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The Perfect Match: 7 Tips In Pairing Food And Drinks

Pairing foods and drinks can be challenging for those who are unschooled in the world of spirits. The right match can significantly enhance your dining experience, but the wrong one has the power to ruin it entirely. Sure, it is easy to stick to the typical pairings, but it would be best to expand your horizons and change things up with different drinks, appetizers, and desserts.

While the task may seem complicated, creating the perfect match of food and drinks is a skill that anyone can learn. In fact, deciding whether to enjoy a refreshing cocktail, a tall glass of wine, or even a juice and soda can prove to be quite useful for different occasions.

So before you head to the grocer or your favorite local liquor store, you must first think about what drinks go well with the dishes you’re planning to make. Decide what will complement your food and bring out the best in your meal.

To help you out, here are seven tips in creating the perfect food and beverage pairings:

1.Understand the Flavor Principles

Flavor principles can help you understand and distinguish a new cuisine. Essentially, these principles focus on the use of defining ingredients in a specific cuisine, with a goal of understanding the foundations and constructions of the dishes in that particular cuisine better.

Flavor principles also apply for food and drink pairings. Here are some examples of how:

  • A food or drink’s acidity serves as a flavor booster that, when used correctly, can prepare you for the next bite.
  • Salt can enhance flavor, especially the subtly sweet and fruity ones you probably haven’t picked out at first.
  • Salt and acidity complement and balance each other out.
  • Saltiness and sweetness also make an excellent pair (e.g., salted caramels and chocolate-covered pretzels).
  • Two sweet flavors accentuate acidity and cancel each other out. With the right balance, it can be refreshing; without one, it’s is like brushing your teeth with orange juice.
  • Sweets soothe the burn left by spicy foods while spirits make the spiciness burn hotter.
  • Earthy flavors act like neutrals; they go with almost anything.

Combine your understanding of the food principles with your familiarity with the different defining ingredients of a certain cuisine and the innate taste that comes with specific drinks, and you’re off to a good start in crafting the perfect pairing.

2.Pair Light Wine with Desserts

Because desserts are mostly sweet, light wines without an overly sweet flavor make an excellent match for them. For example, the bold and fruity flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon is a great choice when paired with black forest cakes and other richly sweet treats.

3.Follow Meat Color When Choosing Wine

If you want to bring fine dining directly to your home, you may choose to pair wine with your signature dish. However, there’s more to it than that.

You see, different colors of wine pair with meats of the same color. As a rule of thumb, white meat like chicken, fish, and seafood go best with white wine, while red wine is the perfect match for red meat such as venison and beef.

Take Merlot’s strong and bold aroma, for example. It goes well with meats with robust flavors, such as roast lamb, beef dishes, and even ham. Alternatively, white wine makes an excellent complimentary drink with recipes comprised of oysters.

4.Use Acidic Drinks to Refresh the Palate

As mentioned earlier, acidity prepares your palate for the next bite. This explains why citruses like lemon and lime have always been great additions to culinary experts’ favorite ingredients.

Whether alcoholic or otherwise, acidic drinks help refresh the palate the same way lime or lemon brightens up a dish. This explains why rich pasta with creamy sauces, flavorful chow mein, crab cakes, and shrimp cocktails work well with acidic spirits and crisp citrus beverages.

Of course, acidity doesn’t just refer to citrus juices. It can also mean beer. In fact, if there’s one pairing that will always be a hit anywhere in the world, it’s pizza and beer.

Pizza benefits from beer’s earthy and acidic quality and low alcohol content. Those scrubbing bubbles also make for an excellent palate cleanser, especially if you’re eating with pizzas with various toppings.

On top of that, acidity also foils the tang of tomato sauce. Those scrubbing bubbles also complement the saltiness of the cheese and fatty meats on your favorite pizza.

5.Match the Roots

Knowing the roots of both the dish and the drink can also help you create the perfect pair. You see, food and spirits that come from the same region or area have better chances of going well together. A good example of this is the mole sauce and tequila, both of which originated from Mexico.

6.Regulate the Alcohol Level

If you’re after a more spirituous meal, it would be a good idea to regulate the alcohol level in your food and alcohol pairings. While this often won’t be a problem, it would be best to avoid drinks with high alcohol content if you’re eating a spicy dish.

Whether it’s a Zinfandel or a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, alcohol can turn up the heat when you eat spicy food, leaving you longing for a glass of milk.

Also, if you’re looking to indulge in a five-course meal with a new cocktail for every dish, it would be best to watch the amount of alcohol you drink. Remember that serving sizes for full spirits should only be made up of two to three ounces of cocktails. This way, you will also be able to avoid burning your taste buds or ruining the meal by serving too much.

7.Connect Food and Drinks with Aroma

Another way to create an excellent food and drink pair is by using aromatic herbs in your dishes. Herbs have a way of connecting similar flavors between dishes and drinks. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to incorporate herbs into the recipes; a simple garnish should suffice.

The Bottomline

To enjoy the perfect meal, you need to have the perfect pair. Of food and drinks, that is.

Drinks aren’t just useful for quenching your thirst; they also help bring out the flavor of food or prepare your palate for more. Let this article be your guide in choosing the best beverages – alcoholic or not – with the dishes that you love, and enjoy a meal that will take your breath away.


Valentina Chessa is the Retail Marketing Manager at African + Eastern, the largest alcohol retailer in the Middle East with a network of 29 stores in the UAE, 5 in Oman, and a team of over 400 professional staff. The company boasts an extensive portfolio of beer, wine and spirits, and customers can shop online or at one of its conveniently located stores.

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