Five Drinks, Five Movies: A Drinker's Guide to Thanksgiving Movies

Drink Lists Thanksgiving
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‘Tis the season for lots of eating and drinking and family and…awkward silences and food comas. This year, consider following up the annual feast with a film as the food digests. Here are five classic turkey day-themed films, with five classic drinks. And yes, due respect is given to A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving—but suggesting a drink to accompany that classic feels like corrupting a bunch of school kids and one very ornery dog.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

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Something of a sleeper compared to other John Hughes films, this now-classic odd-couple film stars a slightly neurotic Steve Martin and the friendly-to-a-fault John Candy, encapsulating all the horrors of traveling during Thanksgiving. Martin’s character sets off to Chicago to join his family for the holiday, a snowstorm re-routes him to distant Kansas and the unexpected chaos of traveling alongside John Candy’s character. Car fires, shared hotel beds, broken-down trains, and tantrums against car rental agents all occur in the days that follow. For drinks, let’s go literal: a glass of Aviation, an American gin from Portland, on the rocks with some lime, then a Boxcar Cocktail (sour mix and simple sugar, along with bourbon, triple sec, and a lemon wedge); and an Automobile for the finish—a mix of gin, scotch, and Italian vermouth with a dash of orange bitters—apropos of the underlined bitter tone present during the first half of comedy.


Pieces of April (2003)

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Starring Katie Holmes long before the sad Tom Cruise/Scientology phase, this indie-minded Thanksgiving romp follows the travails of April Burns as she preps her low-rent NYC apartment to host her family after discovering the matriarch has breast cancer. The cast—including Patricia Clarkson as the mom and Oliver Platt—are winners, and Holmes’ turn as the punk-infused protagonist is quite affecting as she attempts—poorly—to cook the bird. It’s also a nice window into a part of New York that may be lost forever (read: low-rent apartments in Manhattan). Given her lack of success in preparing the bird, the accompanying cocktail should be simple: cranberry juice (in honor of the sauce) and rail vodka. The red cocktail even matches the shade of the punky April’s hair.


Home for the Holidays (1995)

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With an ensemble cast that included Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Dylan McDermott, and a pre-Iron Man Robert Downy Jr., and deft direction by Jodie foster, Home for the Holidays may be the quintessential dysfunctional family Thanksgiving film. Mix an equally remarkable holiday punch—something you can make in batches big enough to intoxicate the entire family, like a citrus-cinnamon punch, by boiling orange juice, zest, and cinnamon sticks that’s cooled and then mixed with orange and grapefruit juice and grapefruit soda.


The Ice Storm (1997)

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Director Ang Lee’s take on Rick Moody’s novel of the same name unfolds during one tumultuous Thanksgiving break in the 1970s, documenting the exploits of two truly dysfunctional suburban families while also casting a light on the tense political and sexual realities of that decade. In addition to star performances by Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, and Sigourney Weaver, it also made both Elijah Wood and Christina Ricci actors to watch. The retro-chic scenes like the Key Party and the period make-up and hairdos pull you in, but the quiet contemplation and sadness triggered by these colliding lives, frozen by a storm of ice, will linger long past the nostalgia. But you can still pay homage to the ‘70s in the film by mixing a Harvey Wallbanger—vodka, orange juice, and Galliano over ice with a slice of orange.


Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

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Unlike other films on this list, which evolve over the course of one holiday, this early Woody Allen movie uses Thanksgiving as bookends for a two-year-long tale of intertwining stories about an extended family in Allen’s upper-crust NYC. The cast is classic Allen, including himself; Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, and Diane Wiest as the three sisters; and Michael Caine, along with minor roles from Lewis Black, John Turturro, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. You get it all—drama, comedy, affairs, divorce, neurosis, and hypochondria. Pair this film with a nice bottle of Riesling, one from the Willamette Valley. This Oregon interpretation of a typically-sweet vintage is surprisingly dry and mineral, and should cut through both the heaviness of the turkey and the heavy tones of the film with equal, enjoyable measure.


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