How to avoid a Thanksgiving food coma? Alcohol.

Predinner cocktails, wine that pairs with turkey and cranberry . . . you might think you've got your holiday drinking plan set. But the pros know there's one bottle that's essential to a successful Thanksgiving: a delicious, bittersweet amaro to help the stuffing settle.

"Historically, the bittering agents and blend of herbs, botanicals and spices in amari were used medicinally, specifically for their digestive properties—whether stimulating the appetite or settling down a full stomach," Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Amaro and Bitters, says.

"It's pretty hard to deny when that glass of pleasing, herbal, bittersweet liqueur hits your lips; you suddenly feel a whole lot better than you did after that second piece of pumpkin pie," Parsons says.

The best and worst Thanksgiving foods for your health
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The best and worst Thanksgiving foods for your health

BEST: White turkey meat

Nutrition (per 3 oz. serving): 115 calories and 7 grams of fat


WORST: Dark turkey meat

Nutrition (per 3 oz. serving): 160 calories and 11 grams of fat


BEST: Green bean casserole

Nutrition (per 3/4 cup serving): 161 calories, 9 g fat 


WORST: Sweet potato casserole

Nutrition (per 3/4 cup serving): 285 calories, 5 g fat 

BEST: Dinner roll with dollop of butter

Nutrition (1 roll): 140 calories and 4.5 g fat

WORST: Stuffing

Nutrition (per 3/4 cup serving): 371 calories and 19 g of fat 


BEST: Gravy

Nutrition (per 1/4 cup serving): 30 calories and 1.5 g fat


WORST: Cranberry jelly

Nutrition (per 1/4 cup serving): 110 calories and 0 g fat


BEST: Pumpkin pie

Nutrition (per slice -- 1/8 of a 9 inch pie): 316 calories and 14 g of fat


WORST: Apple pie

Nutrition (per slice -- 1/8 of a 9 inch pie): 411 calories and 19 g of fat

BEST: Brussel sprouts 

Nutrition (per 1 cup serving): 56 calories and 4 g protein


WORST: Mashed potatoes with whole milk and margarine

Nutrition (per 1 cup serving): 237 calories and 9 g of fat


BEST: Cooked spinach

Nutrition (per 1 cup serving): 41 calories and 5 g of protein


WORST: Corn bread

Nutrition (1 piece -- around 60 oz.): 198 calories and 9 g of fat


BEST: Corn with a pat of butter

Nutrition (per 1 cup serving): 95 calories and 5 g of fiber


WORST: Mac and cheese

Nutrition (per 1 cup of serving): 310 calories and 9 g of fat



It takes minimal effort to pouring a post-meal round—unlike so many other aspects of Thanksgiving entertaining—and guests will remember it as a gesture of hospitality. "It's about lingering at the table," Parsons says. "I always bring a bottle of amaro to a dinner party, and those bottles never remained unopened." 

Even the bottles themselves bring something to the table: "With their ornate labels and strange names, the bottles are often conversation starters, and it's even better when you can bring out a couple of different brands to causally mix and match."

And why stop with the liqueurs? Even spirits are fair game. Christopher Hirsheimer of Canal House Cooking is known to serve nips of gin between dinner and dessert at her own Thanksgiving table. "I do think that a sip of ice-cold gin mid-meal will help with digestion," she says. 

There's no science to it: Just assemble your prettiest shot glasses (or rocks glasses, if that's what you have on hand) and pour out an ounce or two from your bottle of choice. Take some ice to the table, for those who prefer it chilled.

Parsons recommends Amaro Marseille from Brooklyn's Forthave Spirits, Amaro Amorino from Seattle's Letterpress Distilling or Standard Amaro from Philadelphia's Rowhouse Spirits. All are American-made bottles, as it is Thanksgiving, after all.

And you can never go wrong with the classics: earthy, bitter artichoke-based Cynar; rich and orangey Amaro Montenegro; herbal, minty Varnelli Amaro Dell'Erborista; or lower-alcohol, wine-based Cardamaro. And if you've really overeaten, there's always extra-potent Fernet-Branca.

Carey Jones is a New York-based food and travel writer and the author of Brooklyn Bartender: A Modern Guide to Cocktails and Spirits. Follow her on Twitter at @careyjones.

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