Setting out appetizers before Thanksgiving dinner can seem almost perverse: Why nibble when you're about to consume the heartiest, richest holiday meal of the year? But there are good reasons to consider the lead-up to turkey time as a proper happy hour.
Here is how I think about the drinks-and-apps portion of the day, with a few tips for keeping it easy, fun, and — above all — light!
3 Reasons Why I Like Appetizers on Thanksgiving
Appetizers and drinks — happy hour! — are a really important part of Thanksgiving in my mind.
First, people often travel a long way on Thanksgiving Day. My family always drove about three hours in the morning, and three hours back at night. Even if they had a light breakfast, guests often arrive peckish and a little jittery from travel, and dinner is still a ways off. It's hospitable to have nibbles and a drink immediately on hand.
Secondly, I want people to come early! Thanksgiving isn't just about the food, after all — it's about gathering together. Stretching a brief meal, no matter how traditional, into a longer day of nibbles, drinks, and then dinner, is exactly what I hope happens.
Last but not least, it gives people something to do while you finish off that bird! I want people out of the kitchen and chatting and feeling comfortable with each other — not making conversation with me while I finish off the last tasks of cooking. Setting out a platter of appetizers is the best way to move the cluster of friends and family away from the cook and towards the table.
5 Tips for a Better Thanksgiving Happy Hour
So, you want to put out a few appetizers and drinks before Thanksgiving dinner? Here are my top tips for keeping it easy and light.
1. Buy your appetizers.
The last thing you need is one more recipe to make! Pick up some shrimp and set it out with a quality cocktail sauce. Buy some nice pickles and ask a friend to set them out with good crackers. Keep it easy.
2. Ask someone else to bring the appetizer.
Or, instead of buying the appetizer at all, delegate your most prompt and on-time friend to get to your house a little early with a platter of something tasty.
3. Pitcher cocktails are the way to go!
If you want to go past beer and wine, then don't just set out a few bottles of booze. Make a pitcher cocktail the night before; no mixing, no shaking, and very festive!
→ Get a recipe: Perfect for Thanksgiving: 9 Fall Sangrias
4. Keep the appetizers very light.
Think crunchy and cold, not savory and hot. Think pickles, not cheese balls. Think shrimp, not hot dip. For our California Thanksgiving Outdoors we made some simple boards or relish trays with pickles, light chickpea dip with fresh vegetables for dipping, and some crackers. All very easy and pretty! Read some more of our readers' favorite Thanksgiving appetizers here:
→ Thanksgiving appetizers: What Are the Best Appetizers for Thanksgiving Day?
5. Designate a host to keep an eye on appetizers and drinks.
Last but not least, you shouldn't be refilling ice buckets or sangria pitchers while trying to make gravy. Designate your partner or a friend to play host and make sure everyone is having a good time with a glass topped off.
What are your habits and traditions for Thanksgiving happy hour? What do you like to serve?
(Image credits: Leela Cyd)