Back in the day, food pairing meant red wine with red meat and white wine with poultry or fish, and don’t even mention rose. In fact, there is a lot more in pairing than that simple mantra, in part because there is so much more to work with.
What about beer, whiskey, or cocktails?
With a craft choice for everything in the market, the gamut of possibilities is endless. The best way to start narrowing it down is some basic rules of thumb, or rules of tongue if you’d rather.
The old rule does make sense because you are scaling flavors accordingly. If you put a big Merlot with a delicate fish meal all you get is wine tastes.
So this guideline is as flavors get stronger your beverage choice can get stronger’.
That doesn’t mean alcohol content. Sipping straight whiskey will tend to numb your taste receptors. A nice bourbon on the rocks with a splash of water or soda can enhance your meal. But there is a clear starting point. Here are some ideas to get you started.
PAIRING DRINKS WITH MEAT
If you’re making the king of the smoker, a brisket, then you need the granddaddies of the grape, those varieties from Bordeaux. Now you can have that Merlot, or a Cabernet Sauvigon or Cab Franc. The high acids of the wine will cleanse through the rich fats of the meat, and surprisingly compliment the classic sides like baked beans. From the craft beer side a rich bourbon barrel aged stout or German Doppelbock will stand right up to this meal.
If you’re bringing home the bacon with smoked pork shoulder or loin, the temptation will be to hit the beer aisle for a good hoppy IPA or double IPA. Go with that thought, take it further with a Tom Terrific cocktail. Wines range from Zinfandel, Petite Verdot or into the Italian wine sector like Valpolicella or Sangiovese, even a Spanish Grenacha will suit this dish.
Poultry & Fish
Chicken or fish smoked and grilled will stand up nicely to a lighter Pinot Noir, and it is really worth talking about the roses now because chilled and crisp goes great with these foods, especially during the warmer seasons. A nice Belgian blonde or trippel ale, or a fruit infused sour ale will all work in the beer category.
PARING DRINKS WITH BBQ & SMOKED MEATS
You’re cooking red meat to have a beautiful smoky flavor that is also present in whiskey. There is a reason steakhouses have some of the best whiskey selection you can find. Put some in your glass too, with a few rocks and a splash, build a Presbyterian if want a bit more refreshment. If you want more contrast to the food, get tangy with a John Collins or Whiskey Sour.
Chicken & Pork
If you are barbecuing a variety of food (chicken, sausage, etc.) and you can only choose one beer to have all night, pick a brown ale, the flavors and texture will compliment a variety of grilled food. When it comes to chicken wings reach for the gin and mix up a tea cooler. For the one cocktail there is no wrong time for a margarita, and this is the right time because you can adjust the sweetness of the drink somewhat to accommodate personal taste. For your one wine, red Sangria can handle a mixed grill and keep your appetite alive.
Imagine that someone gave you a 3 liter bottle of Chianti. Thanksgiving is on the horizon, so you make your equipment choice – kettle grill, wood choice – apple chips, and use them to cook the family turkey. Leave that bottle out in the 50 degree air while the bird is cooking, then bring it all together. The beer drinker in the group is going to love the slight sweetness of a trappist ale or the cherry tang of a kriek beer. For the overall celebration, and if you have an adamant non red wine drinker, pop a cold bottle of Proseco or Asti Spumante. The fruitiness that comes out of the Muscat grapes sits right up with this meal.
Lightly chilling a red wine is no more an infraction of the rules than having reds with fowl, especially when you introduce smoke to the meat. Salmon, halibut, or scallops fresh off the grill will pair perfectly with a chilled Gamay. They still celebrate the fall release of the Nouveau Beaujolais by pouring the bottle into a very cold copper pitcher to serve the wine with a light chill. Just the thing to accompany your own smoked salmon with cream cheese, or fully smoked oysters or scallops. For a mixed drink this is the time for some brandy, either in a sidecar or over ice with ginger ale, or step that up if you want and go to a Moscow Mule.
Simple is good too. A perfect ribeye or filet off a mesquite grill needs a clean Pinot Noir, although they also yearn for some grilled asparagus, portabella mushrooms and sweet onions on the side. You can go to the ancestral home of pinot and try a Cotes De Nuits or Cotes de Beaune. These dry reds will cut through the wonderful fats of the steak and the bold flavors of the grilled veggies so that you are ready to enjoy every bite. From the brewed side of the aisle run with a dry stout or a porter.
For burgers, you need something altogether different. Hamburgers come with all manner of decadent flavors on top … onions, cheese, mustard. You need a beer that complements all of these flavors, and a pale ale will do the trick. For the soda pop and burger experience try a Smith & Kearns.
Steak or Chicken Fajitas and all those great fixings are a grill staple. We already established that there is no wrong time for a margarita. Color it orange with a Cadillac style that you can drink all day. When you turn up the heat, a great beer of choice is a radler, wheat beer infused with grapefruit and other citrus components.
