Are you planning to host a dinner party sometime soon? Or are you just looking for something you can serve along with a glass of your favorite bourbon? Did you know bourbon can be successfully paired with different types of food just like wine can? With a little planning ahead of time, you can find the perfect bourbon to go with any meal you’ll be serving, and vice-versa. Below, we’ve put together a list of our favorite bourbon and food combinations to give you some ideas and spark your creativity when it comes time to put together a menu for your next party or classy dinner at home.
Bourbon and Food
Understanding which bourbon to use with your food is all about knowing the differences between the types of bourbon on the market. Remember, too, that this is just about bourbon; whiskey, Scotch, and other similar drinks may have different food pairings, or they may overlap somewhat depending on the style of bourbon in question. We’ve divided this section up based on the different types of bourbon available so you can quickly narrow down your options and find the right food to go with anything you have in mind.
• High wheat bourbon: This type of bourbon has more wheat in it than regular bourbon. The end result of this change in ingredients is mild, soft, and smooth, making it a nice choice for those who are new to the world of bourbon drinking. These bourbons tend to have a dense and earthy taste and aroma that can hold up pretty well when used along with strong foods, but it may not stand out as nicely as some other types of bourbon, either. For this reason, it’s best to go with middle-ground food flavors and choose a meal that combines sweet, spicy, and savory all in one when using a high wheat bourbon. Barbecue is a great option for this type of alcohol.
• High rye bourbon: This type of bourbon is a lot like high wheat bourbon in theory, except that it contains more rye than usual instead of more wheat. For this reason, the bourbon ends up with a very spicy flavor throughout as well as some fruitiness that can be quite subtle depending on the label in question. This type of bourbon is also very strong and powerful with an almost overpowering flavor, so it’s important to pair it with something that can hold up well and keep its own taste when enjoyed along with a strong alcohol. Southern food is a great option here, including spicy jambalaya, sticky ribs with a lot of sauce, and shrimp and grits with chorizo. Anything with spicy ingredients can be a good pair for high rye bourbon.
• Traditional bourbon has a sweetness to it that tends to pair nicely with lighter foods. If you’re looking for a bourbon to use along with tapas, appetizers, most seafood and poultry dishes, or even dessert, you should consider trying traditional bourbon for this purpose. The sweetness of this drink also complements creamy dishes well, so it can be a nice addition to a pasta with a hearty cream sauce, as long as the other ingredients are not too overpowering. Try traditional bourbon along with cheese, chocolate, and other wine-like food pairings, too.
• Pay attention to the proof on any bourbon you’re considering buying for food pairing purposes. Lower proof bourbons tend to be milder and therefore work well with mild food, such as fish, vegetables, cheese, and chocolate. And of course, in the same way, higher proof bourbons are stronger and therefore should be paired with more powerful food flavors.
• Remember, however, that higher proof bourbons can be so powerful that noticing the different complex tastes throughout each sip can be tricky. If you’re looking for a bourbon you can really enjoy on a subtle level, you may want to stick to something milder. In this case, you’ll also want to serve lighter foods and may want to stick to appetizers only for your party situation. If you aren’t as concerned about picking apart the intricacies of the bourbon, however, no need to worry about this when it’s time to choose.
• You can also get a little creative with contrasting bourbon flavors, too. For example, if you have a very spicy high rye bourbon, you might want to try pairing it with something considerably sweeter, like Thanksgiving-style sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. Yes, this may sound like a terrible pairing, but the flavors actually contrast each other nicely and end up creating a balanced sweet-savory-spicy experience when done correctly. This type of bourbon food pairing, however, may take a little practice and sampling ahead of time to get it right, so give yourself a chance to do some experiments before serving to your guests.
• Don’t forget flavored bourbons, but don’t expect them to go well with many types of food. Honey and cinnamon are common bourbon flavors you may run into often when shopping for alcohol. These are nice sipping bourbons and they can often pair well with desserts. However, this is one of the only situations in which you might want to serve a flavored bourbon with food. Otherwise, save this type of bourbon for enjoying on its own after the meal, or serve it before the meal and give guests a chance to savor and sample the flavor by itself.
With one or more of these bourbon food pairings to help you get started, you should be well on your way to an excellent dinner party experience in no time. Even if you’re just looking for a way to sip some bourbon with friends and enjoy some finger foods or tapas at the same time, you can easily discover something to help inspire your food creativity and help you plan your menu accordingly by checking out our list above. Get ready to see for yourself just why so many people enjoy pairing bourbon with meals, snacks, and more.