Cranberry Dip and Aperol Spritz: How to Get the Party Started on Thanksgiving

Let’s get the party started this Thanksgiving with an appetizer and cocktail pairing!

Alright my friends, let’s be honest…when it comes to preparing for Thanksgiving Day, appetizers and pre-dinner drinks are pretty low on the priority list. I’m usually in the kitchen as early as 9:00 am and am not thinking about entertaining soon-to-be-arriving guests. My mind is on much more important things like stuffing and sweet potatoes.

But having a game plan for an appetizer is life-saving, and I’ve got you covered this year with a yummy dip AND a cocktail to pair with it!

I recently discovered this simple cranberry-orange relish which is the easiest, least-filling-but-still-appetizing dip perfect for turkey day, and it will satisfy all the dinner guests looking to munch on something while waiting for the main meal (at my house that would definitely be my husband). You can mix it up a day ahead (and seriously, why wouldn’t you?) and finish it up in minutes before serving.

Cranberry-Orange Relish

  •  1 (16 oz) bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed

  • 1 jalapeno, minced

  • 3 green onions, white and green parts finely chopped

  • 1 handful cilantro

  • 2 tsp orange zest

  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • `1/2 Cup sugar

  • 1 (8 oz) package light cream cheese (optional)

  • pita chips or crackers


  1. Place the cranberries, green onions, cilantro, orange zest, and orange juice into a food processor. Process and pulse until finely integrated.

  2. Transfer to a bowl and mix in salt and sugar. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight (make this the day ahead of time to ease up your turkey-day schedule!)

  3. When ready to serve, spread cream cheese along a bowl or plate. Top with the relish and serve with crackers/chips.

The Pairing

Anytime company comes over, it’s a party in my book. And its not a party unless drinks are being offered! This year I’m keeping it simple and pairing the Cranberry-Orange relish with Aperol Spritz cocktails. If you’re unfamiliar, Aperol is a aperitivo, meaning it is generally drank prior to a meal to wake up your taste buds. We need that on Thanksgiving!

Aperol has a slightly bitter, tart cherry and orange flavor profile but is sweetened up in this cocktail thanks to the addition of Prosecco and club soda. Its very easy to make so you can keep your attention in the kitchen (or hey…just show your guests how to make them and they can do it themselves!).

Aperol Spritz

  • 1 parts Aperol

  • 1 part Prosecco

  • splash of club soda

  • Orange wheel for garnish


  1. Place orange wheel at the bottom of a wine glass. fill with equal parts Aperol and Prosecco (about 2 ounces each if you must measure). Add just a splash of club soda

  2. Top with ice cube and enjoy!

Note: Any sparkling wine will work with this cocktail, although Prosecco is traditional. I like to use Cava as a budget alternative.

Note: This drink is totally customizable to each drinker’s liking. Too bitter? Add more Prosecco. Too bland? Add more Aperol. if anyone isn’t a fan of aperol, skip it altogether and pour them a glass of Prosecco. Boom. Done.

What Wine to Pair with Popcorn

Have you hit that point in your life where there's nothing more you'd rather do on a Friday night than sit in front of the TV in your jammies, cuddled up in a blanket, with a big bowl of buttery popcorn? Because I have definitely hit that point in my life. My friends, let's add a bottle of wine to that scenario. Your Friday (or any night, who are we kidding?) has just gone from great to positively kick-ass. So what wine goes best with that big, buttery bowl of popcorn? A bottle of big, buttery Chardonnay. Butter + more butter = bliss, after all. And the good news is, the buttery flavors in Chardonnay don't ACTUALLY come from added butter, so your diet doesn't have to take that extra hit! (But seriously who goes on a diet that eliminates butter? Butter makes everything better.)

Why Does Chardonnay Sometimes Taste Like Butter?

There's a little thing called malolactic fermentation that Chardonnay can go through when its transforming from grape juice to wine. Malolactic fermentation (let's call it "malo" for short) is a naturally-occuring, secondary fermentation where sour malic acids (like the flavors you get in a sour apple) are turned into lactic acids (like those found in butter and cream). Almost all red wines go through malolactic fermentation because their flavors need to soften out. Whites, on the other hand, have a choice. Chardonnay doesn't always have to go though malo, but when it does, you get a heavier-bodied wine with those classic butter and cream flavors. If the Chardonnay ages in oak before going into the bottle in your hands, you'll have an even more rich, creamy wine. A perfect pairing with popcorn.

How to Pair Chardonnay with Popcorn

So we want three things when we're pairing Chardonnay with Popcorn: weight, oak and buttery flavors coming from malolactic fermentation. A heavy-bodied wine will coat your mouth while the buttery flavors will naturally compliment the corn kernels. When it comes to Chardonnays with some weight and oak on them, I go to California--Napa, in particular, although there are great examples from many parts of the state. For this post I wanted to feature one of my favorite weeknight-drinking Chardonnays from Napa Valley: Franciscan Estate. It has an amazing balance of acidity and weight, giving some incredible cream and butter flavors that went amazing with the popcorn I whipped up. If you can't get your hands on a bottle, however, don't worry--many Chardonnays will pair with popcorn so feel free to be adventurous.

Other Recommended Chardonnays to Pair with Popcorn

I don't want to get too fancy on you since we're just enjoying a lazy Friday night in front of the TV with a bottle of wine and a bowl of popcorn, so let's pick all Chardonnays under $20, most of which you can find at your local grocery store. Score!

  • Franciscan, Napa Valley (the wine featured in this post)
  • Napa Cellars, Napa Valley
  • Francis Ford Coppola, Monterey County
  • Ferrari-Carano, Sonoma County
  • Chloe, North Coast

Other Food Pairings With Chardonnay on this Blog:

Lemon Chicken and ChardonnayPork Loin with Mustard Basil Cream Sauce

**All opinions on this blog are my own; I did not receive compensation from any of these brands...I just love supporting their wines because they are delicious with popcorn!