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Exploring Thanksgiving Traditions: Turkeys, Sauced and Soused

Nov. 26, 2008


turkey recipes, thanksgiving alcohol, thanksgiving traditions, turkey mole, junior merino, david suro, tequila

While we all hold our Thanksgiving traditions dear, there's definitely something to be said for spicing them up (literally and figuratively) every few years. For inspiration, we asked the advice of two men on the cutting-edge of the culinary world, in hopes of developing a slightly snazzier take on turkey, all the trimmings, and some decidedly adult beverages.

Master Mixologist Junior Merino, also known as The Liquid Chef, originally hails from Mexico and practices his craft at Rayuela and Macondo in New York City and Tequilas Restaurant in Philadelphia. He and David Suro, chef-owner of Tequilas Restaurant, took some time to share their thoughts on the Thanksgiving meal with

Mr. Suro (who we recently spoke to about his tequila operation, Siembra Azul) notes that the turkey is no stranger to Mexican cuisine.

"Huajolote, as we call turkey, is a bird European explorers took to Europe from Mexico in the early 1500s. History has made a full circle serving it here as part of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner," he said. His preferred method of presenting a turkey is to simply serve it with "delicious sauces made with authentic Mexican spices and herbs to add some zest to the traditional flavor of turkey."

He typically pairs his Huajolote with corn.

"The white meat of the turkey pairs perfectly with pepper spices," he said, "which ends up being my contribution to this traditional dinner."

Mr. Merino also celebrates "El dia de accion de gracias" with Huajolote. He notes that some Mexican families serve turkey mole, the national dish of Puebla and Oaxaca, for the holiday.

His advice when it comes to the food is practical, and comes from a trusted source: his wife, Heidi Merino,
who is a chef. Their tradition is to celebrate with some former clients from Roth's Westside Steakhouse, where he used to work. His wife takes care of most of the food, while Mr. Merino, naturally, remakes their favorite cocktails, the ones they used to enjoy at Roth's

"I also pair wine with the dinner, since I am also a sommelier," he said. "Our tradition started with only 8 people and now is up to 20."

Twenty guests presents some challenges that many families are (blessedly) familiar with. Merino's party has some time-tested strategies.

"Instead of cooking one 24-pound turkey, cook two 12 pound turkeys," Mr. Merino said. "This cuts down on cooking time and also cuts down on the probability of drying out your turkey."

Mr. Merino agrees with's warning from yesterday regarding stuffing and food-born illness.

"Do not cook the stuffing in the turkey, instead stuff the turkey with various citrus and herbs. This prevents drying of the turkey, and aids in distributing a nice herbal flavor. Also, stuffing doesn't reach the required cooking temperature when the turkey is done."

Mr. Suro has always closed Tequilas Restaurant, "to celebrate the harvest festival and give thanks and appreciation for what we have received."

"For me, in particular, it's thanking my extended family, my customers, who share their most treasured moments at Tequilas Restaurant," he shared.

Mr. Merino is currently working on a "Liquid Chef" television show, but was happy to give a sneak preview of his wizardry for readers to spice up their holidays.

"Before customizing a cocktail for Thanksgiving, I take into consideration seasonal fruits, flavors, color scheme, culinary traditions and culture," he shared.

He offers three examples of great drinks that utilize "the best flavors that we can use for a dinner like Thanksgiving." Two of them feature Mr. Suro's Siembra Azul Tequila:

G'vine Holiday Cocktail
1 1/2 oz G'vine Gin
3/4 oz Cranberry Syrup (which it can be made at home by putting a pot 2 cups of sugar, one of water and one of cranberries heat until cranberries split and let it rest for 12 hours, strain and enjoy.)
3/4 oz Sloe Gin
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Egg Whites
3/4 oz Pomegranate Juice
5 dashes of Rhubarb bitter
Pour all the ingredients in a shaker, shake vigorously and serve in a martini glass.

1 1/2 oz Siembra Azul Anejo
1/2 oz applejack
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 of a green chopped green apple
1 oz lime juice
Garnish with a rainbow of slices of apples
Press the green apple with a muddler, then add the rest of the ingredients, ice, shake, and strain over ice.

Rested Winter
1 1/2 oz Siembra Azul Reposado
1 1/2 oz Castries
1/2 oz Kahlua
1/4 oz Navan
Garnish with a cinnamon stick, coffee beans & star anise.
Pour all the ingredients in a shaker/mixing glass, add ice, shake and strain into a martini glass.

Source: (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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