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Pairing Whiskies with Food

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Whisky drinkers are becoming an increasingly more valuable demographic, with CGA recently finding that when out in the on-trade, these customers tend to spend about £27 more than the average drinker. 

As a drink to pair with food, there are perhaps some misconceptions about whiskey’s matching ability. Bespoke food and drink matching is popular across all drinks categories, expanding from just wine, into beer and spirits. It is rare to see whiskies paired, perhaps due to their high alcohol content, but venues shouldn’t shy away from this excellent tipple to pair with favourite dishes. 

Research from PROOF Insight has found that Scotch Whisky sales in Great Britain alone are worth an impressive £443 million, showcasing its undeniable allure and a noteworthy 22% year-on-year value increase in its homeland. With the whisky industry experiencing this surge, unlocking the full potential of pairing whiskies with food has become a compelling avenue for the hospitality industry.  

The burn of whisky and its bold flavours might 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 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.

About the author

Seb Pinto

Seb works in digital marketing for Matthew Clark. While studying at university, he worked part-time as a bartender and discovered a passion for the drinks industry. Since graduating in July 2022, he now puts his on-trade knowledge to good use across our channels.

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