Pairings | Spirits & cocktails

Should you use fine wine in cocktails?

Should you use fine wine in cocktails?

The answer most people would give to the question ‘should you use wine to make cocktails?’ is ‘Why ever not?” Yet there is a general feeling, of which I must confess I’m occasionally guilty, that it’s a waste of a wine that may be perfectly well balanced in itself.

The Unknown Soldier

The Unknown Soldier

This theatrical after-dinner cocktail from Simon Hopkinson's latest book Simon Hopkinson Cooks strikes me as the perfect Bonfire Night cocktail once you've put the kids to bed - or indeed for any winter evening you want to show off.

 How to choose the right tonic for your gin

How to choose the right tonic for your gin

It’s hard enough to keep on top of all the new gins that are coming out without having to master the burgeoning world of tonics too.

How to make simple, great cocktails

How to make simple, great cocktails

You may find the idea of making cocktails daunting but bar consultant Kate Hawkings says it's simply a question of stirring a couple of good ingredients in a glass. Here are four of her current favourites.

How to make a perfect G & T

How to make a perfect G & T

In case it's escaped your notice today is International Gin and Tonic Day - a rather bizarre notion but then every food and drink seems to have its own day these days. However it does provide an excuse to re-run this article on how to make the perfect gin and tonic, under the guidance of the great Salvatore Calabrese:

6 easy cocktails to make for Valentine’s Day

6 easy cocktails to make for Valentine’s Day

Making a cocktail doesn’t have to involve the skills of a bartender, a battery of equipment and a shelf full of obscure bottles. You can make a simple cocktail for your beloved with as little as two ingredients - so long as they’re red or pink . . .

4 New Orleans cocktails for Mardi Gras

4 New Orleans cocktails for Mardi Gras

If you want to celebrate Mardi Gras in style you can do no better than go for one of the classic New Orleans cocktails which, according to my learned friend Jared Brown of Mixellany, are the Ramos Gin Fizz, Hurricane, Vieux Carré and the Obituary.

Cranberry gin sling jellies with spiced cream

Cranberry gin sling jellies with spiced cream

A simple and delicious Christmas dessert from my mate Sarah Randell, food director of Sainsbury's Magazine, which combines two of my favourite things, jelly and cocktails.

Two last minute Thanksgiving cocktails

Two last minute Thanksgiving cocktails

You're probably all organised for the great day but just in case, here are a couple of clever ideas for festive cocktails using storecupboard ingredients from mixologist Myles Davies.

 Ribs and rum cocktails

Ribs and rum cocktails

Sweet sticky ribs aren’t the easiest thing to pair with wine so why not look elsewhere? At cocktails, for example?

Six food pairings for gin that might surprise you

Six food pairings for gin that might surprise you

Given the immense popularity of gin the chances of you sitting in a bar downing a gin-based cocktail are pretty high. But at some point you're going to need something to eat so what kind of food can you pair with it?

9 great bottles to give this Christmas

9 great bottles to give this Christmas

With the explosion of exotic spirits and liqueurs that is now hitting the supermarket shelves no-one need be stuck for an unusual gift this Christmas.

Wine cocktails from some top London restaurants

Wine cocktails from some top London restaurants

The wine cocktail trend still seems to be going strong with a company called Formula Wine (a play, presumably, on Formula One) coming up with a selection from some leading London restaurants.

3 peachy cocktails to celebrate the 4th of July

3 peachy cocktails to celebrate the 4th of July

Fresh peaches are bang in season right now so use them to make these summery cocktails that I think are quite perfect for today's Independence Day celebrations.

Shackleton blended malt whisky

Shackleton blended malt whisky

I’m not a big fan of buying whisky for Father’s Day - it always seems a bit of a cliché - but this new blended malt from Whyte & Mackay is such a great bottle it’s an absolute must for any whisky-loving dad (or mum, come to that!)

Japanese gin - but oddly not from Japan

Japanese gin - but oddly not from Japan

Ask the man in the street where Japanese gin comes from and he’d look at you pityingly. "Japan, of course!" But actually this 42% ultra-premium gin comes from Cambridge, England.

Award-winning whiskies to drink on Burns Night

Award-winning whiskies to drink on Burns Night

If you're planning a Burns Night supper this weekend you may be wondering which whisky to pair with it. Born and bred Scot, Ewan Lacey, general manager of the International Wine & Spirit Competition has some answers.

