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How to Pair Your Fave Cocktails and Appetizers

White tray of various cocktails

We’re all pretty familiar with wine and beer pairing at this point. Countless fondue parties, wine and cheese picnics, and beer samplers have taught us that much. But we’re in a more sophisticated situation here: what the heck do we pair with our Cosmopolitan? No worries, you may have all the questions, but we’ve got all the answers.

Table laid out with glasses of wine and cocktails

First Things First: The Basics of Pairing Apps and Alcohol

1. Lead With the Appetizer

Odds are, you know what kind of food you want to serve. Start there. From that point, use the flavor notes in the appetizers to guide your cocktails. Perhaps you’re creating a hummus with lots of olive oil -- complement the smooth taste of the chickpeas and oil with something fresh, fruity, and zesty.

2. Mix, Don’t Match

If you’re making a spicy appetizer, don’t match those notes with your cocktail choice. Instead, mix it with a cooling complementary flavor -- mellow cucumber, watermelon, and other calming notes are popular choices with zesty apps.

3. Let the App Shine

You never want to have competing flavors in the mouth -- more, the drink should be the appetizer’s wingman. It shouldn’t steal the show, but it definitely needs to be there. The rule stands whether you have a light or heavy app -- the cocktail should be lighter. While a whiskey wouldn’t pair well with fresh oysters (too heavy), it would be perfect with a BBQ dish that makes the whiskey the lighter fare on the table.

Okay, We Get It -- Show Us the Recipes!

Fruit + Smoke

The app: Bruschetta + smoky cheese and jam

The cocktail: Rum + citrus

The bread and smoky cheese are complemented by the drink’s citrus notes.

Bright + Zesty

The app: Salmon + lemon

The cocktail: Gin + bubbles

The spicy cured salmon with a touch of lemon juice provide the perfect zesty kick to your classic G and T.

Tart + Sweet

The app: Pear + fig

The cocktail: Whiskey + sugar

The tartness of the pear complements the whiskey perfectly without overpowering it.

Need more inspiration? Check out this handy flavor chart!