If we're being honest, the standard Thanksgiving meal can be a bit boring. Sure, we all have our favorite dishes—and mashed potatoes, gravy, and turkey are beloved—but since it's usually clear what will be served, there are rarely any surprises come the big day.
While we're not advocating for going too far outside the box for this meal, since everyone waits a whole year to eat cranberry sauce and stuffing, we do think that there is one place on the menu where you can be more inventive: drinks. And while we're at it, we think you should serve non-alcoholic versions. Why? Well, for starters, it's unexpected, and for another, these 12 recipes will prove that you don't need booze to serve up crowd-pleasing cocktails.
Pumpkin butterbeer, cranberry cider, pomegranate mojitos, and a carrot ginger lemonade are just a few of the options you have to work with, and they're sure to please everyone from your grandmother to your uncle, to your young cousin.
Here's to mocktails, which will be a welcome departure from Thanksgiving's many expected traditions.
Golden Glow Water
Tieghan Gerard at Half Baked Harvest bills this drink as the perfect cleanse since it's loaded with ginger, turmeric, honey, and lemon, so it's the perfect drink to serve as guests finish up the feast. Not to mention, it's also a theme-appropriate color. "My favorite way to drink this is topped with kombucha, but sparkling water works equally great and is a little less pricey," she says.
Sugar Cookie Hot Chocolate
If you want to make a batch of something that is sure to please everyone at your dinner table, whip up this comforting recipe from Half Baked Harvest. It takes the flavors of hot chocolate—whole milk, cocoa powder, chopped chocolate—and adds vanilla and almond extract. Plus, the topping of whipped cream marshmallows and sugar cookies will be a big hit. "Sometimes hot chocolate can get all fancy with things like dark chocolate and coffee, but this version is perfect for all," Gerard says.
Maple Apple Cider
Nothing says "fall beverage" quite like apple cider, and this recipe from Half Baked Harvest makes a fresh batch with honeycrisp and granny smith apples, pomegranate, orange, and cinnamon sticks. Serve it all in copper glasses to really make it feel special. "I used a crockpot to simmer down my cider, and cook it low and slow all day long," Gerard says. "If you don't have a crockpot, you can simmer the cider on the stove-top and then strain as directed."
Pumpkin Butterbeer Hot Chocolate
Why not make all of the Harry Potter fans on your Thanksgiving guest list happy with this recipe from Half Baked Harvest? It features pumpkin purée, ground cinnamon, milk chocolate, cocoa powder, and butterscotch sauce in a tall glass, and it just might make everything about the holiday feel magical. "I'm usually an all dark chocolate girl, but this butterbeer calls for milk chocolate," she says.
Cranberry Cider Punch
Whether you're playing football on Thanksgiving or watching it on TV, this cider punch recipe from How Sweet Eats is perfect for those sipping on the sidelines. It has a simple syrup made of brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and star anise, a cup of fresh cranberries, and a punch of cranberry juice, ginger beer, and apple cider. "All ginger beers can be different, so you may want to add more simple syrup or cider if yours is super spicy," blogger Jessica Merchant says.
Berry Kombucha Smash
This fizzy drink recipe from How Sweet Eats might be just the thing to serve to your favorite aunt this Thanksgiving. It has rich colors—thanks to blueberries and raspberries—and comes together with ginger beer, honey, and fresh mint or basil. "The flavor is incredible because there is a richness from the simmered berries," Merchant notes. "The honey tames the tartness. And the soda makes it seem super bubbly to the point where I almost want to say that if you did serve this to someone, they may actually think it is a cocktail."
A Moscow mule is a crowd-pleaser for a reason, and this version from The Butter Half can make anyone a fan. Since it's made with ginger blossom soda, mint leaves, and lime, all guests are welcome to cheers with those cute mugs. "And don't forget your handheld citrus juicer," blogger Abbey Rodriguez says. "The flavor in this non-alcoholic Moscow mule mocktail depends on the proper amount of lime juice."
Pomegranate Mojito Mocktail
The Butter Half's recipe for a pomegranate mojito is also non-alcoholic, and because of its bright shade of red, it would be a gorgeous addition to your buffet line. It's made with lime, mint, pomegranate juice, and club soda, and then served in highball glasses. "You can create a bar station for Thanksgiving guests, both small and grown, to make their own pomegranate mojito mocktail," Rodriguez says.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
It wouldn't be fall without the pumpkin spice latte, and Root and Revel's healthier version may be exactly what your guests need for dessert. It features pumpkin purée, coconut oil, maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spice as well as a cup of coffee for a much-needed jolt. "Using real pumpkin gives this latte a big vitamin A boost, while the coconut oil adds a healthy dose of omega-3s," recipe creator Kate Kordsmeier says. In other words, it'll help "balance out" the slices of pie your guests ate—at least in theory.
Chocolate Coconut Coffee Seltzer
And in that same realm of a pick-me-up after eating, this recipe from Aida Mollenkamp of Salt and Wind has coffee mixed with chocolate and coconut for guests who don't want to doze off. It's topped with chilled club soda and an orange slice for fizz and color, too. "It resembles an old-fashioned East Coast–style Egg Cream, except there's coconut milk and cold brew so it's decidedly different," Mollenkamp says.
Carrot Ginger Lemonade
Once again, this drink from The First Mess's Laura Wright makes a bold statement when it's served, because no one will be expecting that bright orange shade on your platter. It comes together with peeled and chopped carrots, ginger, lemon, and maple syrup, and it's best served with large cubes of ice. "Check the lemonade for sweetness, and adjust if necessary," Wright says.
S'mores Root Beer Floats
Prepare to win over the affection of every guest at the kids' table with this recipe from How Sweet Eats, which combines the beloved flavors of root beer floats and s'mores. Merchant makes it with melted milk chocolate chips, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, root beer, graham crackers, and charred marshmallows. "As a note, you can char the marshmallows on a gas range, under the broiler (watch them the entire time!) or even just get them melty in the microwave if you don't have a bonfire of sorts," she says.