As someone who loves cooking shows, one thing that always confused me was how chefs chose drinks to go along with protein dishes. I know it’s not random and culinary experts are usually very specific about every component of the meal. It makes sense—have you ever made a single misstep while following a recipe? Could be a disaster. (The baking bread phase of the pandemic was not my shining moment).
So how are drinks chosen for different types of meat? Is there a system? As a matter of fact, there is. And so you don’t have to go looking it up the next time you’re making a nice meal, romantic dinner, or grilling to impress your inner circle, here’s the basics of what you need to know when pairing meat with drinks—and don’t worry, there’s straight-edge-friendly options too.
General things to remember
Overall, here’s some things to take note of:
- If you serve spicy meat, go with a lighter, sweeter, low alcohol content drink to balance out the flavors.
- When you have a strong protein, match it with a strong drink. For instance, bourbon goes great with beef.
- Don’t forget to add non-alcoholic beverages so everyone can have a chance to enjoy your meal.
Poultry is like the home base of protein for basically so many cultures. I can’t think of a region that doesn’t use chicken in at least a couple of culinary options. Because it’s so versatile, let’s start here.
Serve chicken with sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, or tea. These are neutral, yet light-to-medium tasting drinks. They’re as versatile as chicken, when you think about it. Just watch out for how buttery your chard is. Some people (raises hand) are not a fan. Of course, if all you have is beer on hand, this is a perfect protein option. The flavors in the beer compliment chicken very well.
Red meat’s up next. If you’re using beef, pork, or lamb, you’re going to be serving a heavy meal, no matter how it’s prepared. While it’s perfectly fine to go with a no-brainer, like beer (including non-alcoholic) with a burger, if you want to kick it up a notch, we got you.
Go with red drinks for red meat. Simple to remember, right? This is going to be red wine, red juice, stout, and whiskey.
The stronger your meat, the stronger your drink should be—and not by way of alcohol content, but flavor. For instance, if you’re going with something like brisket, which is a low and meaty part of beef, go with a type of merlot. It’s a red with deep, diverse flavoring. And don’t forget a non-alcoholic choice, like Le Petit Chavin.
Of course, you can’t leave seafood out of the equation. It comes with its own set of unspoken drink rules, too. So the next time you’re serving up shrimp scampi or pan-fried tilapia, opt for lighter choices.
Gin, white wine, or sparkling wine are excellent pairings for seafood. Since this type of protein isn’t as husky as the previous two, you can go lighter with beverages. You can also take an alternate route here. If your fish entrée is spicy and you want a balancing component, use your drink option. A sweet, low content beverage, like Pinot Grigio, will do just that.