Just like smoking is at its best when influenced by personal tastes. so is drink pairing. Almost anything can be thrown on a grill or into a smoker, and the most fun part is finding out what comes out tasting exceptional to your palate. On the beverage side, you’ll need to play the field until you find what combinations you like best.
It’s time to put the skids on this meat wagon and slow down. You know you want to baste that chicken with some barbecue sauce, pull the pork and mix it up, slap a slice of brisket between some white bread with sauce and pickles, so you ll want to bring other flavors along for the ride. We are going to lump two broad categories of BBQ sauce; sugar based versus vinegar based. Yes they cross over, yes they have shared components, but in this context the division works.
Always a top contender for the best of the smoke are pork ribs. Baby back or St. Louis cut, or even spare ribs, they all lend themselves to basting with a sweet sauce. Envision a lime honey cumin rub and sauce combination. Bring on the mixer with a couple rums and juice for a Mai Tai or a Hurricane, use your vodka of choice in a Cape Cod, for your light drinker mix OJ with light beer for a beer-mosa. Notice the theme of fruit flavors that complement the citrus and contrast the honey cumin combo to keep your palate awake.
If you’re going all Louisiana on your pulled pork with big vinegar and high heat you want to sweeten up your beverage choices. Cutting through the capsaicin of peppers or vinegar’s acetic acid so you can come back for more is what this is all about. Shift a state or two for some Tennessee Tea, a classic Mint Julep or Old Fashion will fill this bill. A cold European beer offers an interlude worth pursuing, like Pilsner Urquel or Stella Artois. For wine find your big jam fruit reds like Shiraz, a younger Nebbiolo, or an Australian Shiraz.
Back to sweet, now add some whiskey to your sauce to makes it taste even better. American whiskey to be exact.
OUR FAVORITE COCKTAILS FOR MEAT
BEST COCKTAIL DRINKS FOR BBQ & SMOKED MEATS
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- 1.5 oz Old Tom gin
- .5 oz Cherry Heering
- .5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
- .5 oz Simple Syrup
- 2 oz chilled IPA
- lemon wheel for coolness
HOW TO MIX
Shake everything in ice (expect for the beer and lemon wheel), strain into a glass, top off with the IPA and add your lemon wheel.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- 2 oz. whiskey
- .5 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 – 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
- Orange peel
- Maraschino Cherry
- 2 oz. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut
- 1 oz. Monin Agave Nectar
- Dash of chocolate bitters
- Orange peel
- 1 or 2 Real Maraschino Cherries
HOW TO MIX
Shake everything in ice (expect for the peel and cherry/cherries), strain into a glass, add peel and cherry. Tip: instead of just tossing the orange peel into the glass at the end, rub it on the inside of the glass before you strain the drink into it.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- Ice cubes
- 2 oz. black cherry Bulleit bourbon
- 2 oz. black cherry juice
- 1 slice of seared orange
- 2 bourbon soaked cherries
- 1 twist of an orange peal
HOW TO MIX
- Create black cherry Bulleit bourbon: Combine 1 cup frozen defrosted dark sweet cherries and 1 cup Bulleit bourbon in a clean glass jar. Store in the refrigerator for 1 day (up to 2 months).
- Grill up the orange slices: Slice your orange slices into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place them over a hot grill (high heat) for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side. You don’t want the slices sitting in the flames, just over some high heat until they are charred and smell citrusy (Is that a word?).
- Making the drink: Place the charred orange at the bottom of the glass. Top the orange with a large ice cube.
Using a shaker full of ice, shake the following vigorously for 30 seconds: bourbon, cherry juice, cherry bitters. Strain into glass, garnish with bourbon soaked cherries and another charred orange wedge or two.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
• 3 cups of seedless red gapes (stems removed)
• 2 whole oranges cut into 1/2″ wheels
• 2 lemons cut into 1/2″ wheels
• Two 750 mL bottles of rose wine
• 8 oz. simple syrup
• 8 oz. brandy
MAKING THE DRINK
- Light the grill. Place grapes onto a basket or grill sheet, and place on the grill (should be high heat). Toss the grapes once or twice over the next 5 – 6 minutes. You want the grapes grilled to the point right before they are about to burst open. It may be a good idea to throw on double the amount of grapes you plan on using so you can grill them until a few start to burst, this way you are sure the other ones are just right.
- Now grill the orange and lemon wheels, same as before: high heat. Your looking for a little char so don’t be quick to flip them; about 3 minutes on each side.
- Pour wine
The best advice you can get when it comes to cooking is to have no fear trying new approaches. Keep that frame of mind when exploring combinations of food and drink. We’ve giving you a solid foundation to work from; now’s the time for you to step out of you comfort zone and find a pairing made in heaven.
Let us know what drinks pair the best with your favorite meat!
