A Guide to Pairing Food and Whiskey for Dinner Parties

pairing whiskey and food

Many factors affect food pairings, from the smell and flavours to colours, shapes, and textures. However, the task can become even more challenging when whiskey is added to the equation.

Pairing whiskey and food is made easier when you understand the characteristics of the food and the whiskey flavour. Keep reading for a short but practical guide so that you can easily master the art of pairing whiskey and food!

#1 – Don’t Match, Harmonise

Pairing whiskey and food doesn’t have to taste matchy-matchy. Instead, the flavours should complement each other. For example, you don’t have to pick a whiskey with orange notes if the food has an orange flavour.

Instead, you might want to pick whiskey with orange notes if the food has a prominent ginger characteristic. Since ginger and orange pair well, pairing whiskey and food with these different flavours will be a wise decision.

If you’re hosting a dinner party, you need to define the flavours you want to bring together during the meal. Don’t limit the flavours to the main course and whiskey, include starters and desserts as well. As a general principle, the flavours throughout the meal should be in harmony with each other. 

For example, if your main course features ginger, a rich chocolaty dessert would pair beautifully while your guests sip on a whiskey with orange notes. The flavour combinations of ginger, chocolate, and orange are fail-proof and in complete harmony, and hence, so will be your pairing. 

pairing whiskey and food

#2 – Narrow Down the Pairings as You Increase Options

If you are still a little apprehensive about creating a three to five course meal paired with whiskey, don’t worry! You can break down the task by pairing different whiskey flavours with different courses. This will allow your guests to drink more whiskey and try various flavours with each course. 

They will also appreciate your decision of serving them more than one kind of whiskey rather than serving whiskey that doesn’t pair well. Needless to say, the overall dining experience will also be more fun for everyone at the dining table. 

#3 – Go Right by Matching Styles 

Matching styles is different than matching flavours and tones. If you are opting for traditional recipes for meals, you can use the basic styles of pairing whiskey with food, ie:

  • Light whiskeys pair well with seafood
  • Stronger whiskeys pair well with richly flavourful food
  • Sweeter whiskeys pair well with spicy dishes

You can follow these styles to harmonise the overall meal or pair different whiskeys with different courses. If you can’t decide between two whiskeys of similar styles, consider serving them both. It will lead to an interesting dinner table conversation where your guests can vote for which whiskey pairs better and why they prefer a particular pairing with different courses.

#4 – Bonus: A Fool-Proof Dinner Party Idea for Pairing Whiskey and Food

An idea that always works for pairing whiskey and food is to host a whiskey tasting party. While the idea might sound overwhelming, it’s  really simple. Instead of arranging for a three to five-course meal, serve your guests hors d’oeuvres. Made of different ingredients and flavouring, these morsels can be paired with any number of whiskeys.

To make this method of pairing whiskey and food even more fool proof, select a few different whiskeys that can fall into similar styles with the most popular hors d’oeuvres.

For example, if the hors d’oeuvres include semi-hard cheeses, cured meats, and smokey flavours, you can confidently place a bottle of strong whiskey on the table to go with it. By contrast, hors d’oeuvres such as smoked salmon, cheese crackers, and oysters will pair well with a light whiskey.

Trying new, but renowned, local whiskeys can also make a party more interesting. Whiskey subscription packages are available, allowing you to try before you serve them to your guests. Check out The Whiskey Club for Australia’s biggest whiskey subscription service. 

Hosting a dinner party with various whiskeys also gives you an insight into the whiskey preferences of your friends. Why not use this insight to gift them a whiskey they are sure to love for their next birthday!

Finally, don’t be scared to go wrong. Knowing your whiskey takes time. However, having a good selection and topped up glasses will almost certainly guarantee a great event.

MORE – 8 Types of Whiskey You Need To Try In 2022

MORE – Food and Wine Pairings – Everything You Need To Know

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