Sliders and juleps

Sliders and juleps

Although you can drink wine with a burger I’m coming to the conclusion that beer and cocktails are a lot more fun and, particularly with the modern American-style ales, have the sweetness to deal with the multiple flavours of today’s adventurous toppings.

Fragola Spezieria Liquore alle Fragoline, Bepi Tosolini

Fragola Spezieria Liquore alle Fragoline, Bepi Tosolini

Another good bottle for Valentine’s Day this week - this time an wild strawberry flavoured liqueur in an extraordinarily blingy bottle with wild strawberries floating on top. It’s part of Marks & Spencer’s new international spirits range which now runs to over 70 different spirits and liqueurs.

Death’s Door, Monkey 47 and Heston’s Earl Grey and Lemon London gin

Death’s Door, Monkey 47 and Heston’s Earl Grey and Lemon London gin

There hasn’t been a drink of the week for a couple of weeks so I’m making up for it and posting 3 really good gins I’ve tasted recently.

Banoffee martinis and other cocktail desserts

Banoffee martinis and other cocktail desserts

If you’re looking for something a little different to serve for dessert on Saturday (which in case you’ve forgotten, guys, is Valentine’s Day) how about a dessert martini?

Cocktail and food pairing

Cocktail and food pairing

Olive, the UK-based food magazine, has identified cocktail and food pairing as a coming trend in 2009. It's possible but I'm a little sceptical nowadays when it comes to initiatives involving spirits and food. There have been so many false dawns over the last few years (remember cocktail dessert menus?) and I would have thought the current economic climate was the least propitious period to get the idea off the ground. But I could be wrong.

A cocktail pairing dinner at The Seahorse

A cocktail pairing dinner at The Seahorse

One of the main events at the Dartmouth Food Festival this weekend was a dinner at Mitch Tonks Seahorse restaurant cooked by London chef Mark Hix. The unusual factor though was that every dish was matched with a cocktail.

10 tips for cold weather drinking

10 tips for cold weather drinking

With temperatures falling well below freezing this weekend it’s a timely reminder that matching drinks is not just about flavour but temperature and alcohol levels too.

The Collector Vermouth

The Collector Vermouth

Not only a candidate for drink of the week but drink of the year, this small-batch Somerset vermouth is one of the most delicious products I’ve come across in 2014.

Adnams Triple Grain whisky No. 2

Adnams Triple Grain whisky No. 2

The idea of a whisky made in Suffolk might strike you as so bizarre as to be not even worth contemplating but if you’re desperately searching for a present for that-impossible-to-buy for (generally male) relative this ticks the box admirably.

The best match for caviar - vodka or champagne?

The best match for caviar - vodka or champagne?

For those of you who are lucky enough to be serving caviar this New Year's Eve I just dug this post I wrote back in 2009 out of the archives. Is champagne or vodka the better pairing? (I must confess the *research* was fun ...)

Cognac right through the meal?

Cognac right through the meal?

In preparing for a visit to Cognac I read an eponymous-titled book by International Herald Tribune editor Kyle Jarrard. Towards the end of the book Jarrard mentioned a restaurant in the region which pairs this finest of brandies with its own creations. “Ambitious,” I thought and immediately decided a meal at La Ribaudière was in order.

Jolly Old-Fashioned: a great seasonal twist on this cocktail classic

Jolly Old-Fashioned: a great seasonal twist on this cocktail classic

I was chatting to mixologist Robbie Bargh on Twitter (as you do) and told him I was looking for a great Christmas cocktail. His team at Gorgeous Group came up with this fantastic spiced rum and apple brandy Old Fashioned which totally hits the spot.

How to make a great Margarita

How to make a great Margarita

Margaritas are well worth making from scratch says restaurateur (and, er, my son) Will Beckett who used to own the Mexican restaurant Green & Red. Here are his top tips after a visit to Mexico back in 2009.

Pairing whisky with Indian food

Pairing whisky with Indian food

Among the many invitations I get to food and drink matching events a recent one to attend a dinner at the Bombay Brasserie in London where each course was paired with whisky sounded the most intriguing. But pairing a high strength spirit with spicy food was surely a recipe for disaster?

