A Newbie’s Guide to Pairing Whiskey and Food

Whiskey Food Pairing

Once you’ve perfected the art of tasting whiskey, you can add another dimension to your tasting – food. Pairing food and whiskey is a fine art. The right whiskey and food pairing will bring out subtle notes that you didn’t catch during your first sip or taste or amplify certain notes while subduing others. Knowing exactly what foods and flavors compliment whiskeys can be daunting, so here are a few guidelines and tips to help you out.

A different whiskey for each Food course

The first cardinal rule about pairing whiskey and food together is that one whiskey will not pair well with all the courses of your meal. If you are serving an appetizer, main course and dessert, it is hard to find a whiskey that will pair perfectly with each course. This isn’t to say that you cannot try a single whiskey variety on a multi-course but remember that different courses will bring out different flavors and change the tasting experience.

For instance, bourbons are best paired with desserts and food with a sweetness to them. Bourbons are cured in charred oak barrels which adds a vanilla element. In addition, bourbons often have many dried fruit undernotes. Due to the fruity undernotes, bourbon can be paired with more than just dessert. In this case a bourbon might not pair well with seafood or meals with crisp, earthy notes.

Birds of a feather

As the old saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together,” the same goes for pairing food and whiskey. Often whiskeys will have a short description on the label that describes the spirit. Examples of descriptors commonly used are spicy, notes of oak, sweet, vanilla, crisp and so on. To amplify these notes the crafters has mentioned, try pairing the spirits with foods with similar descriptors. For instance, a whiskey that is spicy would pair well with foods with a kick like spicy tacos or barbecued meats. By combining similar palate descriptors, it will enhance your entire meal.

Consult the proof

When it comes to tasting whiskeys, it’s important to keep the proof in mind because it dramatically effects how it can be paired with foods. Whiskeys with higher proofs are often bolder and have very intense flavors and complexities to them. They are often described as having a bite or being in-your-face. These whiskeys are best served with a meal that has bold flavors in which they will complement each other. Whiskeys with lower proofs are often smoother and milder. These whiskeys complement dishes that are creamy and have more subtleness to their flavor profile.

There are no hard-and-fast rules

Pairing whiskey with food can be intimidating. There is such a wide variety of whiskeys and each has their own unique take on the spirit. The best way to pair food and whiskey is to explore. These tips will help guide you to find successful pairings, but not every tasty pairing will adhere to these rules. You never know, you might find your favorite whiskey and food pairing by mere accident.