Sure, everyone loves a nice cabernet franc or sparkling wine around the holidays. But the next time you’re looking to pair a holiday meal with something festive, why not try reaching for a bottle of whiskey, gin or rum? It doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Pairing fine food with spirits is just as much a thing as pairing food and wine. Pick the right spirit, and it’ll make your holiday meal even brighter.
How To Pick The Right Spirits For Your Holiday Meal
The main challenge of pairing anything with a holiday feast is the sheer number of options you could serve. But chances are you have about 90-percent of the food set without even thinking about it. Your sister, after all, will complain if the green bean casserole isn’t made exactly the way your great aunt prepared it, and we won’t even get started on the pie varieties your dad is expecting.
Start with the foods you know will be on your table and pick a few standouts to create pairings. Think of spirits and cocktails that will subtly complement the food, whether by providing a complementary flavor, echoing a spice or counteracting the cold weather outside. While, in general, you’ll want to pair a rich, hearty dish with something lighter, no rule says you can’t serve rich classic eggnog with that slice of chocolate mousse pie if that’s what your heart desires. Spirit and cocktail food pairings are, after all, meant to be festive and fun.
Our Spirit and Cocktail Recommendations for Your Holiday Meal
Holiday Fish Course: For many of us, seafood on Christmas Eve is sacrosanct. Sure, we may not do the whole Feast of the Seven Fishes, but there will be fish. Vodka, gin and tequila-based cocktails tend to work best with fish dishes.
“The Winter Grove Martini [made with Matchbook Distilling Co. ‘A Land of Muses’ Gin and ‘Sadie Pear’ Brandy, Cap Corse Quinquina Blanc Vermouth, and mint, with a mandarin orange peel and mint garnish] would be an excellent welcome cocktail to a Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner. The bright sweet flavors from A Land of Muses Gin and Sadie Pear Brandy match perfectly with the vermouth, citrus, and mint flavors. This welcome cocktail is a great way to kick off a long meal of so many different types of gifts from the sea,” says Paul Monahan of Matchbox Distilling Company.
If you prefer vodka, a nice, dry vodka martini would work—or a Moscow mule, if you favor something with a bit more spice.
Holiday Pasta Course: There are many different ways you can go with a holiday pasta course, from a heartier, meat-based red sauce or lasagna to a drier veggie-focused dish or a slightly sweet kugel. If you want something light, you can’t go wrong with a cranberry or pomegranate gin or vodka and tonic (swap Seedlip for a non-alcoholic version). Old fashioneds with tart cherry, nutmeg, mace, and spice would also pair nicely, as would brandy-based cocktails like a classic sidecar.
Holiday Meat Course: For hearty proteins, choose a clean whiskey, a neat pour of vermouth, a sipping rum or an Old Fashioned.
“Old Fashioned Fashions [made with Matchbook’s ‘Metamodernity’ cherry wood smoked Rye Whiskey, Myris nutmeg liqueur and Angostura bitters, with a lemon or orange peel garnish] are great for all of those hearty proteins. The spice and tart cherry pair well with any level of temp done on all three of those,” suggests Monahan.
Holiday Vegetable Course: Whether you’re making a variety of latkes for Hanukkah, or you’ve swapped the Thanksgiving turkey for a Thanksgiving acorn squash, there are so many vegetable dishes that can be the star of your holiday meal. Old Fashioneds are also great options for anything vegan or vegetarian, as the cocktail’s dimensions won’t overpower the dish.
Holiday Dessert Course: Whether you’re team pumpkin pie or all about the chocolate, a martini is a classic option for the dessert course.
“We always suggest a good martini for dessert, so naturally anyone at Matchbook would say a chilled down Winter Grove Martini. But if you were looking for something to complement something of substance, the Zeine Cocktail [made with Matchbook’s ‘Fortis and Regia’ Brandy, pineapple gomme, lime, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and Angostura bitters, with a lime peel and cherry garnish] with its baking spices and dried fruits, would pair well with chocolate, cheesecakes and even cookies,” says Monahan.
10 Long Island Spirits to Stock Your Bar With or Gift This Holiday Season
- Sagaponack Farm Distillery’s Rhubarb Liqueur
- Sagaponack Farm Distillery’s Distillery Cucumber Vodka
- Better Man Distilling Co.’s Halcyon Days Cranberry Thyme Vodka
- LIV’s Original Potato Vodka
- Matchbook Distilling Company’s Fortis and Regia Brandy
- Matchbook Distilling Company’s A Land of Muses Gin,
- Matchbook Distilling Company’s Sadie Pear Brandy
- Matchbook Distilling Company’s Metamodernity Cherry Wood Smoked Rye Whiskey
- Montauk Distilling Company’s Black Sail Rum
- Montauk Distilling Company’s Tunney Apple Redcap Bourbon Whiskey