Everyone’s heard of wine pairing with food. But have you heard of cognac or tequila pairing? Sandeep Arora, director of a luxury spirits marketing company and India’s first qualified whisky ambassador, flew down to Mumbai over the weekend to demonstrate how food can be paired with grape or grain - including cognac, port, whisky and even tequila.
The Journey of Spirits event was held at the ITC Grand Central in Mumbai, when Arora paired a variety of premium spirits brands with various Indian cuisines. The single malt market is growing at 22 per cent; scotch at 12 per cent, and tequila at 20 per cent in India. But the cognac, port, and bourbon markets are still miniscule here.
“Different drinks can help you celebrate different moods. They can be drunk at different times during a meal. You have to pair them correctly though,” he says. “I want to give people more choices in terms of what to drink on various occasions.”
Premium blended Scotch whisky
This matches an angeethi -style of cooking (cooking in a pot over charcoal), and is a perfect companion to blended scotch whisky as the charcoal is smoky and lends itself to the smoky mélange of flavours in scotch. Scotch goes well with crunchy sweet vegetable too, owing to the variety of caramel, spicy and citrus tastes.
Recommended dishes: Seekh Gilafi, Murgh Angaar, Bhooni Tarkari, Zafrani Paneer Pasanda and Lachcha Parantha.
American bourbon whisky
The flavour of bourbon comes alive when complemented with creamy curries such as korma. The sweet and subtle flavour of korma romances the bourbon whisky, which is also sweet, since it is made with corn.
Recommended dishes: Methi Matar Malai Korma, Mewa Makahane Ka Korma, Gosht Aloo Korma, Murgh Korma, Tandoori Kulcha and Khasta Roti.
People think of tequila as just shots or a party drink, but it can be enjoyed as a cocktail or straight with lime. It goes well with barbecued food, food cooked on a tawa (saucepan), finger food and robust meals like chicken and lamb. If consumed as a fruity cocktail, it would suit a spicy lamb dish to contrast the mellow sweetness.
If had neat, it suits barbecued food. Smoke escapes as you eat barbecued food, and that goes well with tequila, since it has a clean crisp taste. The pores of the mouth open because of the steam, which makes the drink more refreshing. It also goes well with lemony fish.
Recommended dishes: Mutton Seekh Tikka, Paneer Khurchan and Khamiri Roti
Cognac is not just a post-dinner drink. It can be enjoyed with food. Dum aur degh cuisine goes well with cognac, especially biryani, since it is a feast of flavours, which complements the sweetness, cinnamon and oakiness of cognac.
Recommended dishes: Gosht Biryani, Kabuli Biryani, Burrani Raita.
Single malt whisky
Single malts go well with Indian food generally because of the well-matched aromas and flavours. You can’t drink them with Thai food, but they suit Japanese food. They also go well with smoked cheese, steamed broccoli and shiitake mushrooms.
Since they have a lot of peat added to a smoky flavour, they particulalry suit tandoor (for exaple tandoori potatoes) and barbecued food, which have distinctly earthy flavours.
Recommended dishes: Tandoori Chatpata Aloo, Tandoori Phal Salad, Boti Kebab, Tandoori Fish, Hari Roomali and Hari Chutney.