Whiskey Pairing Guide: Mixers, Food, and Fruits

More and more, people are becoming aware of the potential symphonies that can exist when whiskey is paired with food.  In this whiskey pairing guide we go over all the popular combinations.

So whether you are hosting a whiskey tasting, preparing a special dinner, or are just feeling adventurous, following these recommendations will take it to the next level.

Best Whiskey Food Pairings

fruit and whiskey pairings

Pairing whiskey with food used to be a rare occurrence. Whiskey was always known as the drink to enjoy alone. However, it is starting to become more popular to pair the alcohol with certain snacks and meals.

When pairing snacks with whiskey, keep in mind that the flavors should complement each other and not outperform the other.

It doesn’t matter if you have a top shelf whiskey or a budget option. What matters is the flavor profile and the alcohol content. Most of the best whiskeys under $50 work incredibly well with food.

Let’s take a look at some of the things to consider when pairing your whiskey with different types of food.

Snack and Appetizer Pairings

Let’s take a look at some popular snacks to pair with whiskey.

1. Dried Nuts and Fruit

Sweeter whiskeys will pair well with bitter nuts, while strong whiskeys go perfectly with sweeter nuts.

You can get creative with fruit and mix and match to create an interesting combination of flavors. Nuts like cashews, pistachios, and pecans pair really well.

2. Fruits

citrus fruitsCitrus fruits will pair best with whiskey. Check the list below to know what citrus fruits to add to your shopping list.

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mandarin
  • Orange
  • Grapefruit

Since citrus fruits have a more robust flavor, you may find that they mask the whiskey’s flavor too much, depending on the kind you are drinking.

If this is a problem for you, pair the whiskey with a tangy, tart fruit such as apple or pear.

3. Cheese and Crackers

Historically, crackers have been the go to food choice at any serious whiskey tasting. Their often bland flavor ensures that it won’t be contrasting with the flavors in the whiskey.

But what about cheese?

If you thought that wine is the only star pairing with cheese, you have seriously been missing out. Some cheese and whiskey pairings could have your taste-buds singing with joy.

Breaking it down logically, it makes perfect sense. There are a lot of similar flavor profiles and complexities in common between the two. Specifically, they can share nutty, smokey, and fruity flavors.

When drinking a smokey whiskey, cheese will be the perfect snack to pair it with. Pair brie or goat cheese with lighter and more floral whiskeys like Irish Whiskey.

4. Dips

salsa and chipsCheese dips will fall into the category above, with all the same guidelines applying. But why stop there?

Recently, with the rising popularity of international dips like salsa and hummus, whiskey drinkers have taken notice. Surprisingly, they both go really well together with the right whiskey.

With salsa, we recommend pairing it with a bourbon. As a tip, opt for a salsa with a lower spiciness profile. Anything with a higher level of spice will numb your taste-buds and you will not be able to appreciate the flavors in the bourbon.

On the other hand, check out combining your hummus dip with a Canadian whiskey. We recommend Crown Royal deluxe for this pairing.

Main Course Pairing

medium rare sliced steakGenerally speaking, while the complexities of bourbons work well with snacks and dessert, they often clash with main entrees. Typically, scotches and ryes work better here.

The Kitchn notes that smokey flavors in the scotch can mimic the flavors from the grill.

We particularly recommend pairing a rib eye with a Basil Hayden Dark Rye.

With entrees, mixed drinks can also work very well. Some of the best mixed drinks like Old Fashioned and Manhattans work really well with cuts of beef.

On the other hand, if you are dead set on a bourbon, try pairing it with a barbecue dish. Our recommendation is Blanton’s Single Barrel with pork belly burnt ends.

Dessert Pairings

In this category of pairings, bourbons really shine. Their sweet, fruity, and caramel undertones really stand out when combining it with the right dessert. If you find the right mix, your only problem will be making the mistake of eating everything too fast.

1. Chocolate

chocolate dessertChocolate and whiskey go together like peas in a pod. In many ways, it is hard to go wrong.

One tip is to avoid buying sugar-filled chocolate for this one. Instead, buy dark chocolate such as truffles. Dark chocolate will bring out the different flavors in the whiskey well.

2. Pies

If you are drinking a lighter whiskey with a hint of sweetness to it, apple pie or apple crumble will taste delicious.

But if you want to take things to the next level, trying pairing a bourbon with a pecan cobbler. The pecan notes in the liquor will taste heavenly with the sweetness of the pie. Try out Knob Creek for this selection. It is pure bliss.

Best Whiskey Mixers

There won’t be a ‘one mix fits all’ since different whiskeys will pair better with different drinks. Nonetheless, there are a few options that never seem to go wrong.

  • Club soda – If you want to avoid masking your favorite whiskey’s flavor, add some club soda. You’ll get a refreshing and fizzy taste.
  • Coca-Cola – Coke will nicely complement inexpensive whiskeys and any bourbon whiskey.
  • Lemonade – Add some lemonade to whiskey for a sweet and tangy taste. You can even add some fruit to jazz it up.

In this category, there are many options that people like. Some are common, while others border on strange. Ginger ale is another common mixer. Some people even like Root Beer and bourbon. Everyone is different.


While this is just the tip of the iceberg, we hope that we have given you enough direction to wet your appetite. Food and whiskey pairings are not something that needs to be feared.

With some clever inspiration and knowledge of the spirits and the food, amazing things can happen in the kitchen. As with anything, it is all a matter of preference and everyone likes different things. So, start sampling and taking some risks and you will find the perfect combination for you.