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Pairing: Whisk(e)y and foods

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

Pairing whiskey with food can be a wonderful experience that enhances the flavors of both the whiskey and the dish. When it comes to pairing whiskey with food, there are a few factors to consider, such as the type of whiskey, the flavor profile of the whiskey, and the flavors of the dish.


Different types of whiskey have distinct flavor profiles that can influence what foods they pair well with. For example, bourbon whiskey has a sweet and rich flavor profile, which makes it a great pairing for dishes that are also sweet and rich, such as BBQ ribs or chocolate desserts. Rye whiskey, on the other hand, has a spicier and more robust flavor profile, which pairs well with savory dishes like smoked meats and hearty stews.


Bourbon Pairings

  • Grilled meats: Bourbon's sweet and smoky notes can complement the charred flavors of grilled meats like steak, pork chops, or barbecue ribs.

  • Chocolate: The rich, sweet flavors of chocolate can pair well with bourbon's caramel and vanilla notes. Dark chocolate is particularly suitable as it can stand up to the bold flavors of bourbon.

  • Spicy foods: The heat and bold flavors of spicy foods like chili, Cajun dishes, or curry can be balanced out by the sweetness of bourbon. This pairing works particularly well with bourbons that have a higher proof and richer flavor.

  • Cheese: Aged cheeses like cheddar, Gouda, or Parmesan can be paired with bourbon to bring out the nutty and earthy notes in both the whiskey and cheese.

  • Pecans: Pecans are a staple in Southern cuisine and can be a great snack to pair with bourbon. The nutty and buttery flavors of pecans can complement the caramel and oak notes in bourbon.

  • Caramel or toffee desserts: Bourbon's sweet and oaky notes can complement desserts like caramel flan or toffee pudding, creating a rich and decadent flavor profile.

  • Bacon: The smoky and salty flavors of bacon can pair well with the sweetness and oakiness of bourbon. This pairing works particularly well in cocktails like the Old Fashioned or the Bacon Bourbon Bloody Mary.


Scotch Pairings

  • Smoked salmon: The smoky and rich flavors of Scotch pair well with the delicate and buttery flavors of smoked salmon. This pairing works particularly well with peated Scotch whiskies like Islay or Talisker.

  • Dark chocolate: The deep and complex flavors of dark chocolate can be a perfect match for the bold and nuanced flavors of Scotch. The sweetness and bitterness of the chocolate can bring out the malt and fruit notes in the whisky.

  • Cheese: Just like with bourbon, aged cheeses like cheddar, Gouda, or Stilton can be paired with Scotch to bring out the nutty and earthy notes in both the whisky and cheese.

  • Grilled meats: The smoky and charred flavors of grilled meats like steak, lamb chops, or venison can be complemented by the rich and complex flavors of Scotch.

  • Oysters: The briny and salty flavors of oysters can be paired with the smoky and peaty flavors of Scotch, creating a unique and unforgettable flavor profile. This pairing works particularly well with Islay whiskies.

  • Shortbread cookies: The buttery and sweet flavors of shortbread cookies can pair well with the rich and fruity notes in Scotch, creating a decadent and satisfying flavor profile.

  • Fruitcake: The rich and dense flavors of fruitcake can be complemented by the complex and nuanced flavors of Scotch. This pairing works particularly well with Speyside whiskies that have fruity and floral notes.

Irish Whiskey Pairings

  • Smoked salmon: the smooth and slightly sweet taste of Irish whiskey pairs well with the smoky flavor of salmon. It's a classic pairing that works well as an appetizer or light meal.

  • Irish stew: the rich, hearty flavors of a classic Irish stew match well with the warm, spicy notes of Irish whiskey. It's a perfect pairing for a cozy dinner on a cold evening.

  • Chocolate: the creamy, vanilla-like flavors in Irish whiskey complement the sweetness of chocolate, making it a perfect after-dinner pairing. Try pairing a glass of Irish whiskey with a piece of dark chocolate for a decadent treat.

  • Cheese: the earthy, nutty flavors of Irish whiskey work well with a variety of cheeses. Try pairing it with a sharp cheddar or a creamy brie for a delicious snack.

  • Grilled meats: the smoky, charred flavors of grilled meats pair well with the bold, complex flavors of Irish whiskey. Try pairing it with grilled steak or lamb for a hearty and satisfying meal.

  • Oysters: the briny, salty flavors of oysters complement the light, floral notes of Irish whiskey. It's a classic pairing that's perfect for a special occasion or a romantic evening.

  • Apple pie: the sweet, spicy flavors of Irish whiskey work well with the warm, comforting flavors of apple pie. Try pairing it with a slice of warm apple pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert.

Whiskey is a versatile and complex drink that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with food to enhance the tasting experience. The type of whiskey, its flavor profile, and the food being paired are all important considerations when selecting a pairing. Whether it's the bold flavors of bourbon paired with barbecue or the subtle notes of Irish whiskey paired with seafood, there is a pairing out there for everyone.


Experimentation and personal preference play a big role in finding the perfect match, so don't be afraid to try something new. With a little knowledge and a lot of taste testing, the possibilities for whiskey and food pairings are endless.

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