Drink Up

Experts of their craft recommend which alcohol to imbibe with different dishes

Oct 19, 2016 at 12:50 pm

click to enlarge Cynar punch and a sherry daiquiri - Prepared by Tasha Boyd of Please / Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Prepared by Tasha Boyd of Please / Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Cynar punch and a sherry daiquiri


Beer: Chris Mitchell, co-owner of Woodburn Brewery

Wine: Kate MacDonald, winemaker and co-owner of Skeleton Root winery; Laura Landoll, advanced sommelier and adjunct professor at the Midwest Culinary Institute

Cocktails: Ryan Santos, chef and owner of Please


Beer: Mitchell likes to drink fruit beers with appetizers, cheeses and “snackables.”

Wine: “We don’t often give enough props to wine’s ability to pair with simple grub,” MacDonald says. “One of my personal favorites is sparkling wine and good, old-fashioned salted potato chips.”

Cocktail: “A vermouth-based cocktail with a lower ABV allows you to enjoy a drink and take in the day without putting you to bed,” Santos says. “Vermouth and vermouth cocktails have a wine base with various botanicals that can pair with many snacks.”


Beer: A good cut of beef paired with a stout is the perfect combination, Mitchell says.

Wine: “One of my favorite beef dishes to make for a dinner party is a beef tenderloin,” Landoll says. “Since tenderloins lack the fat structure, you’ll have a wider range of wines to pair with it. The red wine options range from bordeaux — my favorite — to nebbiolo from Piedmont, sangiovese from Tuscany to cabernet sauvignon from Napa, but my first choice for beef tenderloin is always a Right Bank bordeaux.”

Cocktail: A sherry daiquiri, because beef and lime together are a “no brainer,” Santos says, adding, “Sherry has a light, nutty, caramel flavor that will complement the sear on a perfectly caramelized steak or the char from the grill.”


Beer: Woodburn’s Cedar IPA or any hoppy beer pairs especially well with smoked or baked salmon, Mitchell says.

Wine: “I really enjoy pairing fattier seafood and shellfish, as well as dishes boasting cream-based sauces, with white wines containing elevated acidity,” MacDonald says. “A nice dry riesling, for instance. For lighter seafood I suggest matching the body and acidity of the wine accordingly, delicate wines for delicate fish. … Another fun one that’s budget-friendly is albariño. Go local! Snag some Alabama Fish Bar whiting and stand it up next to our riesling — off-dry, great acidity.”

“As for the rule of ‘no red wine with fish,’ throw it out,” Landoll says. “This rule had much more to do with the freshness of fish 150 years ago. You can pair a red wine that has fewer tannins, like a pinot noir, with fish.”

Cocktail: A cider sangria. “A balance of lightly sweet lillet rosé and the citrus acidity from the lemon in Rhinegeist’s semi-dry cider is the perfect way to complement a fall fluke crudo or cooked cod dish,” Santos says.


Beer: “We have a traditional German pilsner called Steinpils,” Mitchell says. He serves it with pork chops, grilled onions and apples. 

Wine: MacDonald will braise pork shoulders with the same wine she’ll end up drinking. “This harvest, we’ve been killing Eli’s (BBQ) pork sandwich and our 2014 Northern Liberties red wine,” she says. “Smoked meats in general pair well with wines that have seen some barrel.”  

Cocktail: “The flavors of fall are natural partners to a pork dish,” Santos says. “Apple brandy boosted with a light yet complex cardamom-infused bourbon, fresh lemon and local honey will get your fall pork party going.”


Beer: “Sour beers — we have a Berliner Weisse — are nice with lighter meats such as poultry,” Mitchell says. “Saisons would work, too. The acidity and tartness of the beer complements the lighter meats.” 

Wine: “Leaner meats are a lot of fun from a pairing perspective,” MacDonald says. “There’s nothing better than Southern fried chicken and a nice white wine or a lighter-bodied red. With the holidays coming upon us, I would suggest something with aromatics and flavors you love. I often sip on pinot noir and gamay through the fall.”

Cocktail: Punch made with Cynar — an artichoke-based bittersweet liquor — lillet and lemon oleo saccharin (a mix of lemon oil and sugar). “The bitter complexity in Cynar will balance the salt and fat in the dish,” Santos says. “It pairs well with darker meat and thighs.”


Beer: Mitchell says to eat your dessert with an imperial stout. “We have a chocolate cherry milk stout that could be a dessert by itself.”

Wine: MacDonald’s go-to is rosé. “These wines too often get a bad rap due to their color similarity with white zin, but the similarity ends there!” she says. “Rosés are produced from red wine grapes and see a little skin contact to extract a tinge of color and, more importantly, their fresh fruit-forward style.”

“At the end of the day, my personal preference is a glass of champagne,” Landoll says. “A bottle of Crémant d’Alsace rosé is my second choice, with prosecco being a very close third. You’ll always find a chilled bottle of dry rosé in my refrigerator year-round.”

Cocktail: “A gin and tonic is simple, light and refreshing,” Santos says. “Yet every gin tells a different story. Pairing different gins with certain dishes leads to multiple options in the kitchen. Each gin embraces its own flavor profile, from citrus and herbs to roses and local bushes.” ©