BONUS: PAIRING STOUT BEER WITH STEAK & PAN SAUCES
Stout beer pairs perfectly with a steak. So much so, that we dedicate this pairing section to stout beer and how you can take things a step further than simply paring by whisking up a great pan sauce for a perfectly seared steak.
There is a lot of confusion regarding the difference between stouts and porters. But don’t worry we’ll start by clearing things up.
Stout vs. Poters
A stout beer is dark and is made using roasted malt or barley, hops, water, and yeast.
However, back in the olden days, stout was just a fun nicknamed used for the strongest porter beers. In in the mid 20th century when smaller brewers started popping up all over the place the stout and porter beers became separate. These new brewers picked a few of the hundreds of styles out there and recreated their own beers. That means that while once stout meant, a strong porter, now it means anything the brewers want it to mean.
Popular Classifications for Porter and Stout Beers
- Extra Stout (foreign)
Stout and porter beers share many similarities.
When comparing a dry stout to a robust porter we find: the dry stout will be a tad more bitter, have less body and even be lighter than than a robust porter. This is a prime example how porters and stouts get intermixed as they share similar characteristics. Therefore, the difference between a stout beers and a porter beers is more likely found in marketing than the traits of the beer themselves.
About Pan Sauces
Before we introduce you to our favorite stout beer sauces and recipes, let’s go over pan sauce.
First, you’ll need to cook the steak or other meat in a pan. Not just any pan, if you use a non-stick skillet then just forget about it, because the sauce will never come out right. You need a cast iron or carbon stainless steel pan. These pans will collect the bits and pieces that come off the meat, which you will need in order to make a great pan sauce.
Once you’ve pan seared your steak, you’re ready to make a delicious pan sauce.
Most all of my favorite pan sauces start with sautéing garlic, onion, or shallot (or a combination of these three); while scraping up all the little tasty bits left in the pan. This gives you a great base for your sauce – the rest of the ingredients are usually decided by what type of meat I’ll be serving with/in my sauce.
At this point it’s time to add some type of liquid; since we’re talking about making a stout beer pan sauce we’ll be adding in the stout/porter beer now. Fill the pan about a quarter inch with beer and let it cook down on a simmer till about half of the liquid is gone. This sums up the majority of what goes into making a pan sauce with beer.
From here you’ll remove the pan from the heat source and likely add in some butter and a few herbs. If you’re looking for a thicker pan sauce you’ll likely work in some flour, cornflower or cornstarch during the simmering phase.
Stout Beer Pan Sauces
Chocolate Stout Beer Pan Sauce
Finally our favorite, chocolate stout pan sauce. On a side note – you can make dozens of great dessert sauces out of stout as well. This is not one of those. This is about steak, real, delicious, stout covered steak.
This recipe calls for a rub which you’ll apply to your steak in advance; this rub is key to the tasty little bits of flavor that will be leftover in the pan once your done searing your steak.
Mix up some salt, paprika, pepper and cumin. Then add in a heaping spoonful of coffee, yes ground coffee. Once it’s all mixed together add in brown sugar and then rub onto the steaks. If you have the forethought, you can leave them in the fridge for a few hours, if not, just go for it.
After the steaks have been pan seared, and while they are resting, turn down the heat to medium and pour 1 cup of stout beer into the pan. For this, we recommend a chocolate stout such as Young’s Double Chocolate Stout; if you can’t get a chocolate stout an oatmeal stout will do as well. When adding the beer be sure to scrap up all the little bits that have stuck to the pan; this process is known as deglazing.
After adding the stout, add a half a cup of beef broth over medium heat and reduce all the liquid in the pan by about half. You’re pretty much done. Now, just remove the pan from heat and stir in a tablespoon or two of butter. Yum!
Drizzle this sauce on your steaks and you’ll have the best meal of the season.
Sriracha Stout Beer Pan Sauce
Sriracha is living the high life right now. Everywhere you turn there is a new Sriracha flavor something or other. Well, we are getting on board the bandwagon with this stout and Sriracha barbecue sauce.
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 cup of stout beer
- soy sauce
- brown sugar
- Paprika (smoked)
After searing your steak in a pan, turn down the heat to medium and brown about 4 cloves or garlic in the pan, then add a cup of stout beer. After the amount of liquid has reduced by a 1/3, add in a helping of soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, and a few teaspoons of Worcestershire, Sriracha, and paprika. Mix and allow to simmer until your down to about a 1/2 cup of liquid.
This recipe is perfect for ribs or pulled pork.
Simple Stout Glaze Pan Sauce
A go to recipe is this stout glaze. It is very simple and versatile; it can be adjusted to fit any recipe or meat.
- bottle of stout beer
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons mustard powder
Add all ingredients to pan while scraping up bits. Let simmer till liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat to cool. Since a large part of this pan sauce consists of honey it will thicken as it cools.
This is the basic glaze and will compliment any meat, from pork to beef. But you can add more spices, herbs or vegetables (mushrooms) to make it your own.