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Thanksgiving, harvest and bourbon...


…the start of the holiday season. Halloween has been and gone with its spooky overtones, and soon, we usher in the season of goodwill. 

This long standing American holiday is celebrated by U.S. citizens globally. People celebrate by taking part in homely family meals, large or small, giving thanks and counting blessings, and maybe volunteering to help those who don't have such ease in life.

So, where does whiskey and bourbon fit in with Thanksgiving? Well, it can be linked via the celebrating of harvests (wheat, corn, rye, and barley), the grains needed to create those fantastic spirits, to making celebratory cocktails and sipping drams at the end of a shared meal.

But first, a little history;

Native Americans had been celebrating harvest festivals long before the holiday was formally noted by the President and Congress in 1863. 

Famously, the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, celebrated harvest in 1621 with the Wampanoag tribes, and as much as this may have been considered the "first" Thanksgiving celebration, other ceremonies have been previously recorded, for example, in 1565, explorers from Spain and the Timucua tribe in St Augustine, Florida shared a meal, likely to be cocido (stew made from salted pork and garbanzo beans, laced with garlic seasoning and accompanied by hard sea biscuits and red wine.). 

Is this the first such Thanksgiving meal? Very unlikely. Giving thanks for harvests has been taking place worldwide for centuries. The Egyptians, the Greeks, and Romans all had such festivals, and Native American culture had a rich history of harvest celebrations long before Europeans arrived on the land.

Of course, we should widen our lens on these events. As much as they are wonderful celebrations in their own right, they are also cloaked in politics, diplomacy, and creating a peaceful way of living. Foreign settlers from Europe had arrived in land inhabited by Native Americans, and there were (and still are) periods of conflict.

Thanksgiving had been declared an observable holiday in 1789 by George Washington. It was to be held on 26th November. His proclamation is linked below. However, it never became an official holiday. Then, in 1863, President Lincoln set another proclamation for 26th November. This was off the back of a successful Union Army victory at Gettysburg.

The holiday remained on the 4th Thursday of November until President Roosevelt tried to change it for economic reasons, but in the end, it remained on the original 4th Thursday in November. The holiday was then made a federal holiday, meaning the whole United States of America observes it. More information can be found at the links below.

Now, let's get back to whiskey and bourbon!

Today's Thanksgiving celebrations have, over time, expanded and changed in line with societal changes, and many families will have their own traditions associated with it, as well as those observed nationally.

There will be turkey*, of course (except for the lucky ones pardoned by the President), served with a gamut of vegetables, potatoes, gravies, sauces, and breads. Then, for dessert, apple pie or pumpkin pie are both excellent seasonal dishes. For more ideas, see the link below.

(* for those who choose not to eat meat, of course, there are many seasonal alternatives. Stuffed pumpkin and veggie roasts are two examples. See the link below).

Of course, we have saved the best till last: that great drink that can only be made from the crops of a bountiful harvest, whiskey and bourbon. 

Where can we fit this in during Thanksgiving? Well, we think anywhere, but how about these options:

Thanksgiving cocktails are a lovely way to greet your guests and settle them in while you are putting the final touches to dinner.

A simple Thanksgiving cocktail could be a twist on the Whiskey Sour:

  • 8 oz. bourbon or whiskey 
  • 16 oz. apple cider or Perry (pear cider)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Brown sugar for rim 


Step 1: Grab a pitcher and pour in your favorite bourbon or whiskey

Step 2: Add lemon and apple cider

Step 3: Stir well to combine ingredients.

Tip: If you want it really cold, shake it with ice instead of stirring it, but remove the ice before serving so you don't have a watered-down drink.

Step 4: Add a sugary rim

(Credit to Martha Stewart via Taste of Home)

We can add a measure of bourbon to the apple pie or the pumpkin pie (don't worry, the heat from cooking will remove the alcohol but leave the flavor so children can still eat it).

Lastly, wrap your night up by pouring a dram and sitting in your living room, sharing the moment with friends and family.

The only way you can make this moment even better is by sharing your own bourbon or whiskey, which, of course, we can help you with. See the final paragraph for a link to get you started.

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation | Smithsonian Institution (

President Lincoln proclaims official Thanksgiving holiday | October 3, 1863 | HISTORY

Traditional Thanksgiving Menu with Recipes (

Vegan Thanksgiving Menu Ideas - Vegan Richa

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