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Cocktail kicks off festivities

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, and in my household we stick to the script. The menu is set – oyster bisque to pumpkin pie. Each recipe is printed, hole-punched and binder-bound.

Last year, however, we discovered a gap in the text: no cocktail.

So we are issuing a correction. My husband, local bartender, declared it should involve apple cider (very fall) and bourbon (very American). There was little left

E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune
The iced version of the Thanksgiving Kickoff requires freezing the cider into a slushy consistency.

to do but stir. And disagree. He imagined bourbon steaming with hot cider. Perfect for the sort of guest who rises late, takes a long run and stomps in eager to kick off the pregame.

The host, however, who after a week in the hot kitchen staggers out, shedding apron and oven mitts, may prefer bourbon and cider frozen to a slush. Enjoy this drink either way.

THANKSGIVING KICKOFF

Makes: 12 servings

6 cups fresh apple cider (best made with nonprocessed cider)

2¼ cups bourbon whiskey

¼ cup orange liqueur

1 hefty sprig of thyme

Lemon wedges

Garnish: small sprigs of thyme, tiny apples, orange wedges, apple slices, cranberries, cinnamon sticks

COLD VERSION:

Pour 4½ cups cider, the bourbon and orange liqueur into a freezer zip-close bag. Toss in thyme sprig. Seal and stash in freezer for an hour or more.

Discard thyme sprig. Scrape slush into a dozen 10-ounce glasses. Squeeze a little lemon over each. If you like your drink less slushy (or less strong), splash with a little more cider. Garnish as you like. Let the festivities begin!

HOT VERSION:

In a large pot or tea kettle, heat cider and thyme. Remove thyme.

Drop 3 tablespoons bourbon, 1 teaspoon orange liqueur and a squeeze of lemon into each of 12 mugs. Top with 6 to 8 tablespoons hot cider. Garnish. Enjoy.

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