Can we pair spirits and cocktails with dinner?

Should a cocktail accompany this Ricotta cheese stuffed ravioli? The discussion starts here! (Photo from Alan Moss at The Real Absinthe Blog)

I received an email earlier this week from Alan Moss, who writes about absinthe over at his site The Real Absinthe Blog. He was motivated to get in touch with me after reading about food and absinthe pairings from Pernod Absinthe’s bar crawl in Boston.

I wanted to share Alan’s comments because I’ve noticed of late that there seem to be differing viewpoints on the relationship between spirits and food at meal times.

Here is Alan’s input on the subject from an absinthe dinner in May over in Malaysia:

…We drank absinthe in 7 different ways to match the different courses, and they all went VERY well. We had La Clandestine (the “blanche” or white absinthe that Helen mentions (in the comments section of the bar crawl post)) with several courses, notably in the “Caipirinha” and Death in the Afternoon cocktails which were paired with ravioli and salmon dishes. We had a green absinthe with the oyster and chicken courses.

Good absinthe is very complex and does indeed work well with food.

Beer and wine traditionally seem to be the more obvious choices when choosing a mealtime beverage. Contrary to Alan’s thoughts, I’ve noticed people tend to be of the impression that the harsh alcohol content of spirits can be misguiding and hide the enhanced flavors of the food. These individuals I’ve spoken with will have a cocktail before dinner and then move to wine with their meal. As  for me? Well, I certainly don’t have the world’s most ‘developed’ palate; however, I’m happy to see the cocktail continue on throughout the evening.

Developing even further on this – are spirits simply served on the rocks an acceptable dinnertime drink? Is it just cocktails, with their syrups and acidic juices, being the problem child in this debate over mealtime beverages? There seem to be more and more opportunities arising to enjoy cocktails paired with gourmet meals, but are they truly balanced? Share with me your thoughts!


1 Comment

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One response to “Can we pair spirits and cocktails with dinner?

  1. Thanks for posting/linking, SJ!

    Not a statistically sound survey for you, but I re-posted on Facebook and got the following answers to your headline question (asked specifically about absinthe):

    Yes! 3
    Maybe, but I prefer wine. 1
    Definitely not; it’s heresy to drink absinthe that way. 1

    Absinthe lovers, almost by definition, can be quite experimental, so maybe they are the wrong people to ask.

    I do think you are right that many other spirits don’t go so well with food. With several herbal ingredients, including fennel, absinthe may be a better food complement than other spirits.

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