A guide to food and whisky pairings

whisky and food meal pairing options

Eating and drinking are some of life’s greatest pleasures, so it’s only natural that whisky lovers would want to pair their preferred dram with their favourite meal. From succulent lamb chops to cheese and fresh fruit, different foods have the ability to complement the flavours of your favourite tipple. Curious about which foods will suit your whisky? We’ve got you covered with these ideas…

Snacks

wheel of cheese whisky food snack

If you’re entertaining, consider pairing an after-dinner dram with a gourmet cheese board. The sharp flavours of aged cheese, such as cheddar, gouda and blue cheese, can complement smoky whiskies, while firm cheese such as Wensleydale goes well with spicy whisky varieties. For fans of rich, soft cheese such as brie and camembert, team this with a nice Irish whiskey for a sweet and creamy taste that will provide the ultimate sensory experience.

As a popular bar snack, nuts are a great nibble to pair with whisky. To balance the flavours found in a strong whisky variety, snack on sweet nuts such as almonds. If you prefer bourbon, opt for heavily roasted and bitter-flavoured nuts like walnuts to munch on.

Rich, smooth chocolate can perfectly complement whisky, especially high-quality dark chocolate. Try pairing this with a mature sherry for a taste similar to Black Forest gâteau. The fruit and toffee notes will blend with the bitter taste of cocoa in the dark chocolate. If you enjoy a Scotch whisky, orange-flavoured chocolate can go down a treat.

Fresh fruit can also bring out the complexities of whisky. Slices of apple and ripe pears pair well with Scotch while dried fruit such as figs and dates can complement a Tennessee whiskey and other caramel-flavoured varieties.

Meats

medium rare steak whisky food pairing

A generous dram of full-bodied Scotch whisky can balance the flavours of a chargrilled steak, by accentuating the smoky notes of the meat. While whisky connoisseurs who prefer medium-bodied varieties should try pairing with flavourful lamb chops or cured meats such as prosciutto so your beverage doesn’t overpower your meal.

It also goes without saying that whisky pairs well with haggis. If you haven’t yet tried a Burns supper to test this theory, mark the date on your calendar (25 January) and make sure you order a good quality puddin’ in preparation. The hearty Scottish dish works particularly well with a sweeter whisky. Or if you prefer to stick to the vegan or vegetarian version, try full-bodied whiskies for the perfect blend of spice and fruit. 

Fish and sushi

Typically, lighter whiskies should be consumed with similarly light fish dishes. Sushi lovers can balance the flavours of their bite of sashimi or sushi with a dram of a light bodied Japanese whisky. If you enjoy slightly sweet and fruity whiskies, then team this with seasoned prawns or seared scallops.

Smoked salmon pairs particularly well with a single malt Scotch whisky or even rye whiskey varieties, bringing out the peppery and smoky notes of your drink with a delicate, creamy balance. Bourbon is also a good choice as it can enrich the flavour of the salmon, making for a slightly fruity, spicy taste sensation.

Desserts

apple pie whisky food pairing

Of course, we can’t forget to pair your favourite dram of amber coloured liquid with a mouth-watering dessert. There’s nothing like a slice of apple pie and a glass of whisky to warm you up in the colder months. Look to rye whiskey and even Tennessee whiskey to accentuate the cinnamon and vanilla notes found in this heart-warming dessert.

Alternatively, you could prefer a decadent cheesecake. If this is the case, wheat whiskies pair well with this dish. You could even add a drop of this whisky to the cheesecake if you are making it from scratch, increasing the flavour for an indulgent experience.

And then there’s the Scottish classic that is cranachan. You don’t have to just have this on Burns Night, and this can make a delicious, fresh dessert to enjoy all year round. Whisky connoisseurs should look for a good quality malt whisky to complement the oats, raspberries, cream and honey in the dish.

As the nights draw in quicker, why not snack on some shortbread with a drop of your favourite whisky? Light honeyed whiskies are key here, as the buttery notes pair well with the similar taste of the shortbread.

Everybody has different tastes and preferences which can have an impact on the flavouring of your beverage. Drinking whisky is a personal experience, so use this guide as a reference while you experiment and find a food and whisky combination that suits you.