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That’s the Spirit!

That’s the Spirit!

Why is a good marriage of food and drink so imperious, you ask? 

While Epicureans will gasp at the very thought of the question, the straightforward answer really is that the right drink can enhance a dining experience; by the same token, the wrong drink can ruin an entire meal. And while it’s pretty traditional to think of food and wine, these days cocktails are being invented and tweaked to perfectly match dishes.

And just as how sophisticated diners have gone beyond the mere ‘a white wine with seafood; a red with red meat’, the same can be said for the discerning drinker who is looking for, and expecting more, from their spirits or cocktails. So the notion of mixologists putting together exciting cocktails that go well with a chef’s creations is a heady one indeed. (After all, if sommeliers and chefs have long successfully worked to create matching flavours of food and drink, mixologists and chefs can tailor their magic for each course too.)

Wines are immutable; whereas with cocktails the sky’s the limit. Just remember when pairing with spirits to contrast and complement – match bold flavours with subtle foods and vice versa. A soft-flavoured duck or fish dish will go well with a strong, flavour-filled cocktail. With a spicy Asian dish, however, you might opt for a light, airy, refreshing cocktail. 

There is no denying that some spirits work well with specific types of food: gin and seafood; tequila and mole; vodka and smoked fish; whiskey and steak. In the latter case, it is the perfect power match-up as the charred steak can hold its own to a whiskey. 

Another option would be to build a cocktail around an element or two from the dish. For instance, if a menu item has a strong citrus component and smoky flavour, a margarita or in a cocktail featuring amaro and orange or lemon juice could work well as a pairing. A robust apple brandy could go with a romaine salad, apple, bacon and Roquefort vinaigrette. Shims (low-alcohol cocktails) and suppressants (fruit juices that lower the alcohol level) give plenty of opportunities to match cocktails with strong or subtle food flavours. 

But with “directed” cocktails in demand now, it’s not just a matter of pairing one dish with alcohol; but rather for multicourse meals. Whole meal pairings may include wines, spirits and beer. For a more subtle pairing scheme, you may try a nice aperitif cocktail with the appetizers and a beer with a course or two. Then, select a wine for your feature dish and go back to a delicious dessert cocktail to top off the evening. 

The beauty of it all is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to pairings. It is all about what works for your taste buds. 

So it might be time to shake – or perhaps stir – things up!

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