Food With Whisky


Our blog is a place where whisky lovers can find inspiration and knowledge, both on the practical side of enjoying whisky and through reflections on our own personal experiences.

Food With Whisky

There’s always been a controversy as to whether or not whisky is an appropriate drink to pair with food, but the popularity of the idea of pairing whisky with food is growing. It’s interesting to note that earlier whisky was always had on its own i.e. without any food. Having it with food was considered bizarre. Though it was a common practice to have something to eat with Whisky in European and Asian countries, it remained a little unconventional in the US until now.

However, thanks to the connoisseurs who are pairing foods that go extremely well with this divine amber colored liquid which comes in many forms- whisky, Bourbon, Scotch, or Rye, it is slowly gaining popularity in the US too. In order to pair the whisky with foods, you should have a basic idea of the classes and types of this spirit.  The flavor of Whisky varies from light to full-bodied; from a touch of sweetness and fruit, with citrus notes, to more complex and bold with strong peat, earthy and smoky notes.

According to the flavors, food is paired with whiskies in a manner so that neither the whisky or the food dominate or overwhelm the flavors of the other. Rather they should complement each other’s flavor and help elevate the experience.

For example, Bourbon has a hint of vanilla and caramelized sweetness in it so it goes well with foods having this caramelized component. The general rule of thumb is, Light whiskies go well with seafood and spicy meals, Medium whiskys go well with high protein meals whereas full bodied whiskys go well with hearty dishes containing high-fat content.

Here are top 7 foods that go along well with different types of Whisky:

  • Dark Chocolate: Chocolate and whisky really compliment each other. Instead of opting for sweet sugary chocolate go for good quality dark chocolate bars. Experiment with chocolates and its recipes here, mix and match till you find the perfect match for your spirit. Dark orange flavored chocolate is a good choice to experiment with Scotch as the citrus note in Scotch will really enhance the orange flavor of the chocolate.Plain dark chocolates go well with strong whiskies. Milk chocolates, plain or with a hint of ginger or chili, works well with rye whiskies. Salted hazelnut chocolates go well with Single malt Scotch whisky. Whereas America’s favorite bourbon goes well with almost all kind of chocolates.
  • Cheese: Whisky and cheese share so many things in common. Both are aged and both come in so many different flavors. This is the reason why cheese makes such a good pairing with Whisky. Aged cheddar goes well with Whiskies having a smoky flavor. While strong blue cheese goes well with spicer Whiskies. Soft cheese such as brie or goat cheese goes well with light fragrant whiskies with a touch of sweetness.
  • Dried Fruits and nuts: You can’t ever go wrong with dried fruits and nuts. Just be a little innovative to mix and match. Although you need to be careful in mixing the flavors. Keep in mind what flavor of nuts and whisky compliment each other. For example, sweeter nuts will go well with strong peaty whiskys, whereas sweeter whiskies go well with bitter ones. Smoky flavored whiskies go well with heavily roasted nuts. You can go in for a premix pack of party nuts as well.
  • Grilled Steaks: If it’s a dinner party and you are unsure what to serve with Whisky go for grilled steaks. This pairing can never go wrong. Steaks go very well with medium bodied rich whiskies. Whiskies having rich deep and smoky flavor really works well with beef. Though you need to experiment a bit according to the flavors that you are putting in your steak and it’s fat content. For instance, if you are going in for a leaner steak bourbon goes well with that.
  • Meatloaf: Meatloaf goes well with strong peaty whiskies. The high alcohol content and spiciness of full-bodied whiskies, like a flavorful single malt whisky or rye whisky, goes well with rich, fatty dishes like meatloaf. Healthy meatloaf served with barbecue sauce goes well with strong whiskies.
  • Smoked Salmon: Smoked Salmon marries well with whiskies with high rye content. The smokey flavor of the Salmon gives the bourbon a spicy fruity taste. These two flavors complement each other really well.
  • Apple Crumble or Apple pie: This dessert goes amazingly well with light fragrant whiskies having a touch of sweetness. It can be served with American whiskys such as bourbon and whiskies having high rye content. The caramel flavors in the bourbon complement the apple pie exceptionally well.

