Just like wine, whisky too can be paired with food for a wholesome culinary experience.
Bringing together flavours and aromas of food and beverage, when done correctly, is more than just the sum of its parts. Food and beverage pairing doesn’t only belong to the world of wine, it works fantastically well with spirits as well. In India, with our love for food and unwavering love for whisky, it would be wrong for us not to give them both a shot together.
So, I’ll talk about whisky and food pairing, something that I personally enjoy. Whisky pairings are a little more complicated than wines because of the high alcohol strength that has the ability to overpower most dishes. I have to admit it takes a lot more work and sometimes can be somewhat of a stretch. But when done correctly the pairings work beautifully.
The salient features of pairing whisky and food remain largely the same as that of wine — match or contrast flavours and keep in mind the intensity and weight of the spirit and the food so that one doesn’t dominate the other.
Whiskies are different in flavours and aromas depending on the water, barley and stills used to make them, the barrels used to mature them, where the ingredients like barley and water come from, and of course human intellect. No chef produces the same dish exactly the same way, if you catch my drift.
Once I paired a peated bully of a single malt whisky with 36-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano — more commonly known as parmesan cheese — dressed with a touch of organic honey, and I knew I had blown my guests away. Something you might have seen more commonly at hotel bars and is completely done to death is dark chocolate – at least 70 per cent cocoa strength and a 18-year-old port wood matured syrupy whisky, which is quite divine. But it’s not limited to cheese and chocolate.
Don’t be under the notion that whisky should only be paired with western cuisine. You must give Asian, and particularly Indian food, a shot. I love Peking Duck served with sweet plum sauce with a sweeter variety of whisky — perhaps Bourbon. Try an aromatic spicy biryani complete with cold raita to go along with a spicy and fruity whisky. The warmth of the whisky contrasts with the cool of the raita and the wood spice of the whisky matches well with the spice in the biryani.
I particularly like foods cooked on the barbecue or grill, or smoked to go along with my whiskies. The charred characteristics that these food items take on from the cooking technique are a brilliant match to the sweetness and smokiness or the peat influence of some whiskies. Kebabs and single malts are a legendary pairing as well, and this doesn’t only apply to the non-vegetarian kind.
If you put some thought into the style of whisky you are about to drink or prefer — whether light and floral, fruity and spicy, peaty or smoky, or full bodied and rich, there is a food pairing out there to go along with it. The world of whisky is getting larger every day and there are countless cuisines to try them all with, to match your pairing preference. All you really need to do is keep experimenting.
(Nikhil Agarwal is a sommelier and CEO at All Things Nice)
Malt Week ongoing till July 6 and is designed to do just that with dinners, tasting flights, paired menus and malt based cocktails being showcased at at leading hotels and restaurants in Mumbai. Contact: 9820698883