It is easy to find food pairings for wine; however, whiskey is an acquired taste and not as commonly enjoyed with meals. Does that mean whiskey doesn’t pair well with food? Not at all. In fact, whiskey goes well with a wide variety of food.
Like wine, whiskey has distinct flavors from one blend to the next. So if you are looking for a good food pairing, how should you go about finding what to eat with whiskey?
In this article, we’ll dive into examples of the best food pairings to go with your favorite whiskey. Here’s a sneak peek of the topics we’ll cover
- What exactly is whiskey
- Different types of whiskey
- Appetizer pairing
- Dinner pairing
- Dessert pairing
- Cooking with whiskey
Can You Drink Whiskey With Food?
First off, let’s get this question out of the way. I don’t know about you, but when I think of drinking whiskey, I picture one of two things.
- Old Western movies where the actors take shots of warm swill.
- A distinguished gentleman sipping a scotch in slippers and a robe among shelves of leather bound books.
But we all know these images are not representative of today’s whiskey-sipping culture. Today, we have at our fingertips, artisan whiskeys with complex flavor profiles. So it is only natural to wonder what might go well with such a complex drink.
The truth is, you can drink whiskey with anything! But when paired well, whiskey and food can complement and enhance one another.
How Do you Spell Whiskey (Whisky or Whiskey)?
One other house-keeping matter to attend to. Some debate the correct spelling of whisky (or is it whiskey?).
Both spellings are correct! However, the American spelling is generally “whiskey”, while the Scottish and Japanese prefer it to be spelled “whisky”.
Whichever type of whisk(e)y you choose, it can be one of the following blends with slightly different flavors.
Bourbon vs. Scotch vs. Whiskey
They are all called whiskey; some are full-bodied while others are medium-bodied. Although they are all the same type of drink, they go through different distillation processes. As a result, the grains combined to produce each flavor are slightly different.
This blend of grains is used to make whiskey, along with the addition of sugar and yeast to encourage its fermentation, gives each variety its particular flavor notes.
Distilling the blend numerous times is what gives whiskey its potency. As a result, each variety will have different alcohol contents.
Whiskey varieties include:
- American whiskey
- Bottle & bond whiskey (bourbon)
- Tennessee sour mash
- Canadian whiskey
- Irish whiskey
- Single malt Irish whiskey
- Japanese whisky
- Scotch whisky
- Single malt Scotch whiskey
- Blended malt Scotch whisky
- Single grain whisky
- Craft whiskey
There are many different blends and flavors, and besides all being whiskey, their tastes vary from very dry to sweet. Each flavor has its place at the table; however, it will depend on what you are eating.
With the rise of craft distilleries, whiskey is gaining a new following. And with that, new flavors that will need to be explored to see how they fare with an appetizer, meal, or dessert.
Appetizers and Snacks That Pair Well With Whiskey
Whiskies have varying flavor profiles. And like serving food with wine, the taste of foods can bring out different qualities of whiskey.
Though you can make a slew of unexpected pairings work well, there are a few appetizers that go particularly well with whiskey. Most whiskey has tasting notes listed on the label. You can use those notes to your advantage. Here’s how.
As a general rule, if whiskey has notes of a certain flavor, then serving an appetizer with that flavor will bring out more in the whiskey.
Say, for instance, the whiskey you are serving describes the flavor profile with notes of apple and ginger. In this case perhaps an Asian or Indian-inspired appetizer will work well (especially if it includes ginger).
Aged Cheese With Whiskey
Aged cheese and whiskey is a perfect pairing. The complex flavor of cheese with the equal complexity of whiskey is a flavor bomb.
Depending on whether bourbon is the flavor of whiskey you enjoy or a blended scotch is more to your liking, some cheeses will pair with both.
Gorgonzola or Roquefort Blue Cheese
Strong cheeses like gorgonzola or Roquefort blue cheese on crisp salty crackers will pair well with smoky or heavily roasted whiskeys and not overpower them.
Brie or Goat Cheese
However, if you are sipping on a lighter flavored whiskey, you need softer flavored cheese, and brie will make a better pairing. Whatever you do, experiment with flavors to find what you like best.
Stilton is slightly sweet and pairs well with fresh fruit, blended whiskey, or a single malt scotch.
A cheese platter will keep them occupied if you are hosting a party with whiskey drinkers in the group. Put out a platter with Havarti, aged cheddar, Roquefort, or Stilton blue cheese, Gouda, and Swiss, so your guests can experiment, too.
Meat That Pairs With Whiskey
Small amounts of meat are common common in appetizers. Although anyone can notice differences between beef, chicken and pork, they share certain things in common. Most notably, meats are versatile.
For example, the taste of things like cured meats, chicken wings, meatballs, spicy summer sausage, and pot stickers all have very different flavors. That’s what makes meat a great compliment to whiskey.
The meats and cheeses of a charcuterie board can complement your whiskey. On a charcuterie board, you will generally find some pretty bold flavors like that of chorizo. Or maybe something more mild like prosciutto. Either way, the variety can be great for entertaining your guests as well as your taste buds.
You can’t go wrong with a good steak slider. It is a simple appetizer that works well with most types of drinks. But don’t stop there. Experimenting with various sauces and toppings can really make the appetizer pairing go from good to great.
