Melissa Elsmo

Years ago I opted to cover my Thanksgiving turkey with an insanely decadent maple bacon shingle. It was an over-the-top garnish and proved to be the highlight of my holiday menu. That darn turkey was so memorable that my father carried a picture of it in his wallet for months; he nestled it between pictures of his grandchildren and showed it off proudly to anyone who asked him how he’d spent his Thanksgiving. To this day, that bacon-wrapped, wallet-worthy turkey sets the tone for my annual Thanksgiving menu planning.

It is no secret that most chefs don’t love Thanksgiving fare. Sure, I like to make Thai dumplings more than mashed potatoes, but nothing can out shine a traditional Thanksgiving meal and the memories that come along with hosting the holiday. Thanksgiving is, quite simply, my favorite day of the year.

I love filling my home with loving family and scents of roasting vegetables. I am silly about making centerpieces and serve dinner on my grandmother’s Hunt Club china even though she can’t be at our family table anymore. I change my menu annually, but my approach to the holiday remains traditional and heart felt.

This month, I will be sharing many of my tips for Thanksgiving holiday entertaining right here; we’ll cover everything from turkey to leftovers. Whether you are a Thanksgiving novice or a seasoned veteran you’ll find a host of ways to make your holiday more delicious and enjoyable.

In the meantime give my fun Thanksgiving cocktail a try. One sip and you’ll find your Thanksgiving spirit, too!

Mel’s Thanksgiving Spirit

For the infused vodka:

  • 1 (16 ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • ¾ Cup water
  • ¾ Cup sugar
  • 1 (3-inch) strip of orange zest
  • 1 Medium sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 3 Cups of good quality vodka

To mix the cocktail:

  • 2-ounces infused vodka
  • Prosecco or tonic
  • Orange twist
  • 1 (2-inch) rosemary spring
  • Blackberry

Rinse the cranberries and set aside. Bring the water and sugar to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and stir to coat with the sugar mixture. Continue cooking until the cranberries begin to burst and sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Sauce will thicken as it stands.

Place ½ cup of the cranberry sauce in the bottom of a clean mason jar. Add the strip of orange zest and rosemary sprig. Pour the vodka into the jar and cover. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1 week. Strain the vodka into a clean jar and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

To make the cocktail place 2-ounces infused vodka into a champagne flute. Top with Prosecco or Tonic water. Skewer the blackberry onto the rosemary spring and add it to the drink along with the orange twist and serve.

*Leftover cranberry sauce can be kept for two weeks in the refrigerator. If you time your cocktail making right, this sauce can be served on your Thanksgiving table.

Mel’s first tips: Think ahead and don’t serve cranberries from the can.

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