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Ditch the wine – pair your food with spirits for a refreshing change

Whilst we commonly choose to pair our meals with wine or beer, there are so many ways to enhance your dining experience by introducing a liquor or two instead. Here's our snap-shot guide to key flavour matches to look out for, but don't just take our word for it: experiment for yourself!


Darker rums pair well with rich sweet foods such as chocolate and dried fruits, so think fruit cake and brownies. Golden rums work well with the glazed foods such as jerk or hoisin chicken, or – if you are getting the BBQ out in the garden soon – try alongside spare ribs marinated in Coca Cola. Lighter rums tend to have a sharper profile so sit well with fish and seafood, including sushi and ceviche.


Not perhaps the first spirit to think of when it comes to food pairing, but with so many types of whiskey out there, it's a surprisingly versatile drink. Richer whiskies will work well with darker roasted meats such as beef or venison that lend themselves to caramelisation, or the intense flavour of game birds like pigeon, grouse and pheasant. Medium body whiskies sit well with smoked foods such as mackerel, salmon and duck breast.


Gin is quite a versatile spirit for food matching, and that’s all down to the botanicals with which its been infused. Rich chicken or duck liver pâtes complement the juniper in gin; spicy foods such as Indian samosa and pakora sit well alongside gins with strong notes of coriander. Also think what you’d put in a G&T and complement foods with that: dishes with a strong lime or lemon element, or even cucumber sandwiches!


Compared to most of the other major liquors, the flavour profile of vodka tends to be much more neutral although depending on the base spirit there can be different notes of sweetness, pepper and citrus. Look to the foods of the regions where vodka is particularly common: caviar from Russia (try lumpfish, herring or salmon roe for a much cheaper alternative) and smoked salmon and other cured or pickled seafoods from the Nordic countries. A slug or two of vodka in a tomato and chilli pasta sauce always adds a little extra kick.


A spirit distilled from fortified wine, the flavour profile of brandy for food matching is similar to whiskey in many ways. Think rich and sweet: dishes such as venison, foie gras and luxurious desserts packed with raisins, chocolate and brown sugar.

Tequila & Mezcal

This agave-derived spirit obviously works well with the citrus and chilli prevalent in classic Mexican dishes. Non-aged silver tequila is fresh and light, working with ceviche, grilled seafood and fish tacos. Aged tequilas have a sweeter and richer profile so, again, work well with roasted meats and desserts with a high fat content. Due to the method of production, mezcal is much smokier than tequila so work with those inherent flavours by pairing with smoked meats and fish.

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