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Sarah Scrimshire

Let’s Meat for Whiskey: 5 Easy Whiskey and Meat Pairings for the Grilling Season

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Grilling season is near and I have whiskey and meat pairings for you to try! Pairing alcohol appropriately with the different flavor profiles of food can be complicated, but I have some options for you to take the guesswork out of whiskey and meat pairings!


Steak Pairing

Who else has to fight the urge to shout “STEAAAAAAK! Where’s my steak??” lik Michael Scott does in the The Office? 😂 Now, I am sure Michael would be famously pairing his steak with scotch and Splenda, but he might be on to something with the Scotch… wink wink. Up first for our whiskey and meat pairings is steak!

Imagine sinking your teeth into a perfectly cooked steak, its exterior seared to a golden-brown crust that promises a symphony of flavors with each bite. As you cut into the steak, the savory aroma of charred meat mingles with the tantalizing scent of caramelization, drawing you in with its irresistible allure. But oh! You need a sip of something smooth and complex to pair with the steak- that’s where an aged Scotch whiskey or bourbon comes into the chat.

When selecting Scotch whisky or bourbon to pair with a well-grilled steak, it’s essential to choose whiskies that complement the rich, savory flavors of the beef while enhancing its natural characteristics-look for whiskies that boast notes of oak, vanilla, and caramel to elevate the natural flavors of the beef.. Here’s a more detailed description of what to look for when doing whiskey and meat pairings:

  1. Scotch Whisky:
    • Opt for Scotch whiskies with a robust character that can stand up to the bold flavors of the steak. Look for single malts or blended Scotch whiskies with smoky, peaty undertones, as these can add depth and complexity to the pairing. Take a look at Lagavulin scotch and pick your favorite based on the notes.
    • Seek out whiskies with pronounced notes of oak, vanilla, and caramel. These flavors will harmonize with the caramelized crust of the steak, enhancing its richness and sweetness. Try Johnnie Walker Black Label!
    • Consider Scotch whiskies from regions like Islay or Speyside, known for their distinct flavor profiles. Islay whiskies often exhibit smoky, briny notes, while Speyside whiskies tend to be smoother and sweeter, with hints of fruit and spice.
  2. Bourbon:
    • Bourbon is renowned for its sweet, caramel-forward profile, making it an excellent match for grilled steak. Look for bourbons with high corn content in the mash bill, as these tend to be sweeter and more approachable. Take a look at that list here!
    • Seek out bourbons aged in charred oak barrels, as they impart rich flavors of vanilla, caramel, and oak to the whiskey. These notes will complement the caramelized exterior of the steak, enhancing its natural sweetness.
    • Consider bourbons with a higher proof, as they can provide a robust backbone to the pairing and stand up to the bold flavors of the steak. Barrel-proof or cask-strength bourbons, in particular, offer intense flavors and a satisfying mouthfeel.

If you want to add smoke to your drink of choice, opt for our Bourbon Barrel smoke dust as it is robust and will hold up nicely with the flavor of the bourbon or scotch with the flavors of the steak for whiskey and meat pairings.

Ribs: Finger-lickin’ GOOD!

The ultimate summer grilling treat is definitely ribs. I can just taste the barbecue sauce, smokiness, and creamed corn. YUM! Now, let’s learn the next in whiskey and meat pairings with a favorite: ribs.

Ribs often have a bold, smoky flavor that pairs well with the spiciness and robustness of rye whiskey or the sweetness of Tennessee whiskey. Look for whiskies with hints of spice, caramel, and molasses to complement the savory flavors of the ribs.

  1. Rye Whiskey:
    • Rye whiskey is known for its bold, spicy character, making it an excellent complement to the robust flavors of grilled ribs. The peppery and spicy notes in rye whiskey can elevate the smokiness of the ribs while adding depth and complexity to the pairing.
    • Look for rye whiskies with a high rye content in the mash bill, as these tend to have more pronounced spice and pepper flavors. These spicy notes can enhance the savory aspects of the ribs, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.
    • Additionally, seek out rye whiskies with hints of caramel and vanilla in the flavor profile. These sweet undertones can complement the natural sweetness of the barbecue sauce or glaze used on the ribs, enhancing the overall flavor experience.
  2. Tennessee Whiskey:
    • Tennessee whiskey, with its smooth and sweet profile, offers a delightful contrast to the bold flavors of grilled ribs. The sweetness of Tennessee whiskey can help balance the smoky and savory elements of the dish, creating a well-rounded and satisfying pairing.
    • Look for Tennessee whiskies with notes of caramel, toffee, and maple syrup. These sweet flavors can complement the caramelization on the ribs, adding depth and richness to the pairing.
    • Additionally, seek out Tennessee whiskies with hints of molasses in the flavor profile. The rich, dark sweetness of molasses can enhance the savory aspects of the ribs, creating a flavorful and indulgent pairing experience.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

For our next whiskey and meat pairings, think lighter! Grilled chicken tends to have a lighter, more delicate flavor compared to red meats, making it an ideal match for the smoothness and subtle sweetness of Irish whiskey or the floral and fruity notes of Highland Scotch whisky. These whiskies add depth and complexity to the dish without overpowering the flavors of the chicken for your whiskey and meat pairings.

