Monday, April 16, 2012

Rant: Cocktails & Food Pairings?

Is a cocktail merely a path to getting drunk? 

Most of the time, you'll probably enjoy a cocktail without considering how it might interact with food. It might be as an apertif before dinner, or out at a bar without any food at all. Even if you drink the cocktail with your dinner, you probably don't worry about pairing it with your dishes, or give it even the most minimal of attention. Why is that the case?

With the abundance of artisan spirit producers and the craft cocktail movement, cocktails may never have been better. They are worthy creations that deserve more respect and which can be properly paired with a variety of dishes and cuisines. This came to my mind again this past week when I attended a media dinner at the ArtBar, a restaurant at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Around last November, the ArtBar underwent some significant changes and now have instituted an intriguing craft cocktail program.

Their cocktail menu has plenty of interesting selections, and they make some of their own mixers, such as ginger beer, cream soda and bitter lemons. I tried four of their cocktails, including a Pimm's Cup with ginger beer, French Standard, Smoked Cherry Fizz and a Pressure (a nonalcoholic cocktail). All four were nicely balanced, tasty and evidenced their care for their cocktail program. One of my suggestions to them was to add cocktail pairings to their Bar/happy hour menu, and they seemed pleased at this suggestion.

Such pairings, if patrons take to them, might encourage them to experiment with different cocktails dependent on the appetizer or small plate they choose to snack upon. More importantly, it might start getting people to view cocktails in a different light, and not just as a path to getting drunk. Obviously the initial effort must come from the restaurants and bars, from the cocktail specialists, who must decide on which dishes best pair with their diverse cocktails. They might need to consult with their chefs, a united effort to best prepare the proper combinations.

The more restaurants that start doing this, then the more people that would be exposed to thinking about cocktails and food pairings. This would hopefully promote people to think of all alcohol, including wine and beer, paired with food. So which restaurants and bars will be the pioneers in this respect, which will set an example for all others? Which consumers will take a chance and pair cocktails with their food?

Start thinking differently!

1 comment:

Jason Phelps said...

Too bad more restaurants don't, but that doesn't stop us from doing it at home. I've never thought twice about using a cocktail as a food pairing choice. I guess I assumed it was fair game for everyone. A Gimlet is a nice started with a salad or anything drizzled with a viniagrette. Champagne cocktails containing cognac and just a touch of sweetness go splendidly with a cheese plate.

Now I'm thirsty.