Cooking With Spirits

The easy to remember rule about pairing spirits with food is that lighter spirits complement lighter foods and darker meats go best with darker spirits. For example, tequila can be used in recipes for seafood. Tequila can also be substituted for white wine in sauces and other dishes. Sweeter liqueurs also work well in sauce.

Bitter spirits can work well with fatty meats. Bourbon can add a Smokey wood note to grilled beef or can be mixed with Coca Cola for a pork marinade. It can also be used in a smoker for more complex flavors.

Whiskey or scotch can be used to poach vegetables or added to chili. Chef Tim Love, owner of several Texas based restaurants such as White Elephant Saloon and the Woodshed Smokehouse, warns not to marinate meat more than an hour if using spirits. He also opines that vodka is flavorless and not a great flavor enhancer for cooking and gin is at the opposite extreme with too complex of a flavor profile to easily pair with food.