Whisky Drinker? Here’s the Ultimate Whisky Food Pairing Guide

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Did you know bacon is a perfect whisky food pairing?

Everyone knows that certain wines pair up beautifully with particular types of food. For example, white wine with fish and champagne with oysters.

But what about something a little stronger?

In the last few years, spirits have moved back into the spotlight. First, it was craft gins. Now, whisky is reasserting itself as the tipple of choice.

However, whisky isn’t just to be savoured on its own. Whisky drinkers are now treating whisky like fine wine for food pairings. 

But what whisky goes with snacks and nibbles? Should you team up a boisterous 12-year-old single malt with a brisket?

Or does a single malt go best with an apple crumble or a cheeseboard?

If you’re planning a dinner party, here are a few tips for whisky pairings that’ll wow your guests.

whisky drinker at the bar

What Whisky Food Pairings Work Best?

Whisky drinkers probably already have their favourite brand or type of whisky.

However, whisky food pairing is not as different from picking the right wine as you might think.

Lighter, younger whiskies work best with delicate food like seafood or chicken. Heavier, higher-proof malts work well with game or red meats. 

The proof of your whisky makes a big difference when you’re working out whisky food pairings, too. The higher the proof, the more powerful the flavour.

These high-proof whiskies have what is referred to as a big ‘presence.’ To balance them, they need more assertive flavours.

Lower-proof whisky has a lighter presence and works best with flavours that won’t overwhelm it, such as salads or light starters.

30 BITES YOU NEED IN YOUR LIFE:  Scottish Food

Do Whiskies have Flavours?

You’ll hear whisky drinkers talk about a ‘peaty’ flavour, a honey taste, or caramel notes. Every whisky has its own complex palate of flavours.

The savvy whisky drinker will pair those with the type of food they’re eating. A BBQ is ideally suited to whisky with caramel or smoky flavours.

Spicy food will work well with whiskies that have a fresher, spiced note. Look for a whisky that’s been matured in a spiced rum cask.

Snacks and Nibbles

Let’s start with snacks and nibbles. Although they may be quite savoury, you don’t want a whisky that will overwhelm the flavours.

Many snacks will be quite salty, so you want a whisky that will be enhanced by that flavour. The best type of whisky food pairing for nibbles like nuts or potato chips is a full-flavoured and slightly sweet option. 

The trick is to balance your flavours. A sweeter whisky works with savoury nibbles. A more earthy whisky will team up perfectly with sweet snacks.

Starters

Whether it’s soup or pate, prawns or pasta, starters are always relatively light. A Waldorf salad works with a malt that has a delicate note.

The whisky’s slightly sweet note will balance beautifully with the tang of the mayonnaise. However, a smoked salmon starter will benefit from a full-bodied single malt.

Because salmon has such a robust flavour, it needs something that won’t be blasted out by the ‘fishiness’ or the smokiness.

Main Courses

You may be tempted to combine a hearty main course with an equally robust whisky. But in fact, these heavier whiskies often clash with more substantial meals.

For the main course, the ideal whisky pairings are often lighter. More fruity scotches can work well as they don’t overpower the flavour of the food.

But they do have enough presence to hold their own against a roast venison main course or even a complex curry. 

Desserts

For dessert, the ideal whisky pairings include anything with chocolate or caramel undertones. There’s no doubt that one of the most fantastic whisky food pairings on earth is whisky and chocolate.

The trick is to go for dark chocolate rather than oversweet milk or white options. The slight bitterness is softened by the whisky, creating an explosion of flavours that bounce off one another.

Chocolate and whisky is a combination that needs to be savoured, enjoyed, and then repeated!

whisky drinker friends dinner party

Which Whisky with a Cheeseboard?

Whisky and cheese together are second only to whisky and chocolate. Again, it’s the complexities of the flavours that work so well.

But as with every other whisky food pairing, it’s all about the balance.

The more powerful the cheese (and we’re talking all the way through the blues and into ‘Stinking Bishop’ territory here), the stronger the whisky.

Look for high-proof options that can hold their own against the tang of a stilton. A perfect whisky pairing for a stilton is a peaty single malt. Lighter cheeses such as brie need a subtler touch. 

When you’re finding the proper whisky for your cheese, think about the cheese’s fat and salt content.

Fattier cheeses balance out with the body of an excellent single malt. Sharper hard cheeses fare better with more vigorous, younger malts.

One word of advice – don’t overdo the mix. Keep it subtle.

Team up cheese and whisky, and you’ll discover a winning combination. 

Coffee and Liqueurs? Try Coffee and Whisky Instead

The end of a good meal is often rounded off with coffee and liqueurs.

However, a rich liqueur is not necessarily the best way to end an evening. ‘Irish Coffee’, where an Irish whiskey is added to hot coffee with cream floating on the top, is an alternative.

Whisky on its own or mixed makes a lighter and more effective ‘palate cleanser’ at the end of a meal.

And just like chocolate, the bitter, complex notes of a Columbian coffee work exquisitely well with a smooth single malt.

Bacon – Whisky’s Soul Mate

Bacon and whisky were made for one another.

