If Don Draper taught us anything, it’s to dress sharply, work diligently, and most importantly, enjoy whiskey. The enjoyment and consumption of whiskey is surely more or less synonymous with being a refined gentleman. Less explicitly stated but equally as important, however, is the knowledge of whiskey tasting notes and the ability to pair this particular liquor with food. Whiskey enthusiasts typically consume the aromatic amber liquid on its own, but having a meal that complements in flavor can elevate the experience. Although this is unconventional here in the U.S., it is a common practice in European and Asian countries. We suggest focusing on three flavor profiles: sweet, smoky, and spicy. Here are a few suggestions in order to successfully pair whiskey with food like an expert.
Pair with: Seafood and spicy meals. Light whiskies with notes of sweetness, like most Japanese and American varieties, contrast nicely with spicy dishes so one flavor doesn’t dominate over the other, while the hints of tanginess complements fish, especially when prepared raw. Next time you’re eating sushi or a spicy Indian curry, order a light whiskey with your meal to enhance the flavor and impress all your friends.
Cook: Tandoori Chicken (via Divya’s Culinary Journey)
Pair with: Proteins. Grilled chicken and gamey proteins such as beef, roasted pork, and lamb fare well with whiskies of moderate or medium intensities, like a good Scotch or Bourbon, because of their smoky, rich flavor notes. Add a few drops of water to open up the smoky profile and enhance the flavor of the dish. For a unique spin with a spicy edge, we love this cocktail recipe here.
Drink: Elijah Craig
Cook: Sweet, Smoky Glazed Chicken (via Salt Pepper Skillet)
Pair with: Hearty dishes. The high alcohol content and spiciness of full-bodied whiskies, like a flavorful single malt whiskey or rye whiskey, marry well with rich, fatty dishes like broiled salmon. They are also an excellent choice for bitter pairings such as strong cheeses (Roquefort) or dark chocolate.
Cook: Mussels with Blue Cheese (via Stefan’s Gourmet Blog)
It’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to whiskey and food pairings, the ultimate goal is to balance the contrasting flavors. If one dominates the other in flavor, it will result in an overwhelming and unpleasant experience. With that in mind, embark in the wonderful world of whiskey and indulge in the culinary adventures of what a thoughtfully curated whiskey pairing can do for your palate.