Brown liquor aficionados, rejoice!
What makes a good beverage pairing is similar to what makes a good friend: The ideal companion has considerable character, and that character allows you to get the most out of your interactions. Brown liquor, which derives its color from time spent in barrels, should by that logic be considered a naturally mature, generous, and intriguing companion. Here are a few of our favorite food pairing to complement your palate.
Cognac + Plateau de Fruits de Mer
It isn't simply because the opulent tray of chilled shellfish and raw seafood echoes nicely with the layers of flavor and luxury of cognac—though it does. Rather, it's that the salinity and oceanic quality of shellfish like oysters and lobster claws finds a smooth and summer-fruited companion in cognac, especially a fine cognac as rich and well-balanced as Remy Martin XO. It's the ultimate surf-and-turf.
How to serve: Neat, room temperature, and often.
Bourbon + Pickled Vegetables
There's a reason the pickleback exists: The bracing brininess of pickle juice is the perfect complement to the sweetness and spice of a bourbon. (The saltiness also helps to mitigate the alcohol's burn.) So naturally, pickled vegetables are more subtly complementary. Their tart crunch is made even better when paired with a sipping bourbon.
How to serve: With a splash of water, cool.
Rye + Sushi Nigiri
With a bolder edge than its cousin bourbon, rye seems harder to get along with. But that's only if you've never tried cracking open a bottle when your sushi order arrives. The whiskey benefits from the soft unctuousness of raw fish, the heft of rice, and the salinity of the seaweed.
How to serve: On the rocks.
Scotch + Duck Breast with Seasonal Vegetables
Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire or, at least, peat with fat. Scotch, especially peated, demands a strong-willed dance partner. Duck, one of the fattiest fowl there is, can more than hold its own. This tussle—smoke and peat on one side, sweet and unctuous on the other—proves ennobling to both parties.
How to Serve: Cut with splash of water, to open up the flavors.
Rum + Glazed Jerk Chicken
The sweet yet complex flavors of rum, an alcohol made with molasses, is a natural fit with the sweet yet complex profile of a glazed jerk chicken. Cooking with the alcohol you're drinking is basic. But in this case, with rum's high sugar content, it's the prudent choice to include rum in the marinade as well as your glass.
How to serve: Neat at room temperature.
Añejo tequila + Lamb Barbacoa Tacos
Not much can rival an aged or añejo tequila in terms of complexity, and that's probably why when tacos and tequila became a thing, it stuck. In terms of the flavor, we're playing with the big boys here. The fatty richness of the tacos—especially street-style and filled with lamb barbacoa—are the only real worthy opponent to the only slightly mellowed fire of tequila.
How to serve: Sip, neat, room temperature.
Brandy + Chocolate Brownies
Brandy is a broad term that can include everything from Armagnac to pisco. But aged brandies often develop dried fruit flavors, and for this reason alone—as well as the silken texture, caramelized notes, and its traditional role as a digestif—it perfectly complements gooey chocolate brownies. Please note, however, the brownies should be—as all brownies should be—not overly sweet, but rather have traces of the innate bitterness of the chocolate.
How to Serve: In a snifter, neat, silly.
Port + Stinky Cheese
As the night extends to early morning, it's only natural that flavors gets stronger and discussion more heated. This is the right moment to break out the aged port and a plate of strong cheese like Stilton. The sweetness of the port and the funk of the cheese rest on opposite ends of the flavor spectrum but somehow manage to meet in the happy middle in your mouth.
How to serve: Neat, room temperature, with the windows open.