Despite cooking year-round on television and in restaurant kitchens, Bobby Flay still insists on prepping Thanksgiving dinner every year, normally welcoming 40 to 50 guests into his Tribeca home. After years of hosting, Flay has learned a thing or two about throwing a successful Thanksgiving dinner, and one of his hardest-learned lessons has been this: Don’t serve cranberry martinis.
“I used to make cranberry martinis, but I don’t anymore because people get f**ked up on those,” the chef says. “It’s basically just red vodka. It’s a bad idea. By 6:30 p.m. people are like, walking into walls.”
Flay, who cooked at the Savor Borgata Food and Wine Festival this past weekend, has a different plan for drinks this year. He’s making coquito, a rum-based cocktail with cinnamon and coconut milk, to go along with his Puerto Rican-themed dinner.
“It might sound corny, but I always try to do something as a conversation piece, giving thanks and taking a moment to talk about something that occurred over the year,” Flay says, noting he did a New Orleans-inspired Thanksgiving feast after Hurricane Katrina hit. “This year there were way too many things to choose from, but it just seems to me, especially growing up in New York, that Puerto Rico is a thing that needs to continue to be talked about, so I’m going to cook a couple of Puerto Rican dishes alongside my Thanksgiving. Some people say grace at the table, and we just talk for a couple of minutes about people who are in a less good place than we are at that very moment. Then eating ensues.”
Since coquito is pretty rich, you can’t drink a lot of it, Flay says, which gives the beverage an advantage over chaos-causing cranberry martinis.
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Flay is making sure to have other drinks on hand. He assigns out most of them, specifying who should bring white wine and who should bring red so they don’t end up having 25 bottles of one thing. Another thing he makes his guests bring? Dessert.
“I don’t want to make dessert; it’s just too hard with everything else going on,” he says. “When you’re the chef, the pressure is always on.”