It’s easy to go right, and hard to go wrong, as only a few combinations don’t work well. And so, shopping for a right variety of drinks is a great way to complement any meal and become an excellent tool for your senses. Don’t overlook this part because the following might help you to make your meal as sumptuous as ever.
Forget about the rules
If you hate a particular drink, you probably won’t love it with your food, though a great combination might surprise you. Take a drink that you like would be your first step, and then think about what food it may be good to pair with.
Say you have a bottle of your favorite Cabernet in the fridge. Fantastic! But should you drink it the night you’re having lamb chops, or the night you’re having sushi? Chances are one combination will make you say ‘wow,’ and compliment the cook, and the other might feel a little fishy.
Level up the alcohol
One thing that affects the body when drinking wine and beer is the alcohol level. If your food is very delicate, consider choosing a low-alcohol drink to keep things in balance. Alcohol can also increase the point where it tastes “hot” in your mouth—this can be intensified if your food is super-spicy, so you might want to keep an eye on that.
Let’s go sweeter
Slightly sweeter drinks can also be friendly to more spiced dishes, enhancing aromatic spices and countering some of the heat. It’s very fashionable to say you like ‘dry’ wine, but a tiny bit of sweetness in your wine may help it go better with your food.
Wondering about the pairings for dessert? The basic rule of thumb is to go sweeter with your drink than your food. Ever sit at a wedding and realize you just don’t like Champagne and wedding cake together? It’s not because the Champagne is bad. (Though it may be.) It’s probably because the sugary-sweet frosting blows out the fruit flavors of the champagne when the combination hits your mouth; you might as well be drinking seltzer.
Beware of Oak
In general, oak from barrel-aged or barrel-fermented wine is something of an obstacle to delicious food-and-wine pairings. When too robust, oak can stand out like a mouthful of firewood and overshadow any food you might match with it, unless that food is a super-powerful charred steak or piece of the game. If the oak is delicate, though, it might add a pleasant smooth vanilla quality that works well with rich, creamy sauces.
Which characteristics match up? Which seem to be fighting? Would something else be better? Go back to the fridge and see what else you have! Everybody may not agree on the perfect pairing, but you’re bound to discover something delicious.