A dinner plate with colourful food accompanied by three cocktails.

Blogs & Inspiration

Bar Skills: How To Pair Whisky With Food

Learn how to pair certain food and drinks and best add these combinations to your menu.  

Authors: James Fowler, World Class Bartender; Vasilis Kyritsis, Top 50 Bar Owner; Ewan Gunn, Global Whisky Master

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Creating the perfect pair

Delight customers and exceed their expectations by learning to pair certain food perfectly with drinks. Matching your serves and dishes creates an opportunity to increase satisfaction and encourage customers to spend more by delivering a memorable experience.  

Learn from James Fowler, Vasilis Kyritsis, and Ewan Gunn to uncover the essential fundamentals of pairing food to master this art.


The core principle of pairing food and drink is that the elements must work together. When pairing food with drinks like cocktails, you want to work with the biggest flavour in your meal when creating a drink to enhance the taste and experience.  

A sweet dessert often won't work with a sweet cocktail. Instead, a sharper, crisper, and lighter cocktail will provide a better balance to the meal. Vasilis Kyritsis, Owner of The Clumsies, one of the top 50 best bars in the world, shares some examples of outstanding combinations.

  • Aged rum and bitter chocolate work well because of their acidic and bitter character.  
  • Vodka and fish are a great pair, as the spirit's crispness balances the fish's fattiness.  
  • The smokiness of whisky goes well with dried, full-bodied red meat.   
  • Tequila Blanco and its earthy identity go great with vegetables and other foods with a herbal character. 

Aperitif and Digestif Pairings

The best way to pair food and drink is to offer them in your menu as aperitif and digestif pairings. These can unlock revenue opportunities and gives you a chance to showcase your food and drink pairing talent.  

A great aperitif pairing is a crabmeat salad made with avocado, green beans, cherry tomatoes and lime paired with a quality Gin and Tonic. The salad here pairs well with the floral notes of the gin.  

A fantastic digestif option is fermented and pickled vegetables paired with a Negroni. The acidity of the pickled vegetables adds more complexity to the Negroni, and the herbal flavours also complement each other well.  

Watch Now: Vasilis Kyritsis Pairing Guide

Watch as Vasilis Kyritsis guides you through exceptional food and drink pairing combinations to help you elevate your service.

Pairing With Whisky

Whisky is incredibly varied, with distinct and different aromas, flavours, and tasting notes. This makes it a great spirit to create cocktails and drinks that pair with food. Pairing the right food with the right whisky can be tricky.

Follow these core tips from Ewan Gunn to master whisky and food pairing:

  • Think about the flavours that whisky can bring out of the food and vice versa. 
  • The flavours need to complement each other but don't need to match. For example, spicy foods often work well with sweeter whisky.  
  • Light whisky works best with lighter foods, such as seafood.  
  • Serve medium-bodied and richer whiskies with gamey meat to enhance the flavours.  
  • Full-bodied whisky works best with strong-flavoured foods, such as a cheese platter.  
  • The aroma and texture are also important to consider when pairing whisky and food.  

Despite wine being the most popular drink to pair with food, whisky is growing in usage, especially in spicy South Asian and Indian dining.   

Although heavy beer has traditionally been the drink of choice when pairing spicy food, a popular trend is to pair the spice and sizzle of Indian food with whisky cocktails.  

This creates an exciting and enticing combination that offers a more rounded flavour experience. This is something that many curry houses and restaurants focused on South Asian flavours are doing. 

Recipes to try

Key Takeaways

  • The core principle of pairing food is to create balance while using complementary flavours.  
  • A great way to offer food and drink pairings is with your aperitifs and digestifs.  
  • Whisky has become a great drink to pair with food, as there are a lot of different varieties that work with various meals.  
  • Whisky cocktails make a great pair with spiced food, enhancing the palette while offering freshness.

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