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It takes just a little spice to make festive beverages
1124drinks
Festive drinks, including Cranberry Wassail and Spiced Apple Cider, are perfect for the holidays. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

It's the day before Thanksgiving — the turkey is thawing, the sides have been prepped and the dessert is baking. Seems like you've covered all of your Thanksgiving dinner bases. But wait. What about the drinks?

Whether you're expecting a crowd of 20 or an intimate party of four, we've got a few festive ideas to quench any thirst.

Wassail

According to the "Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery," wassail is a traditional, old English beverage typically made with wine or ale. It originally was used as a toast to someone's health or for good luck.

With a cranberry base and spiced with cloves, cinnamon and allspice, our nonalcoholic version smells as festive as it looks.

Be sure to float a few orange slices in your serving dish to add an extra pop of color  — and burst of flavor.

Spiced apple cider

While many people use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to celebrate the things that they are grateful for, others also use the day to celebrate the bounty of fall's harvest.

What could be more representative of the fall than crisp, juicy apples? A warm mug of spiced, apple cider is a great way to bring the essence of the season right to your dinner table.

Although the recipe is delicious warm, it's also pretty tasty chilled. For a little extra flavor, drizzle caramel inside your mug before adding the cider.

Holiday sparkle

Even if you aren't planning to make special drinks for your Thanksgiving dinner, there's still room to make your beverages stand out from everyday fare. Remember - when it comes to presentation, it's the little things that can make a big difference.

Sugared rims are also a fun way to add a little extra something to your dinner beverages. If you can't find the perfect hue to complement your table decor, making your own is pretty easy. Take a small container with an air-tight lid and add 1/2  cup of granulated sugar. To that, add one or two drops of food coloring  — mix colors for a custom shade. Put the lid on the container and give it a shake until the color has thoroughly saturated the sugar.

If you add too much food coloring, the sugar will get too moist and won't stick to the glass. To remedy that, simply add a little more sugar.

To add the sugar to the rim of your drink like a pro, pour the colored sugar onto a plate. Take a wedge of lemon, or lime, and run it around the edge of your glass  — this is the "glue" for the sugar.

Once, you've moistened the rim with the fruit's juice, flip the glass over and rotate the rim of it on the plate of sugar.

If you're serving iced tea, why not bypass your usual drinking glass, and serve the house wine of the South in an actual wine glass? And while you're at it, add a slice or two of fresh lemon to the rim of your glass. Or if you've got a little extra time on your hands, zest a lemon and put a few pieces in each compartment of an ice-cube tray before you add the water. Once frozen, the jazzed-up cubes will add extra flavor and color to your beverage.

 

Spiced Apple Cider
2 quarts apple cider
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 large orange, quartered
Combine all ingredients in large pot. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and cover the pot for 10 minutes. Strain beverage and discard solid ingredients. Can be served warm from a Crock-pot or chilled.

 

Cranberry Wassail
1 gallon cranberry juice
5 cups apple juice
1 cup sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoon whole allspice
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 medium orange, quartered
1 tablespoon whole cloves
Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in refrigerator overnight. When ready to serve, strain beverage, discard solids and warm the drink in a Crock-pot. Serve warm.
Optional: Float orange slices in crock-pot with drink to enhance presentation.

 

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