Make Room for the Cocktail

March 09, 2016

safe_image.jpegPalates everywhere are applauding the new culinary experience of Cocktail Pairings. Everyone has enjoyed their fair share of wine pairings, but the world gets a lot bigger when one applies that same concept to finding the perfect cocktail companion to their favorite entrée. This goes well beyond your traditional Martini, although that would pair nicely with fresh oysters, but since we aren’t limiting ourselves to just wine and traditional cocktails, restaurants are relying on their bartenders to make their guests dining experience complete. The bar is now viewed as the final touch to the kitchen and bartenders must understand the balance, depth and complexity of how food, spirits and mixers are combined to complement one another and leave a lasting impression. 

Complement, Contrast or Both

You can complement the bold flavor of a dish with a liquor of equally robust body or you can tone down the flavor with a more neutral choice when presenting dishes with less vigor. Bourbons pair nicely with smoky or spicy entrees that bring out the matching smoky or sometimes contrasting woody flavors in the spirits. Just imagine the taste of a bold smoky bourbon when paired with brisket right off the grill. It’s a match made in heaven. Most certainly, though, bourbon would overpower a more subtle entrée of scallops or fish. Seafood is often complemented by lighter, more even-toned drinks made with vodka and citrus flavors that tend to cut through the saltiness or briny taste of the food. 

Add Some Zest

If you just finished off a spicy tuna roll and are feeling the heat, reach for a cocktail that will offer a hint of relief. Try mixing a crisp watermelon mojito with a slice of watermelon and some muddled mint to help balance and cool the spicy flavors that might linger. A gin gimlet with a sprig of rosemary or even a splash of rosemary flavored simple syrup would be the perfect accessory to grilled shrimp with a hint of lime sitting on a bed of rice and fresh veggies. Herbs are the perfect bonding agent for cocktails and entrees and add extra layers of flavor for a new spin on a traditional cocktail. 

Don’t Forget Dessert

The possibilities are endless here. You really just can’t go wrong pairing a bourbon with cherry undertones with a dark chocolate soufflé or a single malt scotch that embodies hints of vanilla and spice with a slice of homemade pumpkin pie. Dessert and cocktail flavors can complement each other so well that you can never again imagine having those nutty truffles without a sweet French Brandy in the other hand. 
If you are looking for a fresh new take on a dinner party, consider making it a cocktail pairing and start getting creative. There are tons of articles and ideas online for you to peruse or perhaps mimic a pairing that was suggested by the chef at your favorite local restaurant. Your friends will certainly remember that bourbon and beef cookout you hosted way longer than those burgers and brews you had in mind.  Don’t be afraid to ask what would complement the entrée of your choice when out to eat. You can always tweak recipes at home and create your very own unique combination of flavor to win over your party guests, friends, and family. So be bold, be creative and enjoy. 

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