The best food to pair with vodka

The best food to pair with vodka

Vodka may be primarily thought of as a base for cocktails but in vodka-loving countries like Russia and Poland it’s always accompanied by food. Basically anything smoked, pickled or cured works well. Here are some ideas:

Dark chocolate and Guatemalan rum

Dark chocolate and Guatemalan rum

Another good chocolate pairing this week - plain dark chocolate and delciously fudgy Cana Negra gran reserva Guatemalan rum from Marks & Spencer

Celtic Promise and cider brandy

Celtic Promise and cider brandy

The hardest cheeses to match are washed rind cheeses - those stinky, orange rinded ones like Epoisses - but last week I found a new pairing: a 3 year old cider brandy.

Why the Negroni is the Marmite of the cocktail world

Why the Negroni is the Marmite of the cocktail world

"The Negroni is the Marmite of mixed drinks" writes Ian Cameron. So why does it put so many people - including restaurant critic Jay Rayner - off?

Cognac Summit

Cognac Summit

Sometimes cocktails seem like just one more thing you have to do when you have people round but this summery cognac one is so easy it's no hassle at all.

Drink of the week: Warner Edwards Harrington Sloe Gin

Drink of the week: Warner Edwards Harrington Sloe Gin

If you’re going to stay with someone - or even just have a meal with them - over Christmas, it’s good to take along a bottle of some kind and if you don’t know their taste in wine why not make it gin?

Aldi Specially Selected Creme de Cassis

Aldi Specially Selected Creme de Cassis

You may not remember but back in the '70s kir was ‘a thing’ - the drink you invariably got offered in a cod French bistro or poured for your friends as a sophisticated aperitif back home.

 Indulgent chocolate drinks for Easter

Indulgent chocolate drinks for Easter

Why should the kids have all the fun at Easter? These days there are a number of indulgent chocolate-flavoured liqueurs and wines that make up for being (almost) too old for an Easter egg.

 Gin of the month: Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin

Gin of the month: Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin

You like gin? You like shiraz? You’re in luck! Australian distillery Four Pillars has combined the two in a gin they’ve called Bloody Shiraz, the perfect bottle with which to celebrate Australia Day.

A vodka and caviar tasting flight

At £32.50 a head (and you have to order it for two) this isn’t the cheapest aperitif in London but it’s certainly the classiest. As you would expect of a restaurant just off Sloane Street in Knightsbridge.

Why don’t more wine tastings offer food pairing?

Why don’t more wine tastings offer food pairing?

It struck me as slightly ironic that the best example of a food offering I’ve seen at a consumer tasting recently was the Food Pairing Room at this weekend’s Whisky Show - whisky being the last drink that many people would think of pairing with food.

Sherry Cobbler

Sherry Cobbler

Given the growing popularity of sherry cocktails and the fact that it's World Sherry Day this weekend here's a recipe for a sherry cobbler from Hawksmoor at Home (my son's restaurant, I have to confess).

How to make an eggnog

How to make an eggnog

I have to admit I was never very grabbed by the idea of eggnog until I tried it out for myself and discovered just how delicious it is - like velvety, vanilla-and-rum-scented air.

How to drink vodka like a Russian

How to drink vodka like a Russian

I have to admit I accepted Leonid Shutov’s invitation to taste vodka with some trepidation having heard tales of the hangovers that some of my colleagues had suffered as a result of their visits to his Soho restaurant Bob Bob Ricard.

Japanese whisky and food

Japanese whisky and food

Whisky may have become firmly entrenched in the after-dinner slot in the Western world but Japan has always been more open to the idea of drinking it with a meal. In fact, the Japanese are much more open-minded about the drinks they enjoy with food and you’ll often find beer, sake and whisky on the table at the same time. It certainly maximises the opportunities of finding a good food and drink match.

 Some great food pairings for tequila

Some great food pairings for tequila

Despite the recent increase in interest in Mexican street food like tacos consumers in the UK still have to take to tequila (maybe because they’re too busy drinking gin) but in fact it’s an attractive and versatile spirit to pair with food

Whisky tangerine cocktail and buttered toast

Whisky tangerine cocktail and buttered toast

This might sound a wacky pairing (OK, it is) but it’s sooo good I had to pass it on. One for Christmas morning, even.

Vietnamese fish sauce chicken wings and tamarind whiskey sour

Vietnamese fish sauce chicken wings and tamarind whiskey sour

It might seem perverse to pick out a cocktail match during a week of drinking stellar wines in Oregon wine country but I’m saving my new thoughts on wine pairing with Pinot Noir for a more wide-ranging piece. And this is a great cocktail pairing

Tonka bean ice cream and Zoco Pacharan

Tonka bean ice cream and Zoco Pacharan

It’s not often I come across a drink I’ve never heard of but Pacharan or Paxtaran, a Basque sloe-flavoured liqueur from Navarra, is one of them.

