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Matching food with cocktails


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I've given some thought to this topic, so I have my own ideas, but I'm wondering if either of you have tried to match foods with cocktails (either specific cocktails, or just cocktails n general).

From my experience, the best cocktails with food tend to be from the "sour" family, as long as they aren't made too sweet. I guess it's the acid. Mojitos also seem to be pretty good with a variety of snack food. But I find Martinis and Manhattans very difficult with food.

From the food side, I think too much spicy heat can fight with the alcohol in the drinks, so I try to avoid that.

Other than that, I haven't gotten too far, or had any specatcular successes.

Do you experiment much with foods and cocktails? Any tips?

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Yes, we do experiment with food and cocktails--there's a cocktail with every course of the Saturday night dinner at Cocktails in the Country (thanks for the opportunity to plug that again :wink: ).

The first dinner of this kind I ever had was put together by Dale Degroff when he was at the Rainbow Room--it was spectacular. It's important to try to serve drinks that aren't too strong, though. And long drinks such as a Singapore Sling work well since they are "gulpable." Sometimes we'll adjust recipes to make the drinks gulpable:

Try 1/3 of a Margarita in a collins glass filled with ice, and topped off with tonic water. This works well with spicy foods.

The Blood and Sand, usually made with equal amounts of scotch, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, and orange juice, can be modified if you serve it in a highball or collins glass, pouring far more orange juice into the glass than the other ingredients. This drink works well with red meat or game.

One more example is the Pompier Highball--dry vermouth, cassis, and club soda. This works well alongside salads with vinaigrette-type dressings.

“The practice is to commence with a brandy or gin ‘cocktail’ before breakfast, by way of an appetizer. Subsequently, a ‘digester’ will be needed. Then, in due course and at certain intervals, a ‘refresher,’ a ‘reposer,’ a ‘settler,’ a ‘cooler,’ an ‘invigorator,’ a ‘sparkler,’ and a ‘rouser,’ pending the final ‘nightcap,’ or midnight dram.” Life and Society in America by Samuel Phillips Day. Published by Newman and Co., 1880.

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I doubt that "craze" would be the right thing to call it, but we might see more of this sort of thing.

“The practice is to commence with a brandy or gin ‘cocktail’ before breakfast, by way of an appetizer. Subsequently, a ‘digester’ will be needed. Then, in due course and at certain intervals, a ‘refresher,’ a ‘reposer,’ a ‘settler,’ a ‘cooler,’ an ‘invigorator,’ a ‘sparkler,’ and a ‘rouser,’ pending the final ‘nightcap,’ or midnight dram.” Life and Society in America by Samuel Phillips Day. Published by Newman and Co., 1880.

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Along similar lines, what is your take on pairing strong drink with food? I recently went to an Irish whiskey dinner (described here) that was interesting, but I definitely noticed a certain anaesthetic effect of the strong alcohol on my palate which interfered with the full experience of the flavors in the dishes I was eating.

Also... some high end restaurants (Trotter's in Chicago, for example) are deciding that they will not serve before-dinner cocktails because the alcohol "dulls the palate." What's your take on this? My personal experience at the whiskey dinner as well as the known anaesthetic effect that alcohol can have on the taste receptors leads me to believe that a glass of vodka would probably not be the ideal accompaniment to a subtle and nuanced meal, but I also think any such effect is short lived and that one cocktail isn't going to carry through the entire dinner.

--

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Also... some high end restaurants (Trotter's in Chicago, for example) are deciding that they will not serve before-dinner cocktails because the alcohol "dulls the palate." What's your take on this?

Well, so much for the Italians and their Negronis! :laugh:

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I just wrote a column about the whiskey dinner at Seppi's for Nation's Restaurant News, and I really admire Patrick O'Sullivan's passion for Irish whiskey.

My biggest problems with whisk(e)y dinners is that the chef has to come up with 4 or 5 courses, all of which match whiskey. And even though whsikeys can differ drastically, there's still one basic taste there. If you pair cocktails to food the chef has a much broader range to choose from. At Painters we simply let the chef compose the dinner, then we come up with drinks to match each course.

As for spirits dulling the palate, well, I guess that's true, but I don't think they detract too much from the food.

“The practice is to commence with a brandy or gin ‘cocktail’ before breakfast, by way of an appetizer. Subsequently, a ‘digester’ will be needed. Then, in due course and at certain intervals, a ‘refresher,’ a ‘reposer,’ a ‘settler,’ a ‘cooler,’ an ‘invigorator,’ a ‘sparkler,’ and a ‘rouser,’ pending the final ‘nightcap,’ or midnight dram.” Life and Society in America by Samuel Phillips Day. Published by Newman and Co., 1880.

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No, I wasn't at the dinner (invited but couldn't make it). I based the article on an interview I conducted with Patrick. He told me why he chose this or that bottling to go with each dish, etc., and waxed lyrical about Irish whiskey in general. He's a great guy. And since I now have the opportunity for another plug, I shoulld tell you that Patrick took the Cocktails in the Country course last year! :hmmm:

“The practice is to commence with a brandy or gin ‘cocktail’ before breakfast, by way of an appetizer. Subsequently, a ‘digester’ will be needed. Then, in due course and at certain intervals, a ‘refresher,’ a ‘reposer,’ a ‘settler,’ a ‘cooler,’ an ‘invigorator,’ a ‘sparkler,’ and a ‘rouser,’ pending the final ‘nightcap,’ or midnight dram.” Life and Society in America by Samuel Phillips Day. Published by Newman and Co., 1880.

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