The Flaviar Times editor-in-chief Noah Rothbaum interviewed Chef Alon Shaya about pairing drinks with food.
Should food be paired with mixed drinks or Spirits?
Alon: Absolutely food should be paired with mixed drinks and cocktails!
What’s your personal pairing philosophy?
Alon: I believe that the ingredients you pair with cocktails and Spirits should connect through complementary flavor profiles and textures. Fatty foods like roasted lamb can cut through the bite of a smokey Scotch, while watermelon blends beautifully with the flavors of an aromatic Gin.
Another avenue you can take would be using the ingredients that are included in the flavors that you season your cocktail, so if you are using cucumber lavender bitters in your drink, maybe include those in the dish you are cooking.
One of the signature dishes of your new New Orleans restaurant Miss River is buttermilk fried chicken, what’s the perfect beverage to go with it?
Alon: I recommend pairing the whole fried chicken with a Bourbon-based cocktail. The richness of the chicken soothes the bite from the Bourbon, while the sweetness of the Bourbon is balanced with the brininess of the cured chicken.
What’s your all-time favorite drink & food pairing?
Alon: A Mezcal Margarita and soft-shell crab and jalapeño tacos from Contramar in Mexico City will always go down as my favorite all-time combination. It speaks to a time, a place and a feeling of letting loose in Mexico!
Is there a food and drink pairing that shouldn’t work but does?
Alon: Caviar, sweet corn ice cream and Sherry is an incredible combination that is currently available on the Miss River menu. The salty caviar, sweet cream and nutty tones from the Sherry is like eating a very "well-to-do" sundae.
We’re eating a classic Nola muffuletta sandwich, what are we drinking?
Alon: You should be drinking a Dry Vodka Martini with a twist. Let the muffuletta bring the dirty.
If you had to, what food would you pair with a Ramos Gin Fizz cocktail?
Alon: I would love a Ramos Gin Fizz for brunch with some buttermilk pancakes dressed with fresh peaches, soft butter and maple syrup.
The Art of Eating & Drinking column features chefs from around the world sharing their personal philosophies on pairing cocktails and Spirits with food.
*This interview has been edited & condensed.
*Cover image credit: Emily Ferretti