Smoked Salmon Dip With Crackers
I don’t know about you, but I love the creamy, smoky, saltiness of a good smoked salmon dip. On it’s own, it is really satisfying with different types of crackers. But eating it with a your favorite rye whiskey or bourbon is truly delicious.
Another great option is sushi. Whether you like the spiciness of a tuna roll or the subtlety of a California roll, you’ll likely find it goes well with your favorite whiskies.
Nuts, Chips, and Dried Fruit With Whiskey
Keeping things simple can sometimes be the best option! Let’s face it, not everyone likes or has the time for a charcuterie board. So why not bring out easily accessible snacks to enjoy with your whiskey?
Salty peanuts, cashews, rye chips, rice crackers, snack mix, and sesame crackers are great pairings for whiskey.
Dried fruit pairs well with whiskey, too. The light and sweet flavor of dried apples, apricot or cranberries can combine with whiskey in fun, unexpected ways.
Dinner Entrees That Pair Well With Whiskey
Whiskey has traditionally been a libation one drinks by itself before dinner, with a few peanuts or cheese and crackers.
However, those who enjoy scotch can find pairings that complement their drink and the food. You want this result when pairing whiskey with food, which complements the flavor of your whiskey and dinner.
Grilled Steak With Whiskey
Filet mignon, porterhouse, or New York strip pair wonderfully with medium body and smoky flavored whiskies. Not only will the whiskey pair well with the steak, but it will be enjoyable to sip the whiskey while you tend to the barbecue. If you are trying to find the perfect barbecue, we’ve got you covered.
Pork, Lamb, and Venison With Whiskey
Venison, roasted pork, and lamb will pair well with medium-bodied whiskeys. All three of these meats have strong flavors but will not overpower the flavor of your whiskey if you have the right taste.
The sweetness of bourbon would probably work against the flavors of these meats; however, medium rye will cut through the fatty flavors and complement the taste of the meat.
What Whiskey Goes With Smoked Salmon?
Bourbon pairs well with smoked salmon, enhancing this whiskey’s flavor and bringing out its spicy and fruity flavors. You can enjoy them together as a smoked salmon appetizer or entrée. And it’s another excuse to break out your smoker.
Whiskey Will Compliment Your Favorite Meatloaf
Yes, meatloaf because it is beef which you already know pairs well with whiskey. Peaty whiskies are the best flavor to match with meatloaf. This list includes full-bodied whiskies like rye and single-malt whiskeys that can hold up to the fattiness and flavors of meatloaf.
Whiskey Is Delicious With Dessert.
The flavor notes of each whiskey blend indicate what desserts they will pair with the best. Whiskey has many flavor notes and ranges from the flavors of caramel, smoke, vanilla and honey. It depends on whether you drink bourbon, rye, or scotch whiskey.
Apple Pie & Apple Crisp With Whiskey
Most apple desserts will complement and pair well with bourbon. The cinnamon used in most apple desserts will bring the taste of cinnamon, ginger, and pepper. Of course, you can try other recipes filled with the spicy flavors.
Whiskey With Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin bread has spicy flavors that pair well with bourbon. It will also pair well with gingered whiskey.
Yes, I know it has a bad reputation. But this food pairing is a nice surprise as long as fruitcake doesn’t turn off your appetite. Fruitcake is packed with fruit. It’s very sweet and tends to be a dry cake. It will benefit from pairing with bourbon or a medium-bodied whiskey.
Pumpkin Pie With Whiskey
With all of the spicy flavors of pumpkin bread, the creamy spiciness of pumpkin pie will naturally pair well with your whiskey.
Creamy Desserts and Whiskey
Crème Brulee and cheesecake have flavor notes of vanilla and caramel. They pair with bourbon and corn-based whiskey. Other whiskeys may pair with these desserts, and you can look for those with flavor notes that will complement these desserts.
Chocolate and Whiskey
Whiskey pairs well with dark chocolate, chocolate with ginger, and white chocolate, too. Bourbon will pair well with chocolate-based desserts like devil’s food cake and lava cake. Finally, a dram of whiskey in a cup of hot chocolate is a decadent treat that you’ll love.
If all else fails and you love chocolate, reach for some dark chocolates to snack on with your glass of whiskey.
Cookies Will Pair With Whiskey.
Chocolate chip cookies will not only pair with whiskey. You can add a little whiskey to the dough to give your cookies the flavor of your favorite whiskey flavor! Nutter Butter, Oreos, and spice cookies will complement some whiskeys.
Those who sampled whiskey with cookies determined that every whiskey except for rye would pair with these cookie flavors.
Combining chocolate, nuts, and spices with whiskey in the batter, you can pair this whiskey-flavored sweet treat with the whiskey from which it is made for a perfect pairing.
Cooking With Whiskey
Many recipes use whiskey as an additional ingredient, and you can use it in sauces and marinades. It tastes great paired with foods, so why not use it within your food!
Whiskey Food Pairing
Since every whiskey has a different flavor, the best food to pair with whiskey can vary. But as we’ve discussed above, there are a lot of great options.
The trend of small distilleries that make new blends will change how you pair your whiskey with food. Therefore, the best way to decide what to eat with whiskey is to experiment with different flavors and foods and find the combinations you like.