While food and alcohol pairings can be highly personal, some foods lend themselves well to a particular kind of alcohol.
There is no surer way to take a meal from excellent to outstanding than to add the right drink to it. Simply put, the right drink can enhance a dining experience and the wrong drink can ruin an entire meal. So what are the rules when pairing the best food with alcohol? While there are no rigid rules, here are some suggestions to make a home party more of a culinary adventure…
Wine and Cheese
The most classic combination in the history of food and alcohol has to be wine and cheese. These two are life’s great culinary pleasures and finding the perfect match can be a delicious endeavour. Crisp, dry and young white wine is the perfect partner for salty cheeses like feta. A fruity red wine marries mozzarella with panache. Still unsure? Just go for a simple cheese platter with a variety of cheeses from creamy brie, earthy camembert, mild and luscious robiola, delicate Gruyère and the nutty gouda. Deviate from the norm and allow a cheesy pizza with red wine to take you to booze heaven. “The natural acidity of tomatoes in a simple Margherita pizza goes perfectly well with a crisp red wine. Go soft on the tannins or else they clash with the mozzarella freshness,” warns celebrity chef Vicky Ratnani.
Vodka and fish
Vodka may be primarily thought of as a base for cocktails but in vodka-loving countries like Russia and Poland, it’s always accompanied by food. Basically anything smoked works well with vodka. Especially smoked fish of all kinds. The infused flavours in the smoked fish with a sip of vodka balances the taste, leaving your buds and throat alcohol satisfied. And of course, the iconic accompaniment to the ultra smooth Smirnoff vodka is caviar; served with small pieces of white bread. If you prefer your Smirnoff on the rocks (which you can do), then a light fish ceviche (a fish dish cured in lime) is perfect. But if you are enjoying it in a cocktail, then lamb chops with light spices is the way to go. If you’re still unsure, then go with an assortment of small plates that can be mixed and matched with different flavoured Ciroc vodkas, allowing you and your guests to experience how different one pairing may be from the next, and what they reveal about the spirit and its underlying flavours.
Whisky and grilled meat
There’s a reason that many a great barbecue restaurants also have a noteworthy whisky list: the two have tastes that compliment each other wonderfully. This is one of the best food and alcohol pairings that can never go wrong. But don’t just throw some chicken and veggies on the grill though. Medium bodied whiskies with a rich smoky flavour really work well with beef. If you’re planning to pair the two, take care to select the right cut. Fat equals flavour, so a leaner cut might not be the best match for this type of whisky. Slow-cooked pork belly also makes for a great culinary experience with a variety of whiskies. Roast chicken, in my experience, goes well with a whisky like Johnnie Walker Black Label with its smooth and complex character. But remember, when it comes to serving meat, simplicity works best. You don't want to overwhelm the taste buds with both a smoky whiskey and a heavily spice-rubbed meat drowned in hot barbecue sauce.
Beer and fried food
Beer is what you root for when you just want to throw your feet up, call some close friends over, plug into a never-fail playlist and let your hair down. But what do you guzzle it down with? Anything 'fried’ will do perfect justice to a beer party. Fries, wedges, nachos… you get the drift? The simplest way to go is chips and dips. All you need are a few packets of salted chips and at least three dips – a healthy guacamole, easy-to-make hummus and a cheesy something.
Champagne and oysters with popcorn
If you are celebrating a milestone, popping a bottle makes perfect sense. Champagne is delicious alone, but comes alive with food and makes for one of the best food pairings with alcohol. A sparkling way to pair this fizzy, bubbly fun is with oysters. Oysters have a distinguished and unique salty flavour whereas champagne has a light, subtle and sweet flavour. When they are combined, they offer an amazing combination of that perfectly balanced sweet and salty flavours. Keep in mind that champagne doesn't like excesses. So if it's too sweet, too acidic, too bitter, too spicy, too hot, whatever, it doesn't work. Champagne is a beautiful match for salted popcorn but truffled popcorn and bubbles are on a whole other level. The fine bubbles cut through the richness of the truffle oil. This is what we call the ultimate pairing.
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