4 Amazing Food and Drink Pairings That Aren't Wine

Wine and food is a tried and tested pairing, whether you’re looking for the best Chardonnay to go with your salmon or comparing a Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon for that Friday night steak. However, there are some new food and drink pairings on the block that might just be on the verge of stealing wine’s crown.

Last year, food and spirit pairings exploded and, here at Grub Club, our supper club chefs are always thinking for more unusual pairings to add an edge to their events. Here are their recommendations for some more unusual food and drink pairings that you might not think of but really should for next time!

Whisky and Indian Food
Head to your local curry house and you’d more likely opt for a chilled beer to wash down your vindaloo rather than a tumbler of Scotch. However, the rich flavours of Indian cuisine pair beautifully with the complexity and depth of Whisky meaning that they’ve been celebrated as perfect bedfellows for a little while now.

Pratap Chahal, aka That Hungry Chef, takes inspiration from his Indian heritage and travels around the word to create his exciting fusion menus. At a recent Burns night dinner, he spiced up traditional Scottish dishes to give them an Indian twist and paired them a variety of Whiskies.

The spice notes of certain Whiskies perfectly complement those in heavier curries.

“Our Haggis Samosa came with an Amrut 12 year old single malt, whilst a Kerala style Cullen Skink was paired with a light and fruity Deanston 12 year old. The dessert was Whisky Mac in liquid and solid form: Ginger cake, whisky custard and caramelised apple with a traditional Whisky Mac (ginger wine, Whisky - we used a Lagavulin 10 year old)”

The spice notes of certain Whiskies perfectly complement those in heavier curries but as with wine, more delicate dishes should be accompanied by lighter flavours and single malts.

Beer and Desserts
Beer pairings are fairly run-of-the-mill now but when you get to the stage of your meal when you’re hankering for a sweet treat, reaching for a dessert wine to complement might be your first thought.

However, beer and desserts have the potential to be a perfect match. For example, the tart flavours of a Belgian style fruit lambic can help to balance the richness of a creamy dessert and the thick malt of a barley wine pair well with strong fruit flavours that can cut through the heaviness.

Doughnut and Beer Pairing - Photo: @Londonpopups Draft House recently brought together Hackney’s finest doughnut makers, The Hole, with The Five Points Brewery for a doughnuts and beer pairing at their Birdcage pub.

Their favourite pairings included “Five Point’s Pale Ale with a Salt & Vinegar round, Red Hook with The Hole’s Cherry doughnut or the IPA accompanied by Lychee & Grapefruit.”

And just as you pair sweet dessert wines with dessert, it’s important to make sure the sweeter your dessert, the sweeter the beer you pair it with so as not to throw either flavour profile out of balance. Other than this, you can have fun trying different combinations to see what works!

One of the most interesting things to come out of our Beer & Doughnut event for me was how most people had a different favourite flavour combination.

As Sarah from the Draft House says, “one of the most interesting things to come out of our Beer & Doughnut event for me was how most people had a different favourite flavour combination. This just goes to show how subjective and personal matching can be. It’s refreshing to break down all the stuffiness around food and drink pairings and just get stuck in. There are so many different beer styles that if you just keep on trying, testing & sampling (the fun bit) you’ll always find a match in the end”.

Tea and Cheese
With wine long being the favourite cheese pairing, tea is the newest drink to be making best friends with cheese. And what it lacks in ABV, it makes up for in nuance and diversity.

Tea and Cheese Pairing - Photo: Karin PringsheimKyle from Tea Studio holds a number of wine and cheese pairing workshops throughout the year.

He says that “tea tends tends to enhance and alter flavours, often with quite dramatic effect, as well as simply complimenting. Moreover, tea acts as a palate cleanser between mouthfuls of cheese, keeping the palate fresh for each taste sensation”.
The warmth of tea melts the cheese and/or alters the texture in the mouth adding an extra element to the experience.

Similar to wine, teas have tannins and astringency and are affected by the climate, soil and water of where it was grown, meaning it’s not surprising that they can be paired in a similar way to wine.

Kyle says that by pairing tea and cheese, you experience “a textural sensation from the pairing as well as a flavour sensation. The warmth of tea melts the cheese and/or alters the texture in the mouth adding an extra element to the experience”.
Gin and Everything!
Whether it’s a slice of lemon, orange or cucumber, if you like your G&T’s, you’ll probably know immediately which garnish to pick to go with your favourite Gin. Gin is a hugely versatile drink when it comes to food pairings. The complex mixes of botanicals used in each different Gin create a diverse range of flavour profiles fun to match with food combinations.

Café and supper clubs hosts Social Pantry recently held a Gin pairing supper club to experiment with the interesting flavour combinations that can be created between Gin and food.

“The rise of craft Gins sees no signs of diminishing. From a food perspective, it’s really exciting experimenting with the different flavourings and botanicals that different Gins bring to the table and how these can work perfectly with a menu. Recently, we matched Rhubarb Gin with an British Apple dessert - it sure was a match made in heaven!"

Gin cured salmon - Photo: Social Pantry

And as well as drinking, Gin’s pronounced flavour also makes it perfect for cooking with as well! “An always absolute winner is Gin Cured Salmon - it’s really simple to produce and the flavour is intensely stunning. For that extra wow-factor, try curing it with beetroot too and you’ll add a subtle richness to the colour.”

Did these ideas awake yuor taste buds? Try GrubClub's food pairing ideas or use them as an inspiration to create your own and share your flavour experience in the comments.

By Jess


Jess heads content strategy at GrubClub, platform for supper clubs and pop-ups in London. Chefs are connected to underused spaces to unlock hundreds of nights of unique dining experiences for adventurous foodies.



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