Drink Pairings For Uncomfortable Family Conversations Over The Holidays

By Winona Dimeo-Ediger

What cocktail pairs best with a guilt trip from mom? Which liquor complements a xenophobic screed from your red state cousins?

’Tis the season for daily pie eating, ugly sweater parties, overdraft notices, and lots — and lots — of family time. Bringing family members together is ostensibly a wonderful opportunity for bonding and making memories, but there’s an inevitable downside to gathering a common DNA thread (and years of hulking emotional baggage) in one room: deeply uncomfortable conversations.

Since there’s really no way to avoid these interactions — unless you’ve excised yourself from familial obligations — your very best coping strategy is to have a drink in hand. But what cocktail pairs best with a guilt trip from mom? Which liquor complements a xenophobic screed from your red state cousins? Is red, white, or rosé appropriate for grandma’s shockingly frank discussion of her “Do Not Resuscitate” order? This drink-pairing guide will ensure you’re never without the perfect libation for every awkward family conversation this holiday season. Cheers!

The Conversation: Your weird uncle gave you a compliment on your skirt which turned into a wistful 10-minute soliloquy about how your legs remind him of his first wife’s — “and trust me that’s not a bad thing!”

The Drink Pairing: Dirty martini

Why: Obvious reasons. (Plus all that salt might help quell the rising taste of vomit in your mouth.)

The Conversation: Your grandpa and cousin are riling each other up on the topic of Syrian refugees. Actual sentences that have been uttered out loud: “They’re all terrorists;” “I’d like to see them TRY to knock on my door;” and “I just don’t think Trump’s plan goes far enough.”

Drink Pairing: Pear bellini

Why: A bright, sparkling cocktail will provide a much-needed counterpoint to the heavy feeling of dread brewing in the pit of your stomach that there is no hope for the world after all.

The Conversation: Your grandma has chosen the appetizer course to discuss her end-of-life wishes.

The Drink Pairing: Red wine, preferably a pinot noir

Why: When it comes to existential angst, the dark buzz of red wine is a perfect match.


The Conversation: You made a stupid joke about vegans before realizing your new sister-in-law is one.

Drink Pairing: Spanish coffee

Why: A foolproof way to distract from a social gaffe? Setting your drink on fire. Maybe hold the whipped cream though.

The Conversation: Your mom is making a series of pointed observations about your relationship status and responding to all of your protests with muttered comebacks that sound a lot like, “Just give me a fucking grandchild.”

The Drink Pairing: Bourbon, neat

Why: Because that warm feeling you get in your chest while sipping bourbon almost feels like a hug, which is exactly what you need right now.

The Conversation: Your aunt has roped you into a detailed discussion of her Intro To Accounting class; she’s been talking nonstop for 15 minutes with no pauses and no end in sight.

The Drink Pairing: Bloody mary with a salad bar’s worth of garnishes

Why: A ridiculously over-garnished bloody mary is more than a drink: It’s a form of entertainment. Let your aunt chatter on uninterrupted while you focus on playing olive and pickle Jenga in your drink glass.


The Conversation: You introduced yourself to your sister’s new boyfriend, and ran out of convo topics directly after, “So. It’s been pretty cold, huh.”

The Drink Pairing: Absinthe

Why: Maybe you’ll get lucky and hallucinate a green fairy hovering over the 5-layer dip and then you can talk to her instead.

The Conversation: Your dad took you aside to tell you he’s having “complex” feelings about a 25-year-old Starbucks barista.

The Drink Pairing: Bushwacker

Why: Girl you need a boozy milkshake right now, something heavy and liquor-y to keep all that dread company.

Illustrations by Alexander Mostov

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