It’s hard to imagine improving upon a barbecue on a hot summer night. By choosing the right drink to compliment your meal, however, you’ll raise your BBQ game to new heights, bringing forth different flavours from both food and drink that may have been missed otherwise. Depending on what’s on the menu, consider the following libations for your next barbecue.
What are you eating?
Burgers. For a beef burger, the most obvious drink pairing is red wine. Light-bodied cabernet sauvignon or merlot are your best bets for burgers served simply without many toppings. If you’re someone who loves lots of onions, mustard, and cheese, choose an acidic pinot noir that cuts through the strong additional flavours. Some experts suggest a Zinfandel whose bold fruit flavours sit well with sweet ketchup and sour pickles. In general, look for a wine with enough tannins and structure to compliment the savoury beef, and fresh fruit flavours to balance its toppings.
Beer-wise, reach for a highly-hopped IPA whose hop bitterness cuts the burger’s greasiness. Black IPAs, specifically, feature roasted malt flavours that pair well with grilled beef burgers. Further, the beer’s bitterness creates contrast for deeper complexity. If you’re going the cheeseburger route, nutty brown ales and rich amber beers pair well with aged cheeses like Swiss and Gouda.
Many experts recommend rosé bubbly as the ideal burger pairing due to the bubbles’ ability to cut the burger’s heaviness. Pick one that is well-structured with lots of layers so it stands up to the beef and all of its toppings. As a further benefit, the bubbles provide a cleansing effect after each sip. Pop that bubbly and celebrate barbecue season!
For the veggie burger lover, choose a bright and fruity red blend or a sweet Viognier that compliments a burger with earthy legumes and spices. The meaty consistency of Portobello mushroom burgers pairs well with most robust reds like Zinfandel and Shiraz, or go the white wine route and choose a white Burgundy.
Ribs. Beer and ribs go hand in hand. For both pork and beef ribs, choose a malty beer with a bit of sweetness or a crisp lager that cleanses the palate in between bites. If you’re after wine, choose an acidic Pinot Gris with stone fruit flavours or a rich, fruity Zinfandel with enough structure to stand up to ribs’ bold flavour. Two other great picks for ribs are hard cider that balances spicier rib sauces with its sweetness, and a Mint Julep containing bourbon, sugar and fresh mint. This cocktail pairs perfectly with any type of rib sauce because the mint cools spice and the sugar compliments a sticky, sweet marinade.
Salmon. Salmon on the barbecue is hard to beat. To elevate this dish further, choose a fruity rosé with hints of melon or a Pinot Noir whose light spice pairs well with salmon cooked over charcoal, especially. Pinot Gris is a good white wine option due to its stone fruit and pear elements that work well with the fish’s savouriness. For a cocktail option, make a Chelsea Sidecar that combines gin, triple sec and lemon juice in a shaker with ice then strained.
Grilled Vegetables and More. When grilling corn on the cob, pick a richly oaked Chardonnay to compliment the sweetness of the corn. Cabernet Merlot is a good choice for char-grilled bell peppers and zucchini because its boldness stands up to the smokiness of the semi-blackened veggies. When grilling mushrooms and root vegetables, choose a Gamay or Syrah. If you’ve never tried grilling thick-cut halloumi cheese on the barbecue, you’re missing out. The salty creaminess of the cheese is nicely cut with crisp white wine, dry rosé, and sparkling. Moscato and Italian prosecco are good options.
Next time you plan on firing up the grill, take a moment to consider what drink will compliment your meal. The right pairing will elevate your summer evening to a whole new level of deliciousness.