Bourbon and Scotch on the Menu? Try These Food Pairings

Craft beer — check! Fine wines — check! Bourbon and scotch, straight-up, in cocktails and everything in between? Check, check and check! And while it may be your grandpa and gramma’s drink of choice, it turns out bourbon and scotch are popular again right now (and, growing in popularity!) with millennials and the younger set. 

Why the thirst for hard liquor? Deep flavors and versatility, according to the bartenders at The Gables at Chadds Ford. They’ve poured a drink or two — actually hundreds — in their time, and they’ve seen trends come and go. But, the current interest in bourbon and scotch seems to be here to stay.

Every good libation needs a delicious food partner, so we’ve pulled together a few recommendations. But first, here’s a little info about what makes bourbon bourbon and scotch scotch.

What’s in a Name?

All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. To carry the “bourbon” name, its mash (grain mix) must be at least 51 percent corn, be distilled at 160 proof or less and — this is as huge as the ingredients are — it must be stored in new charred oak barrels. Yup, those barrels are used just once. Bourbons are most closely associated with Kentucky, but they can be made anywhere in the United States.

Scotch whisky is malt or grain and must be made in Scotland. In fact, the way to produce Scotch whisky is specified by law, right down to the bottling, labelling, packaging and advertising, too. It was originally made only from malted barley, but wheat and rye were later introduced and are quite popular. Fun fact: Scotch whisky is spelled without the “e.” 

Learn These Food Pairing Basics

When selecting food to go with your drink, remember that every pairing is either complementing or contrasting flavors. So, you’re either matching flavors or bringing out different, sometimes unexpected flavors. 

With bourbon and scotch, proof (ABV or alcohol by volume) can also make a difference. The lower the proof, say under 46 percent or so, the lighter the food: veggies, mild cheeses, simple desserts, seafood minus sauces, and chicken.

Quaffing a higher-proof drink? A stiff drink can stand up to robust flavors, such as grilled meats, charred vegetables, anything smoked, rich desserts and cheeses, and even fried dishes.

Pair These Foods With Bourbon

We’ve found Angel’s Envy and 1792 Bourbon, two Kentucky straight bourbon whiskeys, to be really popular. Our bartenders report they’re life-changing neat and on the rocks, and pretty impressive in cocktails, too. 

Try them with bone-in strip steak or filet mignon, smoky mushroom risotto or soup (mushrooms from Kennett Square, of course!), smoky salads, like Caesar made with smoked ingredients, honey-roasted baby carrots, or maple-glazed sweet potatoes, and desserts featuring dark chocolate (may we suggest award-winning Ann’s Chocolate Espresso Cake?).

Pair This With Scotch

Always popular, and available aged from 10 years to 25 years (and don’t get us started on the boutique bottles!), The Macallan Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a great starter sip, as well as a no-brainer for the choosy enthusiast.

Pair it with house-made mozzarella, an artisan cheese plate, herb-roasted beet salad, osso buco, grilled or smoked lamb or pork chops, roasted brussels sprouts, grilled asparagus and desserts featuring deep flavors, such as vanilla bean crème brûlée. Pro tip: Avoid overly spicy dishes and those with prominent garlic notes, which tend to neutralize whisky’s nuanced flavors.

One To Try

Truth be told, our bartenders not only have poured a drink or two (or hundreds), they’ve also sampled a few in their time. They also make one that’s near and dear to our hearts: our aged bourbon Manhattan that practically sells itself!

The Papa Dino is named after owner Ann Kolenick’s grandfather, and we make it just the way her mom made it for him, right down to the touch of cherry juice. It’s made and aged in charred barrels for four weeks, then transferred to a glass container for safe keeping. Not that it lasts long, of course. It’s one to try — and say “cheers” to grandpa while you’re at it.

The Gables at Chadds Ford is nestled in the heart of the historic Brandywine Valley. Our combination of fresh seasonal cuisine, rustic yet elegant charm and enchanting outdoor dining will keep you coming back time and time again. The Gables is also the perfect venue to host your next special event, whether you are planning a wedding, rehearsal dinner, baby shower or corporate event.

Nina Malone

Photos: The Gables at Chadds Ford

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