Slow roast pork belly with a ‘Gardener’s Old Fashioned’

Slow roast pork belly with a ‘Gardener’s Old Fashioned’

Pork and apple is, of course, a match made in heaven but the pairing was taken to new heights for me by mixologist Jack Adair Bevan of The Ethicurean who invented an Old Fashioned cocktail with a twist to go with a dish of slow roast pork.

Miso-marinated pork belly and Karasi Sour cocktail

Miso-marinated pork belly and Karasi Sour cocktail

Sometimes I wonder what pork belly doesn’t pair with. It seems to be delicious with so many drinks but even so It’s always intriguing to find a new match.

Japchae and a Happy Ending cocktail

Japchae and a Happy Ending cocktail

I really think there are some cuisines that work better with cocktails than wine and Korean is one of them as I was reminded at the opening of celebrity chef Judy Joo’s JinJuu last week

Homemade Dundee cake and Midleton Very Rare whiskey

Homemade Dundee cake and Midleton Very Rare whiskey

What do you eat with a great bottle of Irish whiskey? Fruit cake might seem a bit frivolous to some and even brand you as, well . . . a bit of a fruitcake, but I can highly recommend it.

Hepple gin and venison tartare

Hepple gin and venison tartare

We think of gin even less than whisky as a pairing for food but with the incredible popularity of gin these days - and the need for the many new entrants to the field to create a distinctive image for their brand that could be about to change.

Gin and tonic with peppered smoked mackerel

Gin and tonic with peppered smoked mackerel

Gin isn’t just an aperitif, it’s also a surprisingly good match for food as I’ve already suggested in this post. Last week I discovered yet another way to enjoy it - with peppered smoked mackerel.

Chocolate and Cognac

Chocolate and Cognac

I’m not a great spirits drinker but last night after a day sorting out dusty bookshelves we just fancied indulging ourselves in a small glass of Cognac as a nightcap. It was admittedly a good one - a Hine Antique Cognac which has all the hallmark rich vanilla and spicy notes you look for in a top quality brandy.

How to throw a vodka and zakuski party

How to throw a vodka and zakuski party

A vodka party sounds dangerous, the sort of idea you used to come up when you were a student but think Russian-style hors d’oeuvres, or zakuski as they call them, and you’ve got a great theme for an evening with friends.

 Win a case of six gins from The Whisky Exchange

Win a case of six gins from The Whisky Exchange

We’re guessing that like practically everyone on the planet at the moment you’re a bit of a gin fan so we’ve got an AMAZING prize for you this month. THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED.

Velvet Haiku, a delicious sake cocktail from Sake no Hana

Velvet Haiku, a delicious sake cocktail from Sake no Hana

This is, without a doubt, the most refreshing cocktail I've tasted so far this summer - an incredibly thirstquenching mix of sake, jasmine tea, cucumber and prosecco - perfect for this hot, steamy weather we've been having.

The Corpse Reviver

The Corpse Reviver

"What better drink to toast ghouls and witches (or to drown out all the Hallowe'en nonsense) than a Corpse Reviver No.2?" writes award-winning mixologist Jared Brown.

How to make the perfect caipirinha

How to make the perfect caipirinha

With the World Cup in full swing it's essential to know how to make the Brazilian national drink, caipirinha. Top chef Alex Atala reveals all you need to know . . .

Hawksmoor's Marmalade Cocktail

Hawksmoor's Marmalade Cocktail

Unless you've been living in outer Mongolia you can't fail to be aware that the Paddington movie goes on release today. Cue for a marmalade cocktail!

Compass Box Whisky: The Lost Blend

Compass Box Whisky: The Lost Blend

I’ve long been an admirer of Compass Box whisky who were one of the first blenders to create and package sophisticated modern ‘artisan’ whiskies as they like to describe them.

 The Ivy Gin and Fevertree clementine tonic

The Ivy Gin and Fevertree clementine tonic

It’s two for one in the bottle slot today - a terrific new gin and the perfect matching tonic.

The tricky task of pairing wine and citrus

This is the perfect time of year for buying oranges and lemons but what effect do they have on the recipes you’re making? Quite a marked one, if truth be told. Lemons in particular have a high level of acidity which will make any wine you drink with them taste sweeter. If that’s counterbalanced in the recipe by sugar as in a lemon tart or lemon meringue pie, for example, the result is a dish that’s really quite hard to match.

