How to Pair Your Meal With the Right Drink

It's easy to find guidance for pairing wine with your meal, but what if you fancy something else? Check out our guide for beer, spirits and non-alcoholic drinks

How to Pair Food with Drink? 

Finding the right drink to go with a lovingly prepared meal can be a challenge. Get it wrong and the flavour of your drink may overpower the meal, but, the right combination could bring both the food and the accompanying drink to life. There are many guides to choosing the right wine for your meal – there’s even pairing guidance on many bottles, but what if you prefer a different type of drink? SMEi’s handy guide to drink pairings can help you match spirits, beer and soft drinks with different meals.  

How to pair food with beer?

There’s a simple rule of thumb with beer pairing, simply match beers that are lighter in colour to light dishes and darker beers to heavier dishes.

What food goes well with light beers?

Blonde Ale – Salad, chicken, salmon, and mild cheese.

Bitter – Pork, fish and chips, and mild cheese.

Pilsner - Pizza, chicken, salmon, and salad.

Pale Ale – Salad, light fish such as salmon, fried food, and chicken.

Indian Pale Ale (IPA) – Curry, spiced desserts such as gingerbread, and spicy tomato pasta dishes.

What food goes well with dark beers?

Amber/Red Ale – Versatile amber ales can be paired with chicken, seafood, burgers, and spicy food.

Stout – Chocolate, beef, barbeque, and strong mature cheese.

Porter - Roast dishes, blackened fish, and strong cheeses.

Brown Ale - Highly versatile, brown ale can be paired with almost anything except light salads.  Try it with pork, pasta and barbequed food.

What food goes well with spirits?

Pairing spirits with food can be tricky as flavours develop and change with each sip, but it is possible. Using the alcohol you intend to drink in the cooking itself is a great way to figure out complementary flavours.

Bourbon – Barbeque and dark chocolate.

Scotch or Irish Whisky – This highly versatile spirit complements steak and creamy dishes well.

Vodka – Works well with intense foods that have strong flavours such as pickles, herring, and caviar.

Gin – Depending on the botanicals used gin can be fairly versatile. It tends to work well with fish, fried food, and pâté.

Rum - Roast pork, jerk chicken, and sweet glazed savoury dishes.

Brandy - Sweet foods such as brownies, and other chocolate-based dishes.

What food goes well with soft drinks?

Soft drinks follow the same pairing rules as the alcoholic kind. Flavours should complement each other, with lighter, delicate dishes paired with lighter drinks and heavier dishes matched with darker drinks.

Coffee – Chocolate-based desserts.

Black tea – Steak and other meat-heavy dishes.

Green tea – Seafood.

Oolong tea – Very versatile, works with most dishes.

White tea – Light dishes and salad.

Herbal water – Choose a herb that is used in the dish. For example, basil  with Bolognese, cinnamon and cloves with curry.

Vegetable juices – Roast meat and spicy dishes.

Apple juice – Salads, sweet and sour, and seafood.

Berry juices – Mixed greens, charcuterie, oats, and grains.

Citrus juices – Egg dishes, chicken, and stir fry.

Tropical juices – Sweet but spicy food and jerk chicken.

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