When you think Whisky, you think: leather couches, after business conversations, cigars and suited men in a dim lit lounge. While that is true, the cigar is thought of as the natural accompaniment to a good single malt but what about food? We have all heard, went to, tried out and done the wine pairing. Pairing food with wine is what haut culture dictates and what everybody does. However, wine is not the only alcohol you could pair food with. Drinks like Vodka, Sherry, Tequila, Cognac, Brandy and Whiskey have been given a back seat in the wine world, being tagged as aperitifs or digestives.
Whiskey is often overlooked as very much the men’s lounge drink with a complicated culture and specific drinking methods. This often veers people off trying to join the whiskey-drinking club. But it is actually quite simple and not as complicated as it seems. Just like most drinks Whiskey has its own characteristics: Is it Smokey, fruity, nutty, salty, earthy or grassy? As it oxidizes the flavor evolves. Adding warm water to Whiskey opens and dilutes it so it becomes easier to taste the levels of flavor. Adding ice will constrict it and make it a little more viscous.
The very evolution of flavors within a Whiskey makes it an interesting pairing with food. Chef Gabi Ferrer of Mercury Lounge in ABC (Runner up for the Taste Up All Night Scene Award) developed a menu on this premise using the Glenmorangie Single Malt Whiskeys as inspiration. Each dish designed to be eaten in 3 stages, neat, splash of water and cube of ice.
The versatility of whiskey pairing is endless, a subtle flavoured melt in your mouth fish meshed perfectly with a lighter 10-year Glenmorangie. The key to whiskey paring is to use the different characteristics that are not easily attained in food to compliment a dish. A tender beef dish like ox-tail flavored with sharp ginger or horseradish will blend nicely with slightly thick whiskey that will envelop the palate like velvet. Adding the water and later the ice make it easier to find your preference and balance to your taste.
There is a rare moment that most foodies try to achieve, a perfect alignment: a simple concept where good food, good company and good alcohol are paired. While sniffing the 12-year Glenmogangie Nectar D’Or and picking up all the nutty-caramel notes, a warm vanilla custard with yogurt and apricot ice cream was served. This combination on the pallet reaches a perfect balance of hot/cold and savory/sweet.
Next time you are sitting in a restaurant looking through the wine list why not try a whiskey with one of your courses.