Any wine lover knows that the right beverage can help your food taste better, but many assume cocktails aren’t up to the job. Top bartenders give their tips for the best mixed-drink pairings at your summer cookout.
With Barbecue, Go Smoky
The smoky, savory flavors of mezcal, made from roasted agave hearts, make the Mexican spirit barbecue’s soulmate. Jeffrey Knott, of The Fish House and Atlas Oyster House in Pensacola, Florida, suggests shaking mezcal with honey and ginger, plus something tart and dry, like grapefruit, to cut its richness. Top it off with soda, which will tone down the intensity a bit and quench the thirst of quick-drinking guests.
With Burgers, Bring the Bitter
Bitterness helps a drink hold its own next to a robust dish, as it allows the palate to reset between bites and highlights a burger’s juicy texture. Steva Casey, of Swingshift in Birmingham, Alabama, recommends an easy highball of dry vermouth and soda with a few shakes of warmly spiced Angostura; or the classic Old Pal, made with equal parts rye, bittersweet Campari and dry vermouth.
With Charcuterie, Get Salty
Sherry’s “salty notes perfectly mimic those found in cured meats,” says Laura Newman of Sweet Polly in Brooklyn, New York. Pick a drink that won’t overpower charcuterie’s flavors. Two suggestions: the Bamboo, which brings together equal parts Sherry and dry vermouth (with a few drops of orange bitters), or the richer Adonis, which calls for sweet vermouth.
With Lobster Rolls, Talk Tart
“You just need acidity with lobster,” says Adam Robinson of Deadshot in Portland, Oregon. His advice: A classic and refreshing French 75, featuring gin, lemon and sparkling wine. The chilled bubbly and tart citrus provide the brightness this dish needs.
With Chilled Salmon, Drink Your Herbs & Spices
For delicate summer seafood dishes, Nicolas Torres, of Lazy Bear in San Francisco, suggests a spin on the martini that features equal parts caraway-scented aquavit and dry vermouth. The vermouth boosts the herbal flavor of the drink, and adds much-needed body and acidity. Just stir the two with ice and a bit of Cardamaro, then strain into chilled glasses.