When we think about pairing whiskey and bourbon, our first thoughts turn to pairing them with food, which we will cover below, but we also consider pairing it with music, art, or places. We often see our favorite rock band with a particular brand of bourbon or an artist working with a brand. We can even pair whiskies with books and films. Pair it with anything that evokes your senses.
Having a lightly (or even heavily) peated whiskey while sitting on a beach with a small campfire can be quite remarkable. The sea air drying to saltiness on your lips, enhancing the flavors of the whiskey, the smell of the wisps of smoke coming from the fire as you take a sip.
But for this issue, we will focus on food and drink pairings, from cheese and meats to coffee to chocolate.
It may sound strange to some drammers and completely normal to others.
We are familiar with pairing wine with certain foods, and who doesn’t love a cold beer with a burger and fries? So why not start pairing your whiskey or bourbon with different foods?
Whiskey is one of those drinks where we tend to be very vocal about what flavors we are tasting, and in some cases, it really can sound quite extraordinary. Who has ever sat in a whiskey tasting and heard something like this:
“Well, I’m getting lemon sherbet mixed with spearmints…hold on, yes, hay! Hay like in an enclosure at a zoo. Oooh, and now, crème Brulé covered in a dusting of coffee and finishing with a long drizzle of fairy dust.”
Of course, we are being a little over the top here, but it’s not far off the mark on occasion.
Going back to pairings. Considering how many flavors we can find in bourbon and whiskey, pairing the drink with savory and sweet food makes sense, and it is great fun.
There may be some assumed "rules," but rules are there to be stretched, bent, and broken, so to go against your parents’ rules, we invite you to play with your food!
So, let’s begin with talking about whiskey and cheese. This is quite a popular combination. Cheese has a wide range of flavors, from sweet and nutty to lemony and acidic. Some may present both bitterness and creaminess together, like blue cheese, and others will even give a burn if it's old, like Rocomadour, a French goat's cheese. Try a range of whiskies with one cheese to see how they work together or a range of cheeses with one whiskey.
Adding a selection of nuts and dried fruit to a cheese board to have with your bourbon or whiskey will give a wide range of pairings to play with.
Next, we can look at meats to go with whiskey and bourbon. Imagine the saltiness of beef jerky or prosciutto, cutting through the sweetness of your favorite bourbon. Or a nice peaty/smoky dram with some BBQ-cooked meats. You can also cook your meat with bourbon by creating a simple marinade with your favorite bourbon or whiskey. Have a little search on your preferred search engine and you will find many recipes to choose from.
Do you have a sweet tooth? Chocolate is a fairly obvious accompaniment to have with your whiskey or bourbon. Work your way through milk chocolate to the bitterness of 85% cocoa dark chocolate. Chocolate can contain many levels of flavor, and dark chocolate with a coffee and a dram can be heaven, not to mention all the other candies you can pair up with bourbon.
But don't stop at these more common ideas. A sweet dram can work brilliantly with a bag of salted chips or popcorn.
And lastly, we can pair whiskey/bourbon with many other liquids. The obvious ones are cocktails, but what about an “Insert country here” coffee? An Irish coffee would be the original way to have a liqueur coffee, but there is nothing to stop you from trying an "American" coffee or a "Scotch" coffee.
We can pair a dram with a beer or lager, commonly known as a "Boilermaker" or "Hauf 'n' Hauf," this is great to have at a bar.
Or we can go a little deeper; if your whiskey is matured in a particular cask for flavor, like a sherry cask (Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez (PX) being the most common), why not buy a bottle of that sherry and investigate the flavor more closely. Or if your dram has a wine cask finish, like Bordeaux or Amarone, buy a bottle and see what it tastes like.
There is an infinite world of sensory exploration in that bottle of whiskey. Go on, take yourself on an adventure!
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