What to drink with venison and chocolate sauce

Being Easter it’s not surprising that there’s a focus on chocolate in the press today though I’m not sure how many of us would be bold enough to serve venison with chocolate sauce to our nearest and dearest as Mark Hix has done in the Independent today.

What to drink with Turkish food

Turkish food is not traditionally accompanied by wine. And although the Turks do have a wine industry not much of it makes its way over here. But here are some thoughts on possible pairings for Mark Hix's Turkish inspired recipes in the Independent this weekend"

Pairing whisky and chocolate - with difficulty!

Pairing whisky and chocolate - with difficulty!

Tastings on Twitter are all the rage at the moment. The other day it was BeerBods. Last Thursday it was a tasting organised by The Whisky Wire of whiskies from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society with chocolates by William Curley.

Pairing cognac and cheese

Pairing cognac and cheese

Cognac pairs with chocolate, we all know but what about cheese? Surprisingly there are some standout matches as I discovered when I chaired the cheese workshop at the 2014 International Cognac Summit in France a couple of years ago.

Lima, London: a splash of colour in Fitzrovia

Lima, London: a splash of colour in Fitzrovia

It’s unusual these days to come across a menu that’s totally unfamiliar. You can almost predict it. Pork belly? Check. Steak? Check. Sticky toffee pudding? Check. But the recently opened Lima, which specialises in modern Peruvian food, is so startlingly original that it feels like taking a two hour trip to Peru.

Espresso and Hazelnut Cake and Fairtrade Coffee

Espresso and Hazelnut Cake and Fairtrade Coffee

As you've probably noticed we're currently in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight. Encouragingly sales of Fairtrade produce and products were up 12% last year making sales in the UK worth £1.32bn in 2011, compared to £1.17bn in 2010, according to this recent piece in the Guardian.

Choc Tales: Chocolate and Cocktail Matching for Chocolate Week

Choc Tales: Chocolate and Cocktail Matching for Chocolate Week

One of my favourite food bloggers Helen Graves of Food Stories selflessly subjected herself to an evening of chocolate and cocktail pairing at Choc Tales, a highlight of London's recent Chocolate Week which saw some of the country’s best chocolatiers paired with premier booze hounds. Here’s her report:

Wine pairings for pumpkin pie

Wine pairings for pumpkin pie

I have a bit of a problem with pumpkin pie. I'm not a big fan of pumpkin and I don't have a massively sweet tooth which makes the thought of partnering it with a sweet wine a bit of a killer. But I know I'm in a minority and with Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday here are my top picks:

Which whisky pairs best with haggis?

Which whisky pairs best with haggis?

Given that whisky is generally considered the most appropriate match for haggis I thought it would be interesting to check out what Britain’s top whisky experts have to recommend for Burns Night:

Which foods pair best with whisky?

Which foods pair best with whisky?

I’ve been a bit of a sceptic in the past about pairing food with whisky. Not that there aren’t some great combinations but I find it hard to sustain for more than one dish.

What to drink with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's veggie recipes

What to drink with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's veggie recipes

If you’re used to choosing wine - or other drinks - to match with meat or fish you may be flummoxed when it comes to chosing one for vegetarian friends. But as I explain in my Guardian column today it’s a question of finding out how the wine is made - and in particular whether any animal-based products have been used in the fining process.

What to drink with cake

What to drink with cake

A recent email from a reader asked me to suggest a wine to go with “a triple coconut cake with a tangy pineapple icing served with fresh fruit salsa that has kiwi, strawberry, madarine oranges, blueberries and fresh pineapple in it”. Quite a challenge (I suggested demi-sec Champagne or a peach-flavoured liqueur topped up with fizz) but it got me thinking that there are many possible matches for cake beyond a cup of tea or coffee, particularly if you're serving it as a dessert.

Five great cheese and wine pairings

Five great cheese and wine pairings

You know how difficult it is to find a good wine and cheese match? Well here are five I’ve recently tasted that hit the spot perfectly. Four were at a tasting at the recent Bristol Wine Fair that was conducted by the food and wine writer Andrea Leeman. The other was a serendipitous one I came across the other night when we were eating with friends.

