Wine and cheese are a reliable pair, but if you’re looking to change it up these days, spice up your food and drink pairings with unexpected libations and heartier snacks. We talked with Suzanne Halperin, VP, Catering & Banquet Brand Operations at Kimpton, to get her suggestions for the trendiest food and beverage pairings right now, and how to make them work. These are great to keep in mind for your future gatherings, or just create a little excitement for dinner at home. Here our five new favorites:
The pairing: Whiskey + BBQ
The party: Father’s Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, any summer party
How to pair it: Whiskey and barbecue were made for one another. Whiskey (our pick is bourbon because it’s aged in charred oak barrels) highlights the smoky, maple flavors that complement barbecue, and the underlying sweetness of bourbon matches the sweetness in barbecue sauces and marinades. Scotch whiskey also pairs well with the earthy-charcoal flavors in smoked meats, while lighter Japanese single malt whisky works with grilled vegetables and fish.
The pairing: Craft Beer + Savory Bites
The party: Father’s Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, birthday parties
How to pair it: Microbreweries specialize in creating small-batch beers with unique flavors and intensities, making them fun to pair with food. As you plan your menu, make sure your dish and the beer match each other in strength so neither is overpowered. For example, seared pork belly with fruit mostarda on crostini plays well with a hoppy citrus IPA. Or, try beef tartare on toasted sourdough with a robust stout.
The pairing: Champagne + Mini Sweet Bites
The party: Bridal shower, Mother’s Day, birthday party, New Year’s Eve
How to pair it: Nothing says celebration like a little bubbly, and the secret to pairing champagne with desserts is to choose mini-bites that aren’t too sweet. Demi-sec is the sweetest version of champagne and pairs well with tart berries, shortbread cookies, mini pound cakes or lemon bars. If you prefer a dry brut champagne, stick with dark, bittersweet chocolate.
The pairing: Sake + Fried Chicken
The party: Do you really need a reason?
How to pair it: It may not be the most conventional pairing in the world but we bet you’ll never want to have fried chicken with beer again. Crisp and lightly sweet Yamahai Tokubetsu Junmai balances the saltiness of Karaage, or Japanese fried chicken. It helps cut the greasiness while making the rich flavor of the dish stand out.
The pairing: Nut Milks + Desserts
The party: Baby shower, bridal shower, engagement party, wedding, birthday party
How to pair it: Sometimes pairing traditional dairy products with desserts can be on the heavy side, so mix it up with nut milks for a lighter option to wash down rich desserts. Try creamy cashew milk with sea salt dusted chocolate chip cookies, or unsweetened almond milk with butterscotch caramel blondies.