Thanksgiving Sips and Sweets

Growing up with such a large extended family, holidays have always been a treasure. My dad is the youngest of eleven kids (yes, you read that right), and every Christmas as a child, the whole gang – all of his siblings, their husbands and wives, the 29 grandchildren, and even the start of the great grandchildren – would gather at my grandparents house in Middletown, Connecticut for the coziest, happiest, and most loving day of the year. It was truly magical. 

And while my grandparents have passed and the family has grown even larger and sprawled farther in distance, holidays remain such a special tradition. The "kids table" may be retired and we may not have to eat in shifts anymore, but I'm so thankful for the family that I do get to celebrate – and indulge – with during the holiday season. And when I say indulge, I truly mean indulge. 

Now don't get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving dinner (and love the leftovers even more), but I definitely like to spice up the menu where I can. This pre-dinner punch has become a huge hit over the past few years, as it can be made in bulk – which is key when you are entertaining upwards of 20 people – not to mention it's just plain delicious. Cupcakes are an easy dessert add-on for the non pie lover in your life (raises hand), and this brown butter pumpkin version is the perfect holiday staple.  



  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 15 fresh mint sprigs, divided
  • 4 cups fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 2 1/2 cups bourbon
  • 12 dashes angostura bitters
  • 1 cup club soda
  • 1 ice block (we like to incorporate some extra grapefruit juice here and make a frozen grapefruit juice ice block)


Stir 1/3 cup water and sugar in small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil. Add 5 fresh mint sprigs. Remove from heat; cool syrup completely. 

Strain syrup into punch bowl. Add juice, bourbon, and bitters; mix in soda and remaining mint sprigs. Add ice to bowl and serve!

Yield: Makes 8-10 servings
We generally either multiply by 4 or replenish throughout the afternoon

Recipe from Epicurious




  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature


  • 1 lb confectioners' sugar, sifted divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature


Preheat oven to 325° F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

Add the butter to a medium saucepan and set over medium-low heat. The butter will melt then begin to bubble and foam. Eventually it will start to turn brown and smell nutty – be patient and watch carefully, it can go from brown to burned quickly! Remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a small heatproof bowl to stop the cooking. Set aside to cool. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In a second medium bowl, add the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and the cooled brown butter. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the dry ingredients to the second bowl and whisk until combined. 

Divide the batter among the liners, filling each about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes (rotating the pans halfway through), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the cupcakes cool for just a few minutes before removing them to the racks to cool completely. 

To make the frosting: in an even layer, sprinkle 1/2 cup of the confectioners' sugar in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Let the sugar sit untouched until it melts – it will seem like it takes forever to start melting, but once it gets going, it goes fast. Continue coking until the sugar turns a deep amber color, stirring occasionally – keep an eye on it, it can burn quickly. Add 1/2 cup of the cream, the vanilla, and salt (carefully, the mixture will bubble up!). Stir until any hardened bits of caramel melt. Add the remaining tablespoon of cream and stir to incorporate. Strain the caramel into a heatproof bowl and set aside to cool.

Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually sift in the remaining confectioners sugar, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once all the sugar has been added, mix in the cooled caramel. Beat the frosting on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Cover and chill until frosting is firm enough to pipe. 

Yield: Makes about 15 cupcakes

Cupcakes from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes; frosting from Bon Appétit, November 2008 (via Epicurious)

Food and DrinkRachel Bergan