8 great drinks to match with Stilton

8 great drinks to match with Stilton

No Christmas would be complete without a slice of Stilton or its unpasteurised cousin Stitchelton. But what to drink with it? The usual answer is port - and that of course is classic - but here are some other drinks that make great pairings

6 of the best matches for chocolate mousse

6 of the best matches for chocolate mousse

Although chocolate mousse is usually made from dark chocolate it's quite a light dessert as chocolate puddings go because of its airy texture - lighter than petits pots au chocolat, for example.

10 food pairings for peaty whiskies

10 food pairings for peaty whiskies

Following my trip to Islay a while ago I drew up some pairings for its extraordinary peaty whiskies. I’m not a great one for whisky dinners but I like the idea of serving tapa-sized dishes with a dram.

Wines - and other drinks - to match recipes from the Ottolenghi Cookbook

Wines - and other drinks - to match recipes from the Ottolenghi Cookbook

The book I’ve been looking forward to most so far this year has just started being serialised in the Guardian today. It’s by Yotam Ottolenghi who founded two exceptional London restaurants and is simply called Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. l love Ottolenghi's food - it’s so generous and big-flavoured, piled high on bright, colourful platters - you can't fail to be tempted by it. It also lends itself perfectly to entertaining for large numbers at home.

What to drink with foraged food?

What to drink with foraged food?

Mark Hix, a great forager himself, concentrates on recipes you can make from the hedgerow this week in The Independent (now is a good time to go to his new restaurant, I suggest . . . ) so I’m thinking a little outside the box as to what to pair with them. Country wines, made with hedgerow fruits, seem the perfect answer. I don’t know why we don’t see more of them.

Tiramisu and oxidised sweet wines

Tiramisu and oxidised sweet wines

This doesn’t, I admit, sound a particularly tempting proposition so let me explain. By oxidised sweet wines I mean dessert wines which have been deliberately exposed to air through extended barrel ageing, giving them a complex nutty, treacley flavour.

Spiced creme brulée tarts and Carthagène de Haut-Gléon

Spiced creme brulée tarts and Carthagène de Haut-Gléon

Last week was the London Wine Fair - the last place, to be honest, I expected to find a stellar wine match. (It doesn't feature food.)

Sloe gin and Stilton

Sloe gin and Stilton

The port and Stilton combo has become a bit of a cliché. Not that it doesn't work - it's hard to fault - but if you want to really impress your guests and take them out of their comfort zone, serve your stilton with a shot of sloe gin instead. It has much the same brambly flavour as a Late Bottled Vintage port but, despite being stronger, manages to taste lighter, fresher and less alcoholic.

Scrambled eggs and sparkling wine

Scrambled eggs and sparkling wine

If your New Year breakfast today includes eggs, especially brunch-type dishes such as scrambled eggs with smoked salmon or eggs benedict there’s no better partner than Champagne or other dry sparkling wine.

Roquefort and Lagavulin

Roquefort and Lagavulin

Having been on Islay for the jazz festival all weekend I've been thinking about nothing but whisky and jazz but there is as good a combination : Islay whisky and strong blue cheese

Roast lamb with a Douro red

Roast lamb with a Douro red

Yesterday we had the family round for lunch and served a 2002 Douro red from Portugal with the main course of spice-crusted roast lamb with garlic and rosemary, roast potatoes (my youngest son managed to put away 15 but remains, annoyingly, as skinny as a rake) and in-season purple sprouting broccoli.

Ribs, bourbon and picklebacks

Ribs, bourbon and picklebacks

It’s not often these days that I hit on a totally new discovery but this combination at the newly opened Pitt Cue Co, a southern American-style ribshack is the business.

Pickled herrings with lager and akvavit

Pickled herrings with lager and akvavit

If you're not into herrings this match might not seem desperately appealing but I promise you it’s an outstanding combination. It’s prompted by my recent visit to Copenhagen where the Danes eat herrings on an almost daily basis as part of their smørrebrød (selection of open sandwiches).

Pastis and olives

Pastis and olives

Yesterday we arrived in Arles for the Recontres Arles, a massive annual photographic exhibition that takes over the entire town. Our youngest son Flyn is showing some of his work at a restaurant called Le Corazon so we’re here for the next 10 days or so.

Moqueca and Caiprinhas

Moqueca and Caiprinhas

Last week our local tapas bar, Ocean, held a Brazilian evening with a talented local Bristol singer Frances Butt who is really into Latin music. (So much so that she has issued an album called The Girl from Wolverhampton - where she grew up though obviously not where her soul lies . . .)

