Have you found yourself at a favorite Mexican joint blurting out “Margarita, please” as soon as the chips hit the table? Who can blame you? Most food lovers would agree that meals just aren’t complete without perfect beverage accompaniments. Gastronomy, the act of pairing food and beverages, is as much an art based on opinion, as it is a science of food attributes and individual flavors. Most importantly, a beverage should complement the unique characteristics of its food partner, while contributing its own personality with every bite. Be it icy cold beer, slightly acidic wine, or a tall lemonade–choosing the right drink to serve with a meal brings you one step closer to the ultimate dining experience.
- Become friendly with a local wine merchant. Choosing wines can be a humbling experience for any host. While reds often go with meats and whites with fish, experts will tell you there are plenty of delicious exceptions to the rule. The best way to learn is to talk to a wine merchant who will keep your menu and budget in mind while selecting the best from his cellars.
- Go sweet and sour with spicy. Icy cool margaritas and daiquiris chum up to the bold flavor of hot chilies and the rich spices of any Mexican feast. While blended ice makes the drink more cooling to the tongue, it’s the sweet, tart flavor that really tones down the heat of the dish as your guests keep returning for “just one more bite.”
- Remember the original wine cooler. Combine red wine, citrus fruit, sugar, brandy, and sweet spices–like cinnamon and nutmeg–and you’ve got a sangria that’ll make your guests sing. Spanish tapas or paella for dinner? What else would you serve? Sweet fruity drinks make the most of the bold, rich cuisine of Spain, Central America, and the Caribbean.
- Raw fish, get beer. Some vote for hot sake, but the truth is, there’s nothing better than a crisp gulp of a chilled beer to wash down those fresh bites of sushi: the light effervescents clean the palate between each succulent piece.
- Create a lasting impression with a memorable dessert pairing. A bitter coffee or tea may be a pleasant partner to your citrus pound cake or apple crisp, but haven’t you already had a cup or two since this morning? Delve into after-dinner wines or liquors when serving dessert. Pour a fine port to bring out the subtle complexity of your rich chocolate ending or just polish off that bold cabernet with a little cheese tasting.
- Pay homage to non-alcoholic “Hall of Fame’ers. At a BBQ, picnic, or daytime affair, nothing holds a candle to fresh squeezed lemonade and sun-brewed iced tea. Excellent accompaniments to simple sandwiches, grilled delicacies, and Americana favorites, have these quenchers on hand and your party is complete.
- Create sparkling celebrations. Many save champagne for special occasions, but really these bubbles can provide reason to celebrate at any meal. A sip with smoked salmon or caviar and let the festivities begin!