Choosing the Best Whiskey to Pair with Your Holiday Meals

Drink in hand at a holiday party with Christmas decorations and fireplace in the background

The holiday season is rapidly approaching again. You’ve likely seen the first few festive commercials on TV promoting holiday travel, shopping, and meals. An image often conjured up during the holiday season is people huddled around the fireplace or campfire with their favorite beverage: eggnog, hot chocolate, or a glass of whiskey. 

Pairing whiskeys with your favorite holiday meals really does take a degree of skill and knowledge of how flavors in food and alcohol complement one another. Some might choose to include their favorite spirits in the cooking process, though in this article, we’ll discuss the guidelines on matching food with the perfect glass of whiskey.

Whiskey and Food Pairings for Winter

With the sheer volume of food gracing tables this time of year, understanding the proper flavors and textures to pair with your favorite whiskey might seem a bit overwhelming at first. Let’s go over some tried and true tips for whiskey tasting in the winter

Amplifying your Whiskey

Many citrusy fruits are in season during the winter, such as lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and limes. For a slight touch of sweetness, muddle these fruits into a cold glass of whiskey. It’s also a good time of year to embrace bitters. The addition of bitters creates a more complex flavor in whiskey-based cocktails. Finally, use the festive feelings and chilly temps as the perfect reasons to take down that bottle of aged whiskey.

Protein Pairing

The holidays are the time when people usually break out the cookbook to prepare elaborate dinners. Whether you are planning pork, brisket, or turkey, you should plan on pairing a whiskey that complements rather than overpowers or underwhelms when compared to the flavors in the meat.  

Pork Dishes

Pork dishes, for example, typically have mild flavor profiles that are well complemented with a mild whisky cocktail. Stronger whiskey drinks like an Old Fashioned will dominate your palate and make the work you put into preparing the meal seem wasted.

Red Meat

Rich sauces like barbecue sauce, on the other hand, pair well with a full-bodied whiskey. Smokey or fatty meats and smokey whiskies are also a classic combination. As far as red meat goes, steaks and brisket aren’t the only options. Meatloaf pairs surprisingly well with many whiskey flavors.

 In any holiday dish, there are four main flavor profiles: salt, fat, acid, and heat. As you pair your favorite foods with your favorite whiskey, keep these in mind. You’ll want to compliment the meal with what is missing. For example, if you have salty, fatty meat as the hero of the meal, pair it with a spicy or fruity whiskey. Afterward, pair your sweet desserts with fruity, full-bodied whiskey.  

For more tips on whiskey pairing and distilling, check out the Barrel Mill blog.