Margaritas, tacos and tostadas

Margaritas, tacos and tostadas

There are few instances where a national drink goes so well with a national cuisine as tequila and Mexican as I was reminded at the weekend when I tried out London’s latest opening Wahaca. (A deliberately easy-to-pronounce play on Mexico’s foodie mecca Oaxaca)

Jerk chicken and rum punch

Jerk chicken and rum punch

Despite the beautiful weather we’ve had over the past couple of days there’s a distinct late summer feel to the air which combined with the fact that the nights are drawing in reminds one - sadly - there aren’t that many evenings left for barbecuing this year. (Unless you’re one of those die-hards who grills all year round . . . )

Herring and aquavit

Herring and aquavit

This week’s match of the week - herring and aquavit - was paired for me - appropriately enough - by the restaurant Aquavit which has just opened an outpost in London.

Grilled tuna tart and Camus Ile de Ré Double Matured Cognac

Grilled tuna tart and Camus Ile de Ré Double Matured Cognac

The idea of matching Cognac with any food other than chocolate is still regarded as unconventional - even more so in the case of fish - but I promise you this pairing, the first course at a lunch at Camus, would have blown you away.

Gazpacho, oak-smoked tomatoes and smoked vodka

Gazpacho, oak-smoked tomatoes and smoked vodka

I love it when a restaurant lays on an imaginative drink pairing and this was a terrific one from Ben Cooke at Little Gloster just outside Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Game terrine and London dry gin

Game terrine and London dry gin

I’ve already written about how well game terrine pairs with oloroso sherry. Now I’ve discovered an equally good, if not better pairing: London Dry Gin.

Epoisses and marc de Bourgogne

Epoisses and marc de Bourgogne

Epoisses has to be one of the most difficult cheeses to match, not least when it gets to the almost liquid stage shown in this photo (a stage too far IMHO)

Dark chocolate and Cherry Heering

Dark chocolate and Cherry Heering

If you haven’t got round to thinking of a suitably romantic dessert for tonight try this simple idea: buy a few gorgeous dark handmade chocolates and truffles and serve them with a frozen shot of cherry brandy. (Don’t worry, it won’t actually freeze, simply turn lusciously cold and syrupy.)

Cicheti and an Aperol Spritz

Cicheti and an Aperol Spritz

If anyone can make Aperol - the Venetian Campari drinkalike - fashionable it's Russell Norman of Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino and now Da Polpo - four of the coolest (and smallest) restaurants in London. Admittedly bitters are not to everyone's taste - they are...well...bitter but I find Aperol fruitier and easier to drink than Campari. The traditional way to serve it as as an Aperol spritz topped up with Prosecco and a whoosh of soda water - the perfect way to recover when the Tube is at its hellish steamy worst.

Cheese fondue and Chasselas

Cheese fondue and Chasselas

I was beginning to think we’d managed to skip winter this year before last week’s icy blasts and snow came as a timely reminder we’ve got a good few weeks to go yet. So there’s still time to enjoy one of winter’s great favourites - a Swiss cheese fondue.

Ceviche and pisco sour

Ceviche and pisco sour

I’ve been in Chile for the past week at the World’s Best Sommelier competition and have plenty to report about that but here’s a great non-wine match in the meantime - and a couple of tips about how to make an authentic Pisco Sour.

Ceviche and Pisco Soho

Ceviche and Pisco Soho

Last week was particularly good for off-the-wall pairings but I'm going to nominate this delicious cocktail as my match of the week.It was at the new Peruvian restaurant and bar, Ceviche and was a wonderfully refreshing mixture of limo aji chilli-infused pisco (limo aji chilli is a native Peruvian pepper) with elderflower liqueur, cucumber, lime, egg white and cracked black pepper.

Oscietra caviar and Galvin at Windows’ White Snapper

Oscietra caviar and Galvin at Windows’ White Snapper

Last week was (highly unusually) a big week for caviar - and caviar substitutes which I ate on two successive nights paired with everything from vodka to beer. Decadent or what?

Blood orange and chocolate with Highland Park 12

Blood orange and chocolate with Highland Park 12

It’s not often I come across such a good dessert pairing, let alone one with whisky but here’s a stellar one from L Mulligan Grocer in Dublin which offers whisky pairings with all its desserts

Apple tart and orange wine

Apple tart and orange wine

Apple tart is a pretty forgiving kind of dessert but here's a brilliant new pairing I found at Casanis restaurant in Bath last week.

The Hanky Panky: the perfect Thanksgiving cocktail.

The Hanky Panky: the perfect Thanksgiving cocktail.

