How To Pair Whiskey With Food: A Guide To Flavor Combinations

How To Pair Whiskey With Food

How To Pair Whiskey With Food: A Guide To Flavor Combinations

We’ve all heard of pairing wine with food, but not often whiskey. A huge part of the wine-drinking experience is incorporating it into a meal. We closely associate lots of wines with particular dishes like red wine and steak, white wine, and fish, and rose with charcuterie. We don’t often discuss other alcohols in this manner, however.

Beer gets its run in the sun as it compliments bar food - a place where beer is typically drunk. Burgers, pizzas, fried foods, olives, nuts, and more often get thought of alongside beer. Whether wine or beer, we can all imagine what the drinks bring to the table to enhance the food. But we ask, why not whiskey?

At CWS, we love whiskey. We love drinking whiskey in almost every way it comes. Cocktails, neat, over ice, as an ingredient in food, and more. Whiskey often has more defined flavor characteristics which make it quite easy to pair with food. If you’re a whiskey drinker, you’ll want to read our pairing recommendations.

Whiskey has so many different production processes, ingredients, regional restrictions, and potential treatments. What we mean by all of this is that the flavor profile of whiskey is so diverse. Whiskey pairing with food only makes sense to those of us who like the brown stuff! So, here are our favorite whisky pairing ideas. We have chosen some of America's favorite foods for our pairing selection.

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American BBQ

american bbq

Nothing says America like backyard barbecue and delicious whiskey. The smokey, peppery, salty, sweet flavors of the fatty meat need something truly clean to cut through all the flavor. Fat can be the hardest thing to pair against so your options must be carefully considered. Barbecue is definitely a food that goes with whiskey, but the question is which one.

Our best recommendation would be to go in one of two directions. Either a rye that isn’t particularly peppery, or a corn-based bourbon that has some decent rye content. For us, this boils down to two fantastic bottles. The first is Bulleit rye. It isn’t as crazy peppery as other bottles and has a deliciously balanced sweetness to it.

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If you prefer something a little less rye-forward, we believe the Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a beautiful option as well. We absolutely love pairing this whiskey on the rocks with some freshly smoked brisket.

Also Read - Some Fun Facts About Whiskey

Mexican Food

mexican food

Mexican food is normally paired with tequila and mezcal. While we fully endorse this pairing, there are some other amazing options to pair with Mexican food as well. These will particularly apply to American-influenced Mexican food (aka Tex-Mex). 

While you might think that a sweet, balanced bourbon will complement this cuisine, we have some other ideas. An American-inspired Mexican dish like fajitas would be supported fantastically well by a peaty, smoky scotch. This scotch food pairing will bring some incredible earthy, deep, spicy tones of Mexican spices. 

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Scotch food pairings are often quite stripped back. Things like scotch and cheese boards are commonly found on fancy menus around the world. We believe that there is an art to this, but it is sometimes a bit too subtle. A lovely limey chicken taco would balance beautifully against the smoky delicious profile of a good-quality Scotch like this Glenfiddich.

Ramen and Salty Japanese Food

japanese ramen

In Japan, they have pretty set food and drink pairings. While wine is not as popular (though there are some exciting companies developing in certain regions) beer reigns supreme. Ramen and Japanese BBQ (teppanyaki) are nearly always drunk with crisp Japanese beer. Sake, soju, seltzers, and highball cocktails are often drunk as well.

One food that goes with whiskey that people don’t often discuss is ramen. The deeply flavorful, fatty, salty broth and starchy noodles are difficult things to cut through. However, classic American bourbon can add a whole new dimension to these flavors. A lovely corn bourbon like this Basil Haydens provides a lightly spiced and vanilla profile that completes this meal.

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There are obvious whisky pairings here. Japanese whisky might be a first choice, but we feel that they are more robust and punchy in profile than bourbon. You want something to support these flavors and we feel that Basil Haydens does this really well.



We love pairing incredible seafood with bold bottles of scotch. You wouldn’t think that seafood is one type of food that goes with whiskey. Something we’ve been loving recently is pairing light foods/drinks with the opposite expectation. For example, white wine with bolognese and red wine with fresh starters for example.

A light steamed or grilled fish would go really nicely with a warming whiskey. Japanese whisky would work really well here as it is often light but punchy. This Kikori is made from 100% rice and has an incredibly subtle set of background flavors that will pair really well with fresh fish.

Bar Snacks

bar snacks

We believe you can taste the best snacks with whiskey. We love pairing olives and roasted cashews with most whiskies, but particularly whiskies that have a barrel finish. This Old Elk Port Finished Cask has an incredible, deep fruity flavor profile that creates an incredibly balanced drink. This works really well with the salty, naturally fatty snacks you find in bars.

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We hope you have enjoyed reading about some of our favorite foods to pair with whiskey. This list is just the tip of the iceberg as there are so many amazing whiskies out there! Have a look at our online store for some amazing prices on fantastic whiskies to pair with your next meal.