Valentine’s Day is all about two (or more!) things coming together to form something better than the sum of its parts. Instead of writing an article for those smug couples (or larger groups if you swing that way) or the empowered single people who always seem happier and actually show up to stuff when they say they will, today's article is about pairing stuff with whisk(e)y. As with all things whisk(e)y (and most things in life), we recommend trying these in good company and with an open mind (although these seem in short supply these days).
Proof that taking two or more things that are awesome in their own right and joining them together is food and whisk(e)y pairings. It’s no accident that so many whisk(e)y and food centric experiences are popping up these days. All the ‘rules’ here are much less defined there are definite combinations that work amazingly well — you just need to find them!
A good rule of thumb is to pair food you already have an affinity for with some whiskies that tickle your fancy and try a small bit of each food with each whisk(e)y until you find the combinations that do it for you (or you run out of food and whisk(e)y). Then invite some friends around and share the experience with them and see how they react. Better yet invite people around who have their own pairings to offer up and try them all. Basically with these and all the other pairings you are looking for flavours that compliment or lean into each other, or contrast in such a way that they highlight the main characteristics in each other.
Some generic pairings we’ve enjoyed:
Peated Whiskies with salted dark chocolate
Sherried Whiskies with blue cheese
Bourbon and cured meats
Some stupidly specific pairings that have blown us away:
Curry Goat filled ‘Donuts’ with Craigellachie 13
Fry’s Turkish Delight Chocolate with G+M Caol Ila Sassacaia cask
Lobster roll and Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel
A pairing that’s not particularly revolutionary but still sadly overlooked we feel is the pairing of whisk(e)y with it’s close relative, beer (the only time we recommend pairings with close relatives). There as many combinations possible here as you can literally imagine but below are some ‘beginner friendly’ team ups which typically work really well and from which you can branch out and explore. Thanks to the explosion in the local and international craft beer scenes as well as the ever growing varieties of Whisk(e)y making it to market these days, there are some absolutely cracking combinations to be found and enjoyed.
These should by no means should be taken as ‘gospel’ or strictly adhered to. A lot of the fun of boilermakers is in the discovery!
Peated whisk(e)y+IPA style hops driven beers — the citric/herbal tang of a heavily hopped beer really cuts through the smoke and earthy Whisk(e)y notes while the smoke compliments the hops wonderfully
Sherried whisk(e)y+Lager/Non-Dark Ale malt forward beers — Heavily sherried whiskies are wonderfully served by a very Malt driven beer as the Malt in the beer can help bring out the natural malt components in the Whisk(e)y which often are obscured in heavily sherried whiskies.
Irish whiskey+Stouts — Working on the buttery/creamy notes often present in Irish Whiskey and doubling down using the texture and creamy feel of stouts. The dark chocolate and cocoa elements found in a lot of stouts also pair delightfully with the lighter Irish Whiskey spirit style and flavours.
American whiskey+Sours/Gose— A personal combination which works for us. The sweet bourbon vanillas and toffees contrast amazingly with the fruity saltiness/tartness of a good Sour or Gose beer — perfect for a hotter day too as the typically lighter ABV and style of the beer and the bourbon make easy drinking on a really hot day.
One of the oldest pairings is of course those with other spirits, liqueurs and ingredients to make a cocktail. Whisky cocktails are thought to have become popular as a way of improving a rough and inconsistent whisk(e)y supply but the idea still works today even with the general quality improvements and range of whisk(e)y available to us.
Never be afraid to mix your whisk(e)y with whatever you see fit, however you see fit. Life is too short to die wondering…. and if it does go horribly wrong somehow then you have a great anecdote and a laugh to share next time (or a recipe to poison your drinking ‘buddies’ with).
Once again below are the most common general recipes that are tried and tested and should yield at least reasonable results ;)
Old Fashioned — basically 4:1 whisk(e)y to sugar syrup (or alternative — been having a lot of success with honey syrup), on ice with a few dashes of bitters. Most commonly 60mls of whisky, 15mls of simple syrup (which is 1:1 sugar to water) and a few dashes of orange flavoured bitters.
Whisk(e)y Sour — Legit one of our favourite ways to drink whisk(e)y — works beautifully with peated whiskies.
60ml whisk(e)y 30ml lemon juice (fresh is best) 15ml sugar syrup and an egg white — shake and serve :)
Manhattan — Kind of like a cross between an old fashioned and a martini — i.e. the best kind of Martini ;)
2:1 Rye (or Bourbon) to Sweet Vermouth, a couple of dashes of orange bitters and a dash of Angostura bitters with a cherry on top (because we can).
Sazerac — Basically a Rye Whiskey old fashioned in a Absinthe rinsed coupe glass.
60ml of Rye Whiskey, 15ml of Simple Syrup and approx. 5ml of Absinthe to coat the cocktail glass before straining in the rest of the ingredients.
Boulevardier -The Negroni’s rye whiskey cousin.
Rye whiskey, Campari and sweet vermouth in equal measure for a fantastic three-way ;)
Last but by no means least…
One of the more rewarding ‘couplings’ for whisk(e)y drinkers either attached or single is to bring a dram or several with you when you travel — it’s amazing the change in mood/atmosphere/experience that whipping out a bottle or two of your favourite whisk(e)y can bring about. It doesn’t have to be an expensive or ‘cool’ bottle — we find sharing a whisk(e)y you love, whatever it may be, is the best. The idea here is that the passion you have for the dram, and fact you lugged it all that way shows how much you like that whisk(e)y and therefore the people you share it with — simples! What could beat sharing a dram with some newly minted friends or old friends you haven’t seen in ages in their neck of the woods?
Cheers! And yeah, Happy Valentine's Day!
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