colonists and founders of this nation were impressive drinkers. Know why they chose Plymouth to land? The Mayflower was running out of beer. And let’s face it: water at that time was considered suspect and was often unsafe to drink.
Just one problem. The ingredients for beer did not grow well in New England, but hope was not lost. Apples. Apples make hard cider. Orchards were planted. Men usually began the day with a quart at breakfast. What do you really think Johnny Appleseed was up to? He was planting trees for hard cider. The whole “apple a day” nonsense was just temperance-era propaganda to try to get people to eat apples instead of turning them into hooch.
As the frontier expanded people expanded to what worked. Settlers west of the Allegheny Mountains could grow corn and made whiskey. That’s the origin of bourbon. Further east rye grew well….you get it….rye whiskey. Whiskey was really America’s first cottage industry. George Washington himself was in the business. In 1799 his distillery at Mount Vernon produced almost 11,000 gallons, and that’s a lot of booze.
The American Trilogy
So what now as Drink of the Day? For Thanksgiving there’s a clear choice: the American Trilogy. It wasn’t invented in colonial times but instead emerged in 2007 from the Little Branch bar in New York. But because it’s primary ingredients are rye whiskey and Applejack it fits right in with the history of the holiday. After all, Applejack is really just distilled cider.
As you’ll soon see the mixing of this cocktail is as simple as can be. But before we get there it is time for a word about ingredients. First you need rye whiskey. Any will do, and the readily available Rittenhouse is a solid choice, but if your local emporium stocks it a bottle of Wild Turkey seems more appropriate this week. But note: you want the Wild Turkey 101 Rye, not their plain rye which is just 80 proof.
And on the apple side there really is just one choice: Laird’s. While their US distillery was founded in 1780 the brand history can be traced all the way back to 1698. Don’t buy their product labeled Applejack. Step up and keep their Straight Apple Brandy in your pantry. It is the bartender’s choice.
- Mixing glass
- Old Fashioned Glass
- 1¼ oz Rye whiskey
- 1¼ oz Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy
- 1 Brown sugar cube
- 2-4 Dashes Orange bitters
- No garnish
- Now if you want to be fancy you will toss the brown sugar cube into your mixing glass, wet it with bitters and muddle it to dissolve the sugar. If you’re like this correspondent you’ll wonder if you've ever seen a brown sugar cube and just pour a barspoon of simple syrup into the mixing glass. The choice is yours.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the mixing glass, toss in sufficient ice and stir.
- Contemplate why it’s called the American Trilogy when it really seems to just have two ingredients. Choose between considering US-made orange bitters the third part or avoid thinking about it entirely by placing the drink over three ice cubes in an old fashioned glass. Or use US bitters AND 3 ice cubes. Or serve it up. Whatever you like. After all, it’s a holiday.