Wine pairing? Done man. These days it’s all about the mind.
Cocktails are no longer entertainment before dinner, but rather taking place at the table; holding strong against their culinary counterparts. Often charging you the same amount as a fine glass of wine, a pinch of whiskey, or a well crafted cocktail can be just as exciting and even more complementary to your meal.
But… whisky? With food? That works. Australian whiskies, like food-friendly and Starward Whisky, made in Melbourne, can be much lighter and more approachable (easier) to drink, making it ideal for blending into (but not overpowering) your meal. They are closer to Japanese whiskeys than, say, Irish; which makes sense when you think about the huge (and popular) Izakaya culture in Japan.
Yes, you are sold. But where to start ? We’ve done the hard work to bring you this guide to whiskey and how to pair it with food like a pro. Speaking of which, we caught up with Starward Whiskey founder and whiskey connoisseur Dave Vitale to fill in a few gaps.
You see, Starward is aged in Australian red wine barrels, which Dave says enhances its fruitiness and versatility. And it makes sense, we are used to drinking red wine at the table, so why not whisky? “We see so many chefs and bartenders raving about playing with the juicy red wine notes of whisky…and coming up with amazing cocktails.”
How to drink it
If you’re new to whiskey, there are a few things to know: drinking it neat will give you the full, rich experience you need to enjoy. A few drops of room temperature water will open up the palate and depending on the whisky you can bring out nice little notes like vanilla or stone fruit. Serving over ice might be tempting, but it can water down and the cold can mask the flavor of the golden goodness. No Bueno. Of course, dipping your toe with a cocktail is also a good choice. Remember to enjoy responsibly, mmkay?
If you’re confused, don’t be. Dave tells us; “The main rule is… there are no rules except for fun (so the opposite of fight club). [If] it’s a big, bold whiskey or a lighter, brighter whiskey – there’s a way to pair the salty and the sweet and the fiery and the fresh”. Phew.
How to pair it
You’re used to wine, of course, and some of the same rules apply: in general, lighter, fruity whiskeys (think Australian or Japanese) pair well with simple seafood dishes like sashimi.
Case in point: the Whiskey Cured Salmon with Tozasu and Pink Grapefruit at Melbourne’s Yakimono, which comes to life when paired with their punchy lemony Ginza cocktail. Why does it work? “It’s bright, sparkling and lemony,” Dave tells us. “The light and delicate Japanese flavors of this dish come together so well. They are complementary and fluffy, so you can fully enjoy the salmon and its dressing”.
Bigger, bolder whiskeys that can be higher in alcohol (or even have a punchier oak) can handle a meal as bold as itself. They are perfect when paired with a roast chicken in butter and leek or a funky blue cheese; “Something to cut through the wealth and defend yourself,” adds Dave. They are also divine when paired with perfectly rich dark chocolate or gooey truffle.
Chin Chin’s Sydney Whiskey Turmeric Roast Chicken with Hellfire and Cucumber Pickle is elevated when paired with their Ginger Fizz: bubbling with the ever-versatile Starward Two-Fold, yuzu, ginger and pear to add some extra spice. A big fan of this one, Dave tells us, “we needed the punch to resist the pickle and chili. The guys at Chin Chin know their flavor pairings. The spiciness of the ginger and the citrusy yuzu complement it perfectly. »
Punchy, spicy whiskeys can withstand a hearty meal. Go crazy: pair an Old Fashioned with a stew of beef shin in sauce or a warming Osso Bucco. The same goes for dessert; dark chocolate or molasses caramel will come to life with the right whisky.
Melbourne’s Hawker Hall sticky date pudding with whiskey-infused cocktail caramel is perfectly associated with their “knowing when to bend them”; a whiskey, coffee, salted caramel situation that needs no further explanation. But here’s one anyway: “We all know, or should know, that whiskey and chocolate work well. Adding coffee and salted caramel takes it to the next level.
So this is it. You are (sort of) an expert. Go ahead and see where your palate takes you. Or partake in one of the Starward Whiskey Pairing Dinners across Sydney and Melbourne over the next few months.
Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by Starward Whiskey and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Please support the sponsors that make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.