To some people, the very idea of food and drink pairings conjures up images of snooty high-brow types sipping from tea cups with pinkies proudly protruding. The more modern day stereotype is that of a bearded, flannel festooned hipster braying on and on about how perfectly IPA’s bouquet pairs with his artisan, grass-fed duck bacon. Well, here’s what I say to that—the tea drinker and the hipster, they are both right.
Pairing food and drink for a miraculously complementary bite is not only a taste-enhancing way to approach meal time, it is also the smart way to eat. Think about it. You sit down in front of a plate piled with squares of dark chocolate brownies. You eat one, then another, then another. What are you reaching for to wash it all down? What is the ideal beverage that will not only save you from choking, but also tastes great with a mouth full of rich chocolate? Is it tomato juice? Probably not. Perhaps a nice mug of thick clam chowder?
If you said “milk,” then congratulations, you’ve just joined the illustrious food and drink pairing club.
It is that very same concept that goes into pairing certain drinks that enhance the flavor of particular bites of food. Whether it’s red wine and steak, white wine and fish or any beer with 20-or-so buffalo wings, drinks have helped food reach the next level of culinary exuberance ever since the first enterprising foodie decided that it was an art worth supporting some 50 to 1,000 years ago.
And now, with New Year’s Eve bearing down on us all—and with it, the end of another middling year and (gasp!) an entire decade of our lives, it’s perhaps the auspicious time to sit down and figure out what food and drinks will drop down your gullet when the ball drops in Times Square. Let’s take a look at few of the more audacious ways to eat and drink your way into oblivion this New Year’s Eve.
Have you ever felt like the ultimate golden god, completely impervious to both physical and emotional pain? If you answered yes, then you, my friend, have downed a few shots of Jägermeister on New Year’s Eve. This bitterly spiced and viciously viscous beverage, at its best when it’s pulled from the depths of your freezer and drank entirely in one gulp, is the ideal way to begin your New Year’s festivities. But since it’s a notoriously abrasive drink, it craves a rich food, specifically covered in sauce. Perhaps an extra sloppy serving of pulled pork with sticky and sweet barbecue sauce on pillowy potato buns. Another great option would be spare ribs or baby-back ribs or maybe even a cauldron of extra dark chili made with multiple cuts of meat.
Whether slowly sipped with the cadence of a regal head of state or furiously guzzled like someone whose New Year’s date just disappeared into a crowd with some other guy, whiskey is that smoke-kissed, woodsy beverage that is equally at home on the rocks or neat. And those flavors of the outdoors are elevated with foods that are naturally salty, like cured meats and cheeses on a charcuterie board or bacon-wrapped scallops or stone crab claws with drawn butter. Of course, whiskey also finds a home paired with simply a salted and seared porterhouse or rib-eye steak; just be sure to just say no to any thick steak sauces, which would put you back into the cross hairs of our friend Jägermeister.
Like that one friend who shows up to your New Year’s party who you just know is going to cause all sorts of mayhem, tequila has the power to destroy friendships, render romantic relationships dead on arrival, and quickly transform minor disagreements into knock-down, drag-out fights. What does tequila taste like? Mostly like regret, with undertones of failure and hostility. When tequila enters the party, you’ve officially reached the part of the night where you no longer care what you put into your system—but if you absolutely must pair this mind eraser with food, definitely reach for something spicy and acidic, like grilled steak or pork tacos with hot peppers and a squirt of lime. The assertive flavors and heat of the tacos have the brawn needed to stand up to brash characteristics of tequila, especially the gold version.
All good things must come to an end. As the final countdown begins and the seconds tick away on yet another year, chances are everyone at your party will have in their hand a champagne flute or maybe a red Solo cup filled with whatever cheap version of champagne you decided to buy for twelve bucks. At this point in the night, no food pairing is going to fill the void in your soul. And in that split second before the clock strikes midnight, when it’s just you, your drink, and your life’s choices, grab whatever is food within reach, and continue your brave but ultimately futile march toward the year 2020.