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Pairing Mixed Drinks

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On my routine tour through the web, a post on eater.com came to my attention, which was all about cocktail pairing. 

A couple of influential bartender got the chance to speak - including no less figure as the illustrious Jeffrey Morgenthaler. 
While especially Jeffrey's contribution was interesting, I have my own and maybe more comprehensive view on pairings.

More after the break...


 I came across mixed drinks and food pairings and even mixed drinks and cigar matchings already a long time ago [speak - a decade].

The issue is: cocktails [and other mixed drinks] are a perfect partner to pair with food - however you have to know some basics:

Think concept:
Perfect pairing with mixed drinks involves, that you understand, that it doesn't suit people, who are casually looking for something nice with matches food. Yeah - you can definitely find some dishes which would rather work good with your typical dish - however an ambitious pairing can be compared with a tasting menu in a good restaurant - you won't have it, any day, when you are just hungry. 
It not only challenges your expertise, but also it demands the connoisseurship of the guest.

Matching portion sizes:
This could be one of the most important points... if you are matching a main course with a typical {short} cocktail, your ambitions could end disastrous, before you even started. I would recommend a completely different approach than with your routine wine pairing. Wine is quite "long", usually lower in alcohol, diluted - cocktails are usually higher in alcohol and more concentrated. The dish should be created for the drink [in a perfect world...] - larger dishes should be served with long[er] drinks, smaller dishes like starters should be served with cocktails [e.g. your classic Martini cocktail extra dry]. At the end, you should not reorder another drink, because you haven't finished yet the dish [or vice versa]

Water:
Yes, cocktails have usually a much higher alcohol content - but even with wine: you should always drink water along with your booze. The water can refresh the palate and keeps you for a longer time sober - also it limits [or even expels] hangovers.

Matching intensities:
There are drinks which are rather concentrated, there are drinks which are ethereal - same applies with food.
If you are matching both together, you are on the right path of real great correspondence. An old fashioned type of drink, which is rather spirit driven paired with some foie gras mousse would absolutely work. The "textures" are different - but the sharp alcohol cleans away the creamy mousse. However a Mojito would be an enemy to the fatty liver - its character is too effervescent for the rather heavy dish - however a light canape - maybe with celery or green apple would work great. Aim for a great interaction.

Complimenting favorable aromas vs. contrasting controversial aromas
There are aroma profiles, which almost everybody encounters positive: most of them are based on caramelization or the Maillard reaction: vanilla, toasted nuts, caramel, toffee, coffee, cocoa, chocolate and some more. You can call those "roast aromas" because they occur, when heat is applied in any step of the preparation of food.
You should never, ever, ever counter balance those aromas - as these aromas make your pairing: delicious and fantastic and amazing and magical.

However there are also controversial profiles, which, by the way, don't even need to be at all unpleasant - however too much of it, can just throw the experience in imbalance [or just makes the whole pairing horrific]. 
These aromas are: peat, smoke, spiciness, vegetal aromas, sulfur [raw onion], oak, earthiness, mushrooms, truffles, forest soil, pine / spruce aromas, cigar box, leather, sweat, yeasty and fermentation aromas, stable,  cheese and so on.

Don't get me wrong -  these aromas can be delectable, but you don't want to overdo it. Pair it with something not too strong, which has an agreeable character and you are on the right path.
Oakiness, smokiness and peatiness are not only mating perfectly with dried fruit aromas and roast aromas - the combination even gets even better than the sum of its parts.

Also make sure, that the tastes are balanced: you might be surprised, if you hear, that salty counterbalances very good the bitter [if enough salt used, the bitterness is almost disappearing]. Salt in small quantities also enhances overall drink aromas. And off course it also balances sweet. Additionally sweet opposes sour in a recipe => lets rather say sweet & sour working together magnificently without neutralizing each other [however each component should be close to balanced themselves]. 

Don't overcomplicate - don't forget the fun
There is for example the website foodpairing.com which can show you, which ingredients naturally [on a molecular level] work very good together - however I rather see it as hocus-pocus'like marketing stunt. It is worth an inspiration [but I don't think, that it is worth the professional and unlimited subscription], but  you still have to use your common sense.

Overall don't cramp in the ambition to find the 100% perfect match - rather have fun and let partake your guests with your fun-journey. Whimsical combinations, which bring a smile to the guest is more preferable than the Michelin judge raise his eye-brow.

The verdict:
See the pairing of cocktails more as extended [and premiumized] service - instead of offering the dreaded salted peanuts, the guests can opt for some more elaborate corresponding finger food.

Wine tastings are equally always big compromises. On some occasions, people like to have to 4 courses, 4 different wines; but most of the time, you will chose the best compromise - so your dinner-company can also enjoy the bottle of wine with their food, as you can enjoy it with yours.

Off course in this situation, you can also offer a cocktail - but a better matching is the other way around.
What I will do in the next menu is, to suggest specific pairings [experiences] for an inclusive price. Hence guests can order, experience and savor on the corresponding elements without being intimidated.

Did I forgot one essential part in cocktail & food pairing?

Stay tuned, in one of the next posts, I will share with you my ideas of pairings for Skylite


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