Friendsgiving is a lot like Thanksgiving—but much more fun. While the trend was initially popularized by displaced millennials who couldn’t afford the airfare home, Friendsgiving has become a popular excuse to enjoy two Thanksgiving dinners—a custom we fully endorse. Ready to plan your celebration? This three-part series is your go-to guide to hosting the ultimate fall feast. From designing the perfect table scape to mixing up boozy beverages to cooking a fabulous, chef-inspired meal, we’ll cover everything you need to know.

Don’t miss the other articles in our Friendsgiving Entertaining Series:

Part I: Simple Decor

Part II: The Drinks

In our opinion, a proper Friendsgiving host should give as much consideration to the libations as he or she does to the food. After all, this is a casual gathering where friends are encouraged to let loose and relax. We turned to local bar professionals for insight, and rounded up their essential entertaining recipes and tips. Whether it’s a cocktail, wine recommendation, beer pairing, or even a mocktail you’re after, you’ll find it below.

—Image courtesy of Punch Bowl Social

The Cocktail

There’s no better way to welcome guests to the party than by handing them a cocktail as they walk through the door. But measuring, stirring, and shaking individual drinks for each attendee is also a recipe for a headache. The solution? Mix a big batch of punch for the crowd and let your guests serve themselves (from an antique punch bowl, if you’re feeling classy). Denver’s Punch Bowl Social graciously shared its November punch-of-the-month recipe with us, and it’s got a complex and invigorating flavor profile that makes it the perfect foil to a rich meal. Though the recipe below makes a single drink, we’ve included multiplied quantities of each ingredient so that making a larger batch is a snap.

Plymouth Rocked Punch

For the spiced cranberry syrup:

1 pound frozen cranberries

1 pound sugar

1 handful whole cloves (enough to sit on the inside of your palm)

2 whole pieces nutmeg

2 cups of water

Combine all ingredients in a pot over medium heat until simmering (do not let boil), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool until the syrup reaches room temperature. Remove nutmeg and clove pieces and discard. Once cooled, blend the syrup until smooth.

Note: Syrup can be made a few days in advance; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

For the punch:

1 1/2 ounces Old Forester Straight Bourbon (15 ounces for 10 servings)

1/4 ounce lemon juice (2 1/2 ounces for 10 servings)

1/2 ounce spiced cranberry syrup, recipe above (5 ounces for 10 servings)

1 ounce brewed Teakoe 39th Parallel Pear tea (10 ounces for 10 servings)

2 hard dashes orange bitters (20 dashes for 10 servings)

Mix all ingredients together and pour over ice. Express the orange peel by twisting it over the drink and rubbing it along the rim of the glass (or bowl) to release the essential oils. Garnish with whole cranberries.

—Photo by Sarah Boyum

The Short-Cut Cocktail

Pressed for time? The new pre-mixed Rocky Mountain Sangrias from Boulder’s What We Love the Winery have got your back. These fortified sangrias, which come in three distinct varieties, couldn’t be easier to serve. The mixes already include wine, grape spirit, sweetener, and real fruit juice, meaning that all you have to do is dilute them with one to two parts sparkling water and they’re ready to serve. The white sangria bursts with refreshing hints of mango, while the Fire or Ice red version’s subtle spices make it perfect for chillier days (it even makes a fantastic mulled wine when warmed). If you really want to impress your guests, mix up a whole pitcher in advance and snazz it up with seasonal fruit like pomegranate seeds, chopped apple, and pear. You can tell your friends you made it from scratch—we won’t tell. $19.99 per bottle (each bottle makes three to four bottles-worth worth once diluted),

The Mocktail

If you’ve dined at Acorn or Oak at Fourteenth, you’ve likely noticed the selection of “no booze” mocktails on Bryan Dayton‘s bar menus. Take a cue from the beverage whiz and don’t overlook a nonalcoholic option at your Friendsgiving celebration—trust us, the DD will appreciate the effort. Dayton’s concoction has great balance and a thirst-quenching quality thanks to the aloe juice.

The Rehydrator

2 ounces aloe juice

1 1/4 ounces real cranberry juice (no sugar)

1/2 ounce lime

3/4 ounce honey syrup (two parts honey mixed with one part hot water)

1/4 ounce cherry syrup (use grenadine if cherry syrup isn’t available)

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Bonus: After rigorous testing, we can also confirm that this drink is equally delicious with a shot of vodka mixed in.

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock

The Wines

“The challenge with Thanksgiving wines is that they need to play well with fat, salt, sweet, and spice,” says Mary Allison Wright, “wine influencer” at the Proper Pour and owner of RiNo Yacht Club (both located inside the Source in RiNo). Luckily, she took the guesswork out of choosing a bottle—or three—by doing the shopping for us. All of her picks (a sparkling, a white, and a red) are available at the Proper Pour, and each is versatile enough to hold its own against a varied menu. Even better: These wines are under $25 a bottle (and even cheaper if you buy them by the case).

Bubbles: Château Moncontour ‘Tête de Cuvée’ Vouvray Brut

This Chenin Blanc bubbly from the Loire Valley offers notes of apple, almond, and citrus. “It’s a lighter style that’s great as an opening with appetizers, or refreshing with dessert,” Wright says.

White: Landhaus Mayer Riesling 2013

“This dry Austrian Riesling drinks sort of like a red.” Translation: It’ll stand up to the food. With floral and stone fruit notes, herbaceousness, and acidity, it refreshes your palate between each bite.

Red: Folk Machine Valdiguie 2014

Though Valdiguie may be hard to pronounce (it’s val-di-gay, for the record), it’s a grape varietal you should get to know. This California wine is bright and light but still offers plenty of structure, with notes of blueberry, tart cranberry, clove, and herbs. “I just love this wine—it’s got a gorgeous label, a quirky producer, and is just perfectly casual and fun for Friendsgiving,” Wright says.

—Image courtesy of Avery Brewing Company

The Beers

This being Colorado and all, we’d be remiss to skip beer suggestions for a Friendsgiving meal. Ryan Conklin, a certified cicerone (like a sommelier for beer) and barman extraordinaire at Union Station’s Terminal Bar, helped us zero in on a few brew pairings that’ll complement fall flavors. His picks hail from near and far, but all of them will help to imbue the afternoon feast with “just enough magical glow that the meal will surely be one to remember,” as Conklin so poetically phrased it.

  • To complement potatoes and cranberry sauce, stick to Belgian goldens “with a little pronounced herbal hop characteristic.” Conklin recommends Crystal Springs Brewing Company’s Marilyn Belgian-style golden ale.
  • For those “dark, caramelized sugars you’ll find in candied yams, brown gravy, and browned bread in stuffing,” choose a Belgian Dubbel like New Belgium Brewing Company’s Abbey Belgian-style ale.
  • If you’re serving pecan pie, pair it with Avery Brewing Company’s Rumpkin, a barrel-aged pumpkin ale, which will “[bring] lots of baking spice and rummy richness to an already unctuous dessert,” Conklin says.
  • Is pumpkin pie more your thing? Goulden Van De Kaiser Blau, a Belgian strong dark ale, “will pair nicely with an off-sweet spicy pumpkin pie with lofty whipped cream.”

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our Friendsgiving Pinterest board.

Next Up: In part three, we reveal our ultimate Friendsgiving menu, which features recipes from local chefs.

(Read all of the articles in our Friendsgiving Entertaining Series)

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.