Pairing food with drinks - beer & soft drinks

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Beer and a burger and chips

In Kamila Sitwell’s recently published ‘Bespoke. How to radically grow your bar and restaurant business through personalisation’ she discusses food and drink pairings.


Craft beers are probably more popular than they’ve ever been, and consumers are becoming more sophisticated in how they pair the various flavours with the food they’re eating. For example, the creamy risotto on your menu might be best paired with a crisp Pilsner or an American amber lager to balance the hops while staying light on the palate.

The website has identified six of the main signifiers of a good pairing:

·           Crisp and clean with grains

·           Malty and sweet with beans and legumes

·           Dark and roasty with grilled vegetables

·           Hoppy and bitter with game and rice

·           Fruity, spicy and sour with shellfish

·           Tart and funky with rich meats


With all of these pairing ideas, though, you want your guests to enjoy experimenting and trying new combinations, so ensure that you and your staff are trained to give confident advice.

Soft drinks pairing

More and more restaurants are experimenting with soft drinks and tea pairing menus to appease alcohol-free diners and health fanatics. With the gradual realisation that an increasing percentage of the population is giving up on alcohol, the hospitality industry needs to meet a significant demand for alternative drinks that are exciting and appealing – and which will entice the customer to part with their money. The options exist already, for example Benjamin & Blum’s sophisticated range of tea-based ‘spirits’ containing absolutely no alcohol, so it’s up to restaurants and bars to stock innovative drinks.

The concept of pairing food with soft drinks was officially founded by René Redzepi at his restaurant Noma, in Denmark, where diners were served a careful blend of juice featuring flavours such as cucumber and whey, apple and pine shoot, sorrel, and nasturtium with his Michelin-starred tasting menu. In so doing, he created a trend that many wish to follow, given that alcohol consumption is falling.

Brunch with drink

However, it’s not a matter of simply serving fruit juices as consumers are becoming more daring and their demands more exacting. They’re seeking complex taste combinations with aromatic flavours, herbal infusions and fresh ingredients perfectly crafted to complement their dishes. They want to match intensity with strength, and they’re not afraid to experiment.

Premiumising the consumer’s experience

For decades, wine has been presumed to be the beverage of choice for diners looking to complement their eating experience with perfectly suited notes and flavours. However, the world of food and drink matching has developed significantly, from local cafés to high-end restaurants. You could write a whole book (and many have) about the science and art involved in pairing wines with your menu. It’s a subjective choice, though, and there’s no ‘right’ answer.

However, here are a few general guidelines that should keep you on the right track when you’re considering your recommendations for your guests.

Balance the ‘weight’ of the wine and food. A steak will be best balanced with a robust red, like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Barolo, whereas a delicate fish dish would be overwhelmed by this. Instead, fish should be paired with a refreshing but zesty white, such as Pinot Grigio or a light Soave.

Match ingredients. If you have ‘fruity’ ingredients in your dish, for example pork with apples, or duck with plum, think about wines with fruit undertones, eg Viognier or Gewürztraminer.

Consider contrast. The acidity in wine can contrast with the saltiness in some dishes. For example, champagne with smoked salmon or the sweetness of Sauterne with Roquefort cheese.

Versatility. If you are serving Asian foods with a lot of different components, you may need a wine which can complement the many flavours. A Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice with its cleansing acidity, or a Chianti that doesn’t have too much tannin will be a good option to consider.

The above is an extract from Kamila Sitwell’s book “Bespoke. How to radically grow your bar and restaurant business through personalisation”.  For more analysis and insights on how to respond in the competitive, changing world of hospitality by creating experiences,  Bespoke will help raise the restaurateur’s  game providing fresh insights needed to steer a course to customer delight, loyalty and ultimately business success.