Wednesday, May 20, 2009

BBQ and Booze

Some say that there is only one choice when it comes to pairing a drink with your grilled food...beer. But with wide variances of tastes and sophistication of palates, I think it is safe to say that many wines and cocktails should also be considered. Here’s a guide to matching almost any barbecue staple to wine, beer and even cocktails.


Spice of life

No matter what you’re cooking up, there’s a few things that will steer you decision. Spicy foods require a slightly sweeter accompaniment to help offset their heat. White wines such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer are good choices for things like spicy shrimp kebabs, while reds like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon work well with hot barbecue sauces. Crisp, hoppy lagers that pair well with spicy dishes are Singha from Thailand, with its fruit and spice notes, while Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic is another great choice. Sweet cocktails such as fruit daiquiris or piƱa coladas also help to soothe the spiciness without numbing the palate.

Sweet hereafter

Most barbecue sauces contain a lot of sugar and though some also have a bold, smoky flavor, their sweetness still has to be taken into account when pairing with alcohol. Generally, your drink should always be sweeter than your food — that’s why ice wine, port and liqueurs are often served with dessert. Dark beers such as Newcastle Brown Ale and Guinness contain natural sweetness and smoky notes that pair wonderfully with sweet-basted meats like ribs or chicken. Wines such as Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc are great matches with sweet fare but for different reasons. Merlot because of its ripe fruit flavors of plum and blackberry while Sauvignon Blanc’s crisp acidity helps balance the sweetness of the sauce. Citrus-y cocktails with pronounced lemon or lime flavors work best with sweet sauces, like lime margaritas, mojitos or whiskey sours.

Burgers

Your barbecue will undoubtedly see a few hamburgers hit its grill before the end of the season and to best feature its hardy goodness and numerous toppings serve either Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon for red wines and Sauvignon Blanc for white. Hoppy, aromatic ales like Bass Pale Ale help to balance the rich beef flavor with its bitter aftertaste. A cool and refreshing gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber will also help cleanse the palate and cut through the rich meat.

Steak

Here, the cut of meat is the decision-maker. Mild filet mignon calls for a light red such as Pinot Noir or a heavy white like an oaky Chardonnay. More tasty cuts like New York strip or fatty rib eyes require something more substantial such as a California Zinfandel, especially if there’s a black-pepper crust involved. If you prefer beer with your bovine, a dark smoky ale or stout is in order — either Muskoka Premium Dark Ale or Guiness will do nicely. Few cocktails will hold their own against a well-seasoned steak, though a Bloody Caesar can handle the task.

Salmon

Cooking directly on cedar or other wood planks has really come into fashion recently and salmon is one type of fish that is both sturdy and rich enough to benefit from the deep smoky flavor planks afford. A crisp Pinot Grigio helps cut through the oily fish and compliments the earthiness of the wood smoke, as do Pinot Noir and Beaujolais as red choices. Belgian blondes or wheat beers are also good options because they’re naturally sweeter and have a fresh citrus aftertaste; add a lemon wedge to really bring this flavor out. Salmon is another meat that goes well with a sour or a whiskey-based cocktail, such as a Manhattan or Rob Roy.

Sausages and pork

Medium to full-bodied reds such as Malbec or Rioja go very well with barbecued pork while whites should have a slight sweetness balanced by crisp fresh apple notes like those from Germany or Alsace. Bavarian beers also compliment pork as long as the choice is not too spicy; choose full-flavored lagers or bock-style beers. Cocktails with pork seem strange, but if you must choose, pick clear spirits such as vodka or white rum with soda or cola.

Chicken

Whether it’s cut up into pieces or you’re grilling a whole bird, barbecued chicken is a wonderful match with Merlot or Chardonnay. It also lends itself incredibly well to white zinfandel or other rose wines with their sweet berry flavours and fresh acidity. Light, refreshing lagers such as Sleeman Silver Creek or Steam Whistle are two great choices. Cocktails should also be refreshing — think tangy citrus or orange-based.