And bacon isn’t just for breakfast or as the vital ingredient in a BLT. It’s part of our culture.

From dry-cured to maple, smoked or unsmoked, it’s almost as complex as whisky. Put the two together, and you have a taste sensation that’s even spawned some slightly dubious-looking cocktails. 

Bacon has a compelling flavour profile, so you’ll need a whisky that can stand up to that extreme taste sensation without fighting it.

A peaty single malt is just right for smoked bacon as it combines its own smoky notes with those of the bacon.

But go for something sweeter like a maple-smoked option, and a sweeter whisky is the ultimate combination. 

Whisky cocktail Old Fashioned

Whisky Cocktails

Gone are the days when the only way you could drink whisky was neat or with the tiniest splash of water.

Today, whiskies from all over the world all have their place in any good cocktail cabinet. We would advise against serving a Manhattan or a Pickleback to a genuine Scottish Laird, though!

Whisky cocktails work perfectly with snacks and nibbles. A classic whisky sour can be given a festive twist by adding edible gold glitter and orange juice.

Or round off a meal with a wonderfully-named ‘Boozy Dark Delight.’ This potent mix combines stout, orange liqueur and whisky for a darkly fruity experience.

If you’re a real bacon lover, you can even throw it into the mix. As we said earlier, whisky and bacon is a whisky food pairing made in heaven – so why not go one step further?

A stone-cold classic is the Boozy Maple Bacon Old-Fashioned. This legendary cocktail combines the sweetness of maple syrup, bacon-infused whisky, a dash of Angostura bitters, and, of course, a slice of bacon for a garnish.

The bacon fat helps cut through the sweetness of the syrup, creating a never-to-be-forgotten flavour.

5 EASY RECIPES:  Classic Whisky Cocktails

Keeping it Simple

If you’re not a fan of cocktails, whisky mixers are an alternative to the straight or over-ice option. Club soda provides all the fizz but doesn’t mask the flavour of the whisky.

It’s a great way to enjoy a longer drink without compromising those peaty or honey notes.

If you want something sweeter, a dash of cola or lemonade works well with lighter blended whiskies. Add whisky to fruit juice with plenty of ice for a long summer drink for a fruitier version.

whisky drinkers drinking cocktails

Cooking with Whisky

The ultimate way to pair whisky and food is to cook with it. Whisky lends itself particularly well to sauces and gravy.

But it also has its place in both sweet and savoury recipes. It may be tempting to use ‘the cheap stuff’ to cook with to save money.

But a smaller dash of a more potent whisky can go much further. It can also add more complex and subtle flavours to your dish. 

Sweeter whiskies are just right for dessert recipes. A peach cobbler comes alive with a dash of honey highland single malt in it.

If you’re firing up the BBQ, add a splash of whisky to your honey glaze, and you’ve got the ultimate ribs or pulled pork.

Beef works particularly well with a peaty malt, while fish tastes divine with the merest hint of a light blended malt in a white sauce.

The trick is to experiment and try something new. You may be surprised what wonderful concoctions you come up with.

However, use your discretion – you can always add more, but you can’t take it away! 

What to Avoid

It might seem that whisky food pairing is a foregone conclusion. However, there are a few things you need to avoid if you want to get it right. 

Mixing Things Up

Yes, you can mix different whiskies throughout a meal in the same way you’d mix wines. But don’t overdo it.

Remember that whisky and food need to complement one another, not compete. Choose your selection carefully, working through the different courses.

It Doesn’t Have to be Served Neat

We’ve already mentioned cocktails and longer ways to mix your whisky. During a meal, a long drink such as a whisky and soda will work more in tandem with your menu than straight-up shots. 

How Much is too Much?

This is another reason why mixing is a good idea.

To avoid overdoing it, a whisky highball is better than a single shot in a glass. It takes longer to sip your way through a highball, and you’ll get to enjoy the flavours all the way through the course, too.

If you treat yourself to a special whisky food pairing meal, give your system a couple of days’ rest afterwards to avoid pushing that weekly unit tally up too far.

Whisky Food Pairing : The New Trend

Whisky drinkers have always known that good food and good whisky go together. Now, the rest of the world is finding out just how delicious a combination it really is.

Regardless of whether it’s a little gathering with a few nibbles or a five-course meal, whisky has its place at the table. 

Whisky-based cocktails bring a little touch of glamour to a party and make a great change from vodka or gin-based concoctions.

Team up a quality malt with some dark chocolate, and you’ve got heaven on a plate. Add a splash of blended malt to a roux sauce to give it some pizzazz.

Or break out the bacon and create something truly wonderful – a bacon whisky cocktail! 

It’s time to find out just how diverse, exciting, and genuinely drinkable whisky really is. Don’t just save it for the toast on New Year.

And don’t simply pour it neat into a glass without some kind of accompaniment. From cheese to silky chocolate desserts or summer snacks, whisky is the drink of choice.

It can even have a place in your kitchen store cupboard as a versatile cooking ingredient. If you’ve never really regarded yourself as a whisky drinker, it might be time for a change.

Grab the nibbles, open a bottle of malt, and give whisky food pairing a try. 

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