Wine & Spirits

Are Cocktails The New Wine? How to Pair Your Favorites at Your Next Dinner Party

After a year of lockdown, the home market for global cocktail mixers exploded into an $8.6 billion industry. And although we seem to be well past the stay-at-home restrictions of the first part of the decade, experts say sales aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

Cocktail experts say more and more people are turning to craft creations to pair with their dishes, whether fine dining or grilling hamburgers.

“The idea that wine is the only pairable beverage with food is giving way to a more culturally inclusive, and frankly, more exciting point of view where almost any beverage can be paired with food,” says Derek Brown, author, bar owner, and spirits expert. “I’ve seen restaurants…create a cocktail for the sole purpose of accompanying the dish.”

Sales of barware like coupe glasses and cocktail tools have “sky-rocketed,” according to an article by Vine Pair. The popularity of cocktails and at-home mixology has exploded since the pandemic. The investment in actual tools and barware, rather than just liquor itself, suggest the trend is here to stay.

According to a market analysis report by Grandview Research, the cocktail mixers market size is expected to grow 8.7 percent, year over year through 2030.

Whether it’s a classic dry martini or something new and cutting edge, the reasons for the interest in cocktail pairings may be varied. When the pandemic closed down bars and restaurants across the globe, consumers started experimenting with cocktails at home.

Pairing at Home

This included everything from take-home kits to live cocktail-making classes with bartenders. A 2020 survey by Bacardi states that “20 percent of customers are now keen to sample drinks they would never have tried pre-lockdown.”

Additionally, adds Brown, the food we’re pairing with alcohol has become much more global. “…there is no longer just French and Italian fine dining. You have Filipino, Nordic, Afro-Futurism, you name it. And with such a diverse cadre of restaurants and bars, it only makes sense to broaden the perspective of what pairs with food.”

Adding to that is the desire to host again – notably dinner parties. A survey from ButcherBox says that Americans planning to host in their homes rose by 25 percent over pre-pandemic levels.

If you want to try food and cocktail pairings at home, Brown has some tips to help you get started.

“The best chefs and bartenders are utilizing their imagination,” he says. He encourages home bartenders to do teh same. “If Chablis and oysters work, why not use a Rickey cocktail (gin, lime, soda) with a mineral-y water like Badoit? If Port and bleu cheese work, why not make a Port Sangaree (Port, lemon, bitters, sugar)?”.

Mostly, his advice is not to overthink it. If you like a clean, crisp martini with a bold and flavorful tomahawk steak, go for it.

“Don’t follow the rules. Period. To this day, my favorite pairing is sweet tea and grilled cheese sandwiches. There’s no science behind that, and no sommelier will tell you it’s the right (or wrong) pairing.”

That being said, Champagne cocktails can go with almost everything. Brown says it can cut through a dish’s butter, fat, and salt. It cleanses the palate with each sip, and every bite “is brand new and not the collections of flavors from everything you’ve eaten.”

Here’s a simple Champagne cocktail Brown provided that may help get you started with your pairings:

Champagne Cocktail

Recipe by Derek Brown

Serves OneWine Glass1 sugar cube

6 dashes of aromatic bitters

4 ounces brut Champagne (or Non-alcoholic Sparkling Wine Alternative such as Thomson & Scott “Noughty” Sparkling Chardonnay)

Lemon peel for garnish

Coat a sugar cube with bitters and add to a wine glass. Pour chilled Champagne over the cube and garnish with lemon peel.

He swears by pairing it with scrambled eggs, by the way.

Another tip? Experiment with non-alcoholic cocktails using citrus and bubbles. This way, you can experiment all you want without getting tipsy. It also works for your sober-curious guests or practicing ‘mindful drinking.’ Here’s another example (used with permission) from his book Mindful Mixology: A Comprehensive Guide to No and Low-Alcohol Cocktails.

Pinch Hitter

Recipe by Derek Brown

Serves OneCocktail Glass2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

1 oz. Ginger Syrup

1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar

½ oz. Aquafaba

6 drops of Salt Tincture

Combine ingredients with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Have Fun With It

And at the end of the day, don’t take yourself too seriously. “I think the real reason food and beverage pairings work is not just because it adds a new sophisticated layer, but because it’s fun,” says Brown. “It’s fun to see how things work together, and it adds a surprising element.”

This article was produced by The Gourmet Bon Vivant and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.



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