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Pairing Whiskies with Food

Jack Daniels Whisky With Burger

The American Whiskey category sees one of the biggest sales uplifts over the Christmas period. But with less dwell time in venues, opportunities for the typical after dinner tipple can be hard to come by. So how can you make the most of this profitable and popular category?

Bespoke food and drink matching is becoming more popular across all drinks categories and has expanded from wine, into beer and now into the spirits categories. Matching your drinks range to your food elevates the experience for customers but it is rare to see whiskies paired. Arguably, the main reason we so rarely see whiskies at the dinner table is due to the high alcohol content. 

The burn of whisky and its bold flavours should really rule it out of the competition to accompany our meals. And yet, the pre-conceptions that whisk(e)y is too intense and strong in alcohol to work as a food match are being broken down. Outlets are increasingly pairing whiskies with specific foods in order to enhance the flavour of both. So whilst in the past, whisk(e)y and food matching has been confined to Burns Night suppers or Scottish themed menus, it is more frequently appearing on food menus as a pairing suggestion.

Whisk(e)y offers a vast array of different flavours and styles from smoke, spice, peat, floral, vanilla, dried fruit and many more which can work with a variety of food types. The key is to ensure that the whisk(e)y does not overpower the food - something that it can easily do. For American Whiskey, this is particularly relevant as the varying bold, fruity and aromatic flavour notes of the whiskey cuts through and accompanies the rich flavours of the meat you're serving.

Here are our recommendations for good whisky and food matches


Light & Floral Whiskies

Smoked salmon
Parsnip soup
Soft cream cheese
Bread & butter pudding

Fruity & Spicy Whiskies

Cured meats
Fruit cake
Apple pie

Rich & Rounded Whiskies

Cock-a-leekie soup
Roast venison
Steak and kidney pie
Crème brûlée
Christmas pudding
Chocolate fondant

Big & Smoky Whiskies

Fish and chips
Anchovy based sauces
Strong blue cheese
Mature cheddar
Dark chocolate and ginger

Laid-back & Mellow Whiskies

Classic Burger
Fried Chicken
Pulled Pork
Venison Sausage
Charcuterie (salami etc)
Smoked meats

Bold or Spicy Whiskies

Pulled Pork
Beef Brisket
Short Beef Ribs
BBQ meat
Beef Brisket
Casseroled game

There are plenty of matches that work, and plenty that do not - but you can certainly have some fun discovering them. Once you've found something that really works, entice customers into more profitable choices is by highlighting the pairings on your menu. A sentence or so accompanying each dish recommending the best whisky to enjoy it with can have an instant impact. It takes very little time to add a recommendation to a menu and an easy way to gain incremental sales with dishes across your menu.

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About the author

Luke Siddall (alumni)

I'm Matthew Clark's resident content creator, looking after our social media, website and customer communications. I was a cocktail bartender for while before joining but I now spend most of my time on the other side of the bar.

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