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We asked Jamie Fleming, owner of Alba in Brisbane and former Masterchef contestant, what some of his favourite ways of incorporating spirits into food is.

Having worked for so long between the kitchen and bar, my inspirations from both areas tend to crossover frequently. From utilising culinary techniques in drink creation through to pairing cocktails as a part of a degustation, I have always been quite comfortable swapping hats to get the required results. At its core, the creative side of this industry is all about flavour. Spirits provide us that in spades.

What then, is the best way to harness this massive punch in the face of flavour when we are talking about food? Here are a couple of examples of ways we have used spirits in the Alba kitchen.

Alba’s Jamon & Bourbon butter has been on our menu since the beginning and I don’t think it will be going anywhere anytime soon. Bourbon provides us a beautifully toasty and vanilla-forward flavour and incorporating this into a sauce or in this case, a butter, is a great way to elevate any accompaniment. By cooking down Jamon Iberico fat with a good slug of Bulleit Bourbon, we create some beautiful caramelised notes which pop thanks to the extra rye content within the bourbon. This is whipped through house-cultured butter and spread liberally on EVERYTHING!

Tequila holds a particularly special place in the hearts of the Alba Team and we have used it in everything from ceviche to influencing some of our sauces. My particular favourite is adding some Don Julio Blanco to a Chimichurri which can go on everything from fish tacos to steak.

Are we seeing a running theme here? Bourbon with rich sweet butter. Tequila with fresh zingy herbs… Seems pretty similar to the way we think about putting drinks together no?

The most important thing when cooking with spirits is don’t be scared. Experiment! And keep it simple! An oyster with Talisker, a Don Julio enriched sorbet or even the classic Bundaberg chocolate rum ball, spirits most definitely have a place in our kitchen, and they should in yours too.

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