Playing Matchmaker: A Guide to Pairing Food and Cocktails
Cocktails and cuisine have always mingled. But lately these pairings have become much more popular in restaurants and the broader culinary community. Playing matchmaker can be a fun way to liven up your menu at your next dinner party or get-together, plus it's a good idea to serve food whenever you serve alcohol. And while there's nothing like for experimentation, the guidelines below are a good start.
Match the mixer
The prevailing flavor in most cocktails comes from the mixers, not the spirits. Keep this in mind when you're pairing. Make sure the mixers in the cocktail pair well with key ingredients in the food. For instance, the lemon essence in a margarita goes well with fresh seafood, like raw oysters.
Drinks like Martinis, Margaritas and Cosmopolitans are best paired with foods that can soften the taste of alcohol. These foods include smoked fish or fried foods. Cheeses also soften the alcohol in spirits like Cognac or scotch.
Start with dessert
If you're a rookie on the pairing playfield, you may want to start by serving cocktails with dessert. Coffee-based cocktails like Mexican Coffee and Bushmills Irish Coffee go particularly well with desserts-the acidic flavor in the coffee complements the sweet taste of sugar in desserts.
Complicated recipe, easy cocktail
If you're making a dish with complicated flavors, serve a cocktail that's simple and distinct. For example an herb-crusted rack of lamb, with its multiple seasonings and flavors, deserves a straightforward cocktail like a Manhattan.
Think of Cocktails as condiments
Try not to think of beverages as complements to a meal, but as condiments like salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar. As with wine, consider the contrasting or similar components of both food and cocktail. The soft flavor of fish, for instance, can be enhanced by the zest in a citrus cocktail-like a Red Sangria. Cocktails can also curtail flavors in foods. If you're dish turned out too spicy, you can temper it with a sweet cocktail.
The consistency of a cocktail also plays into your pairing decisions. Thicker cocktails made with liqueurs generally don't go well with red meat or rich sauces. Frozen cocktails can overwhelm the palate, while carbonated cocktails pair well with full-flavored foods.
TIP: Looking for inspiration? Think about typical, everyday food pairings like cookies and milk.