  1. Irish Whiskey: Here is our blog about Irish Whiskey to get some ideas: Irish Distilleries
    • Irish whiskey is known for its smooth and approachable character, making it a versatile pairing for a variety of dishes, including grilled chicken. The subtle sweetness and mellow profile of Irish whiskey complement the lighter, more delicate flavor of grilled chicken without overwhelming it.
    • Look for Irish whiskies with hints of honey, caramel, and vanilla in the flavor profile. These sweet undertones can enhance the natural sweetness of the chicken while adding depth and richness to the pairing.
    • Additionally, consider Irish whiskies with notes of citrus or orchard fruits. The fruity elements in Irish whiskey can provide a refreshing contrast to the savory flavors of the chicken, creating a harmonious and well-balanced pairing experience.
  2. Highland Scotch Whisky:
    • Highland Scotch whisky is prized for its diverse flavor profile, which often includes floral, fruity, and sometimes slightly smoky notes. These characteristics make Highland Scotch whisky an excellent match for the lighter flavors of grilled chicken.
    • Look for Highland whiskies with floral and fruity aromas, such as notes of apple, pear, and heather. These delicate flavors can complement the subtle flavors of the chicken while adding complexity and nuance to the pairing.
    • Additionally, consider Highland whiskies with a hint of peat smoke. The subtle smokiness can add an extra layer of flavor to the pairing, enhancing the overall taste experience without overpowering the chicken.

Oink Oink Pork

The next in whiskey and meat pairings is one of my personal favorites: pork! From pork chops to pulled pork, the flavors are so complex here and can especially be very smoky.

Pork’s versatility allows it to be paired with a variety of whiskies, but bourbon’s caramel sweetness and oaky undertones complement the richness of pork exceptionally well. Alternatively, the lighter and smoother profile of Canadian whisky can also enhance the flavors of grilled pork, especially when paired with maple-glazed pork chops.

Canadian whiskey, often spelled without the ‘e’ as “whisky” in keeping with Canadian and Scottish tradition, is a type of whisky produced in Canada. It has several distinct characteristics that set it apart for your whiskey and meat pairings:

  1. Ingredients: Canadian whisky is typically made from a mixture of grains, including corn, rye, barley, and wheat. This blend of grains gives Canadian whisky its unique flavor profile.
  2. Smoothness: Canadian whisky is renowned for its smoothness. This is often attributed to its production process, which typically involves multiple distillations and aging in oak barrels. The result is a whisky that is easy to drink and often enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
  3. Aging: Canadian whisky is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years, although many are aged longer. The aging process imparts flavors from the wood, such as vanilla, caramel, and oak, which contribute to the whisky’s overall taste profile.
  4. Blending: Canadian whisky is commonly blended, meaning that different whiskies are mixed together to create the final product. This allows for consistency in flavor and quality from batch to batch.
  5. Light Flavor: Compared to some other types of whisky, Canadian whisky often has a lighter flavor profile. It may exhibit notes of caramel, vanilla, honey, and sometimes fruitiness, with less emphasis on peat or smokiness.
  6. Versatility: Canadian whisky is versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. While it’s commonly sipped neat or on the rocks, it also mixes well in cocktails such as the classic Canadian whisky and ginger ale combination known as a “whisky and ginger.”

Seafood, Eat Food: The Last of the Whiskey and Meat Pairings

Lastly for whiskey and meat pairings is seafood! For grilled seafood dishes such as salmon or shrimp, consider pairing them with peated Scotch whisky for a smoky and maritime flavor combination. Alternatively, the delicate and nuanced flavors of Japanese whisky, with hints of fruit and floral notes, can complement the subtlety of grilled seafood without overpowering it.

Japanese whisky is a revered category of whisky known for its exceptional quality, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. Here are some key characteristics to help with your whiskey and meat pairings:

  1. Subtlety and Balance: Japanese whisky is often celebrated for its subtlety and balance. Distillers in Japan focus on achieving harmony between various flavor elements, resulting in whiskies that are nuanced and refined.
  2. High-Quality Ingredients: Just like other whiskies, Japanese whisky starts with quality ingredients, including malted barley, corn, and sometimes other grains. The water used in production is often of exceptional purity, sourced from pristine natural springs.
  3. Craftsmanship and Tradition: Japanese whisky production is deeply rooted in tradition and craftsmanship. Many Japanese distilleries adhere to time-honored methods, including the use of traditional pot stills and wooden fermentation tanks. Attention to detail and precision are paramount throughout the entire whisky-making process.
  4. Variety of Styles: Japanese whisky encompasses a range of styles, from light and delicate to rich and complex. This diversity allows whisky enthusiasts to explore different expressions and find ones that suit their preferences.
  5. Influence of Scotch Whisky: Japanese whisky has been heavily influenced by Scotch whisky, particularly in its early days. Japanese distillers often adopted Scottish techniques and practices, but over time, they’ve developed their own unique approaches and flavor profiles.
  6. Attention to Aging: Japanese whisky aging is a crucial aspect of production. Many Japanese whiskies are aged in oak barrels, often previously used for bourbon or sherry, which imparts additional flavors and complexity to the spirit. The length of aging varies depending on the desired flavor profile of the whisky.

I hope this gives you some insight on your whiskey and meat pairings as we dive into the spring and summer months!

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