What Food Goes With Whiskey? Best Food Pairings

Trying to find the best food pairings with whiskey couldn’t be easier now thanks to our comprehensive guide. Whiskey doesn’t have to be consumed exclusively at the bar. Some of your whiskey’s best notes could be unlocked through a good food pairing. The 6 best food pairings with whiskey are:

  • Steak 
  • Smoked salmon 
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Haggis
  • Sushi

1. Steak 

Steak is one of the best pairings with whiskey. With a long-established relationship, steak and whiskey get along very well. 

Steak and whiskey are both very versatile in style and flavours. Different cuts are best paired with a variety of whiskies. A fattier ribeye steak can go well with a smoky Ardbeg Uigeadail, whereas a leaner steak cut is nicely paired with an American whiskey, like Bourbon or Tennessee style. Whiskies with a more balanced flavour are best to pair with leaner cuts. 

However, if you’re looking for a whiskey that works with most cuts, then find yourself a smoky whiskey. Strong peaty whiskies from Scotland with earthy and smoky notes are a steak’s best friend. Medium-bodied rich whiskies are also a versatile choice when choosing your whiskey. 


2. Smoked salmon 

Unlike with steak, pairing a whiskey with smoked salmon is a delicate and precise task. The salmon has a delicate, smoky, creamy flavour. Pairing smoky, strong whiskies here would be a mistake. The strong flavours of the whisky would overwhelm the salmon, making for an unenjoyable and unappreciative experience. 

A rye whiskey would be best to pair here. Rye whiskies are drier and more fiery than other whiskies. A single malt Scotch from Speyside would also be another good recommendation. A Scotch like this is delicate and creamy, just like the salmon, making for a perfect fit to balance flavours. 


3. Cheese 

Cheese and whiskey are a perfect combination. What’s best about this pairing is the sheer variety of combinations you can make. We’ll make it easy for you here…

Soft cheeses like brie or goat’s cheese require a touch of sweetness. Imagine it’s like pairing the cheese with honey, it’s amazing. Sweet, malted barley Scotches like Glenmorangie are the best fit here. 

Strong blue cheeses like Roquefort or stilton need a stronger note. Having a spicy noted whiskey would be best. The rich, peaty flavours of an Islay malt, such as Laphroaig, is a good choice. A Canadian rye whisky would also be just as good. 

Soft, mild, creamy cheeses like burrata or mozzarella need whiskies with lighter notes and fragrance. The trick is to not overwhelm the cheese with the whiskey. An Irish whiskey like Green Spot is recommended for its light, crisp notes. 

Cheddars can be split into two: mild and mature/vintage. Mild cheddars need a nicely balanced Bourbon. A vintage or mature cheddar requires something to challenge the strong flavours. A peat whisky from the Highlands would be our recommendation here. 

Next cheese night, instead of bringing a bottle of wine, have your guests bring a different bottle of whiskey each. Pair them with the different cheeses for the ultimate tasting experience. 


4. Chocolate 

Maybe you’ve never thought of marrying these two elements together, but you should. The best chocolate to do this with is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate holds more intense notes to be extracted compared to milk or white chocolate, which is much sweeter. 

Rich, spicy truffles pair well with a fruity GlenDronach. Whereas a dry, bitter dark chocolate is better with a peaty single malt from Islay. A chocolate containing spices like chili or ginger needs a fiery rye whisky as a pairing to fully enjoy its body of flavours. 

Nuts also go well with whiskey. A Macallan whisky with sherry-like notes is perfect for an almond chocolate. A sweet, nutty hazelnut chocolate will be best paired with the nutty notes of Tullibardine single malt Scotch. 

5. Haggis 

Scottish Haggis

Of course, as is Scottish tradition, you can enjoy a whisky alongside a traditional haggis. Add a splash of water to reduce the intensity of the Scotch whisky and enjoy the flavours of both. The excellent combination of herbs and meat means a whisky can really refresh your palate during the meal.  

Our guide of whisky expert tips to drinking whisky gives you all you need to know about haggis and whisky. 

6. Sushi 

Sushi and whisky have become a new, exciting pairing in the world of whisky. The great rise of Japanese whisky in recent years has meant this combination has become a hit. Japanese whisky has been modelled on Scotch whisky in its production and grain mash. 

Depending on the type of sushi being eaten, we offer these two whisky recommendations. For sushi with subtle ingredients, a Suntory Toki alongside it compliments it well with its light, refined flavours. For sushi with much stronger flavours, drinking a smooth, smoky Yoichi single malt will perfectly balance the flavours in your mouth. 

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