Whiskey is a versatile spirit. It has gained mainstream appeal in a big way, and as it continues to grow in popularity, mixologists have improved whiskey cocktail making to a science.
But if you’re like us, you know the best way to enjoy a whiskey is paired with the right meal. Regardless of what kind of cuisine you’re craving or what flavors you enjoy most, there’s a whiskey out there that probably pairs perfectly with it.
So forget the wine menu for a second and take a sip of our list of top ten foods that pair perfectly with whiskey cocktails.
Chocolate and whiskey have a special kinship. They share many the same tasking notes and are both meant to be enjoyed slowly and methodically.
The best way to enjoy these is at room temperature. Cocoa butter melts at 93.4 °F, which happens to be right around our natural body heat, so it will slowly melt in your mouth and meld with the flavors of the whiskey. It will also help maintain the aromas in your nose longer, contributing to a vivid tasting experience.
Try to pick a high-quality brand of dark chocolate and straight Scotch for the best results.
The smokey notes in grilled steak serve to accentuate the same in a good whiskey. Whiskey also helps to cut through the richness of a well-marbled steak better than any wine does.
A smooth Tennessee whiskey cocktail makes an excellent pair for just about any kind of steak. However, if you like leaner cuts, a robust bourbon can provide a bit of sweetness to offset the meat’s gaminess. Or, consider a bacon-wrapped top sirloin to get the best of both worlds.
Smoked cheeses tend to pair best with whiskey, but most cheeses can work. The only general rule of thumb is to avoid overly young cheeses such as fresh mozzarella.
Bourbon pairs well with aged cheddar and other bright cheeses. The caramelized notes of the cheese work well with the vanilla and caramel notes present in good Bourbons.
If you’re more fond of Scotch, it pairs well with blue cheese. Blue cheese has an intensely mineral flavor that can serve as a counterpoint to a robust Scotch.
Fish is generally challenging to pair with whiskeys. Most fish are too delicate to stand up to whiskey on its own.
However, smoked salmon has the depth of flavor and body to pair well with lighter whiskeys. A Scotch whiskey cocktail is a particularly good choice and will bring out the smoked salmon’s peppery notes.
So far, we’ve only discussed savory foods and dishes to pair with your whiskeys. But it can be a fantastic way to balance out a decadent dessert, as well.
Pecan pie is an obvious choice since many of the same caramelized vanilla notes of the pie can be found in a good Bourbon. A rye whiskey can also work well with pecan pie and should be readily available just about anywhere.
If you’re feeling adventurous, here’s a great cocktail idea. Put roasted pecans in a mason jar and cover them with your choice of whiskey. Allow the whiskey to infuse with pecan flavor for a few days and use it to make an Old Fashioned. Smokiness, sweetness, and a touch of bitterness will bring out the best in any pecan pie.
A less obvious choice is pumpkin pie. But pumpkin pies tend to be richly spiced and can be enhanced by an equally spicy whiskey choice.
You may not have had this iconic French dish, but you’ve almost certainly heard of it—the sweetness and acidity of an orange sauce balance the richness of duck meat.
The right pairing for this dish is almost always Bourbon. Ideally, you can highlight the flavors of the dish with a whiskey orange juice cocktail. And to top it off, you can incorporate the same Bourbon into your recipe if you’re making it at home for a slam dunk of a meal.
Wild game pairs well with whiskey for the same reasons it goes well with steak. However, wild game is a lot leaner than beef, almost as a rule. So, you’ll want to look for a wheated bourbon or a Canadian whiskey.
Especially if you’re dealing with medallions, you don’t want to choose a full-bodied whiskey. It will overpower the meat in spades and take over the whole dish. But you also don’t want to undershoot it either. Wild game is… well, gamy, so it’s essential to give it a counterpoint with solid character.
Shortbread cookies are a staple of Scottish baking and have made it to bakeries all over the world. So it’s no surprise that it pairs perfectly with Scotch whiskey. Some shortbread recipes even call for whiskey to be added to the mix.
Baking techniques aside, shortbread cookies are a great pairing with most whiskeys because they soak it up and let the flavor notes linger. The delicate sweetness of the cookies also mellows out the whiskey and rounds off its edges a bit.
And it’s an excellent pairing for the holiday season. Next time you mix up a winter whiskey cocktail, make sure you have some shortbread cookies around to enjoy it fully.
A meatloaf, made right, packs a whole heck of a lot of flavor into every bite. And what better way to enjoy that complex flavor than with a whiskey cocktail?
Generally speaking, most whiskeys are excellent with meatloaf. A whiskey sour, whiskey crush, or other whiskey orange cocktail is a good way to avoid the whiskey steamrolling over the meatloaf. And if you accentuate the meatloaf with a whiskey glaze, you’ll reach new dimensions of flavor.
Another readily-apparent choice if you think about it. Nuts love to be washed down with something that can cleanse the palate, and dried fruits can sometimes be a little too aggressively sweet.
But you must remember to avoid salted nuts and fruits with added sugar. Unsweetened dried fruit and plain nuts work best. Otherwise, you’ll always have the whiskey and fruits battling for control of your taste buds.
As far as whiskey pairings go, bourbon goes well with dried mango, papaya, and other exotic choices. Any whiskey cocktail will work great with almonds, macadamia, and other fatty nuts.
Your Whiskey Your Way
As you can see, it’s hard to go wrong when pairing whiskey with foods. You just have to find the right whiskey for the job. You’ll be fine as long as you stick to a few basic rules. You never want to let either the whiskey or the food dictate the rules of engagement on its own. Choose a whiskey that brings out the flavors in the food and vice versa.
And if you have any favorite food you like to pair with whiskey cocktails, we want to know what those are. Leave us a comment or reach out via email.
We’re big fans of whiskey, and we’d love to have you try our whiskey pairings. Call us today or make a reservation via our live chat. And don’t forget to join our rewards club below to get a complimentary appetizer or cocktail.