On Pairing Whiskey With Food

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When it comes to booze and food pairings, wine has long reigned as a meal’s complimentary beverage of choice.  Whether you’re enjoying a well-rounded cabernet sauvignon and a heavy blue cheese or washing down fish with a refreshing pinot noir, the combinations are both satisfying and, at this point, well known.

 

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Likewise, no longer are beer makers settling for simply washing down burgers and brats or pretzels, craft beer is making a strong push for recognition as a household fine dining food pairing partner.  Instead you can find restaurants dedicated to pairing the drink with complex menu items.  Some brewers have even gone so far as to brew their beers with future pairings in mind, as was the case this past summer, where Flying Dog Brewery created a summer ale by the name of Dead Rise, which was brewed using secret ingredients from the spice “Old Bay” which is regionally famous for giving life to the Maryland Blue Crab.

While it may not have the same traditional traction as pairing food with wine or beer, whiskey, too, is beginning to make inroads on pairing menus across the country.  Of course, the experience is a bit different.  It’s not hard to wash down food with an easy-drinking beer or glass of wine.  Whiskey, while smooth, demands the slower, sipping pace.

To that end, distillers and chefs have taken a most deliberate approach in their pairings with whiskeys.  The results are truly inspiring – and frankly, should have been obvious to the whiskey drinker all along.  A bourbon’s classic notes of vanilla and oak will melt even the darkest of chocolates right in your mouth.  A delicate, sweet scotch will stand up well chasing down grilled scallops.  Finally, and perhaps a little surprisingly, even the most bold, peat-forward whiskeys can find a pairing partner with the likes of heavy cream dishes, pungent leeks or smoky grilled haddock.

So the next time you’re out to eat and considering your drink options, feel free to ignore the wine sommelier and instead ask for the whiskey menu.  You might get a strange look a from your dinner partners, but at the end of the meal you’ll have opened their eyes to new intriguing possibilities.

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