We asked our mixologist friends Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller of Mixellany to come up with the perfect Thanksgiving cocktail. This is it.

Hawksmoor's Bloodhound

Hawksmoor's Bloodhound

A deliciously fruity but simple cocktail from Hawksmoor at Home that makes use of in-season raspberries. (So one of your 5-a-day, maybe? ;-)

Summer ale cup

Summer ale cup

A cross between a Pimm’s and a shandy which I concocted a few year's ago for my son Will’s and my book An Appetite for Ale. You'll obviously need to play around with the proportions depending on the fruit cup and the beer you use

Nick Strangeway's 'Disco Badger'

Nick Strangeway's 'Disco Badger'

Despite the naff name I love the sound of this refreshing orangey beer cocktail created by legendary mixologist Nick Strangeway for Badger Ales. Great presentation too!

Mandorla Sour, Polpetto

Mandorla Sour, Polpetto

It’s been a while since there’s been a new craze in the cocktail world but I’m betting the Mandorla Sour will catch on.

Jingle bell

Jingle bell

A seasonal twist on the classic champagne cocktail from the team at Roast restaurant in London's Borough Market. Obviously you might struggle to get hold of the hibiscus flower - if so replace it with a twist of orange peel.

Zünftler Black Forest Cherry Schnapps

Zünftler Black Forest Cherry Schnapps

If you’re planning to celebrate the start of Oktoberfest this weekend (yes, in September - I *know*) snap up this full-size bottle of Zünftler cherry schnapps from Lidl for just £14.99

Waitrose Heston Fruit Cup

Waitrose Heston Fruit Cup

I’ve never been a great fan of Pimm’s so I wasn’t expecting much from the Heston Blumenthal Fruit Cup which has just been launched by Waitrose.

The Pickle House Original Pickle Juice

The Pickle House Original Pickle Juice

If you’ve ever been to the great Pitt Cue Co in Newburgh Street, Soho you may well have had a drink called a pickleback - a bourbon washed down with a chaser of homemade pickle juice.

RinQuinQuin à la pêche

RinQuinQuin à la pêche

I love old-fashioned French aperitifs but the name of this Provençal one makes it doubly irresistible. And the peach flavour makes it perfect for this time of year.

Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish 12 y.o. Whiskey

Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish 12 y.o. Whiskey

How many Irish whiskies can you name? Jameson, I’m betting - and maybe Bushmills although they’re north of the border. I always like the idea there's a whiskey called Paddy though to be honest it isn’t much cop.

Noilly Prat Ambré

Noilly Prat Ambré

There’s nothing like hearing a bottle is impossible to get hold of to make you want to buy it so the news (via Jared Brown of Mixellany) that Noilly Prat Ambré was no longer available in the UK made me instantly snap one up here in France when I spotted it on the shelf.

Dunville’s Very Rare Old Irish Whiskey

Dunville’s Very Rare Old Irish Whiskey

If you’re looking for a whiskey to celebrate St Patrick’s Day try to get hold of a bottle of Dunville’s Very Rare Old Irish whiskey.

Dappa Grape Marc Spirit

Dappa Grape Marc Spirit

I confess it was the name that hooked me on this week’s drink of the week, Dappa being Devon’s answer to grappa.

Gin of the month: Audemus Esprit d'Eté

Gin of the month: Audemus Esprit d'Eté

If you've developed a bit of a collector's habit when it comes to gin here's a truly limited edition one of which only 200 bottles were originally made

Aldi Ballycastle Irish County Cream

Aldi Ballycastle Irish County Cream

If you’re a fan of Bailey’s you’ll be unable to resist this ridiculously moreish Irish cream liqueur at a fraction of the price.

5 great whiskies for Burns’ Night (and other occasions)

5 great whiskies for Burns’ Night (and other occasions)

Given that it’s Burns Night what other bottle could I feature but whisky? And as I couldn’t make up my mind which one here are five!

 Feeney’s Irish Cream Liqueur

Feeney’s Irish Cream Liqueur

If you’re not a fan of whiskey or the black stuff* there’s another way you can celebrate St Patrick’s Day this week and that is with Feeney’s Irish cream liqueur.

Cognac, cheese and trigeminal sensations

Cognac, cheese and trigeminal sensations

This week I’ve been on my first visit to Cognac, a place - and yes, there is an actual town of that name - I’ve never managed to get to during the 22-odd years I’ve been writing about drinks.

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