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Whiskey/Bourbon Tasting - food pairing suggestions?

I'm in the early stages of planning a whiskey/bourbon tasting.... guest list could range between 12-18/20 people. I've never held such an event. Wine and cheese tasting, no problem... but whiskey/bourbon? is a bit out of my comfort zone.

Any thoughts of what would pair well with misc. whiskey/bourbons and/or what I should have on hand for such an event?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Presumably this is in the evening and you're looking for small bites?

    1 Reply
    1. Never done it with bourbon, but I had a meal of UK foods paired with Scotch. I loved the lighter one, a Dalwinnie, with lamb chops, a Lagavulin with something heavier i cannot recall, and a Macallan 21 with bread pudding. iMHO bourbon has not got the range of Scotch, but I have not tried them all. That new blue corn and some of the new ones coming out of the West Coast might have more range, but to me most Kentucky bourbons, while nuanced, are not as strikingly different as a Highland and an Islay or a pinot Gris and a grand old cabernet.

      1. I am from Ky so bourbon is pretty common at our events...ok it's a must.
        Some thoughts...
        Cheese straws
        Pimento cheese bites
        Beaten biscuits with a sliver of country ham or country ham mixed into a fluffier biscuit
        Corn pudding on a appetizer spoon
        Scallops are great with bourbon
        Pulled pork on little rolls
        Blue cheese is excellent with bourbon
        Butter type lettuces
        Deviled eggs
        Grits with cheese
        Carmelized onion pizza or flatbread
        Mac and cheese bites

        Bacon bacon bacon

        3 Replies
        1. re: LaLa

          Couldn't have said it better myself.

          1. re: LaLa

            Dang those all sound good. BTW scallops and country ham pair well, and I have not yet had an experience that wasn't at least harmonious with if not enhanced by bourbon except for maybe a long bike ride on a hot day.

              1. First of all: What a great idea for an event.....

                Your tasting menu screams BEEF - there's a very recent thread about Beef Crostini, I think, It would go very well for your tasting - some combination of grilled beef, carmelized onions and blue cheese?

                Pork & Bacon must also be on this Menu [Emphasis Added].

                Pulled pork with one of the whiskey's made into the sauce? as a slider or on a small biscutt would be a very nice bite.

                (You must expand on Idea's around pork & bacon ~ lest the whiskey gods will frown on you! This couldn't be good).

                4 Replies
                1. re: sparky403

                  Did an open faced sandwich recently that was sourdough topped with thin sliced flat iron, nice and rare, topped with roasted tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, and a drizzle of EVOO...I'd recommend it paired with a very solid bourbon, like a Knob Creek or Bookers. For finger foods I am addicted to blue cheese truffle French fries.

                  You could do a slider smorgasbord. Buns with an array of sliced smoked brisket, pulled pork, pepper bacon, and grilled sliced brats and assorted toppings like grilled onions, different cheeses, chili sauce, different mustards, etc. Put out an array of bourbons that are very different like an EW single barrel, a Four Roses small batch, a Booker's, and a Rip Van Winkle. Give folks index cards and pens to make comments on the best pairings. This is turning into one of my favorite threads and making me think about my half bottle of Willlett at 9:50 a.m.

                  1. re: tim irvine

                    Love the slider smorgasbord idea! Tons of flexibility with a central food 'theme'....

                  2. re: sparky403

                    I'm guessing the whiskey gods are definitely NOT vegetarian! ;)

                    1. re: The Oracle

                      You are correct sir:-) - to my knowledge the whisky Gawds are a meat loving lot.

                  3. Please let is know what you decide.. but if I were you - I would post this question in the both the wine and sprits section.


                    1. recently made scotch eggs, that i "deviled" with bacon and bourbon in the filling. used bacon fat and mayo in there too. big hit at a kentucky derby party.

                      spreads of smoked fish, like salmon and trout, with traditional accompaniments would work also.

                      have on hand pitchers of plain water and also buckets of ice with tongs. some like a splash of water or a cube in their whiskey or bourbon, and no, neither is heresy.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        I firmly disagree with ice or god forbid water, but to each their own....

                        1. re: LaLa

                          i've worked many events with the ambassadors from johnny walker and quite a few with single malt scotch specialists, and none have issues with adding a thimbleful of water to a whiskey.

                          there is an old chemistry 104 term called "heat of solution." this rule essentially states that when two chemicals are mixed, they may "take on" or "release" energy, thus becoming cooler or warmer. when you mix whiskey and water, the solution becomes slightly warmer, thus releasing the ethyl alcohols which contain much of the aroma of the single malt.

                          the sense of smell profoundly influences the sense of taste.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Like I said to each their own....I only drink Bourbon (made in Ky) and I only drink it neat.

                            1. re: LaLa

                              bourbon is only made in kentucky. :)

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                Well not everyone believes that but I sure do!!!!

                          2. re: hotoynoodle

                            Interesting to incorporate the booze into the food... that would make for an interesting twist to the tasting!

                            1. I had chocolate truffles with a Caol Isla the other day.
                              It was a great combination. So if you're serving any Islay malts maybe consider some kind of chocolate as well as savoury combinations.

                              1. How about some deviled eggs? Or bacon candy? Seems like one would want some fatty bites to coat the mouth a bit while enjoying the sharp bite of the whiskey or bourbon.

                                1. Many good suggestions already.

                                  I'll add that home-pickled vegetables of many sorts pair well with bourbon. Use a decent bit of salt and a little sugar in the pickling solution. Go for big flavors. Then just a bit of trial and error to see which pickle works best with which liquor. Fermented pickles also work well.

                                  1. Hi, all. I realize I'm more than a year late to this thread, but since everything stays forever on the Internet, I thought I'd add suggestions from my own experience (I run a Scotch enthusiast group and have been putting on holiday parties for 10 years that pair food with Scotch).

                                    Some typical dishes I've done throughout the years:

                                    Selection of cheeses, grapes, apples and crackers
                                    Smoked salmon
                                    Salmon mousse
                                    Salmon cubes crusted with Moroccan spices
                                    Smoked trout with beet-horseradish cream on rye toasts
                                    Goat cheese fondue
                                    Mushroom-liver pate
                                    Dried apricots stuffed with Marscapone, with a pistachio crust
                                    Truffled fried potatoes
                                    Leek-ricotta tartlets
                                    Mushroom tartlets
                                    Curried crab puff pastry
                                    Lamb sausage puffs
                                    Meatballs in mustard-whisky sauce
                                    Pulled pork sliders
                                    Duck sausage with cranberry-rum sauce
                                    Pheasant pasta with dried cranberries or dried cherries (can also use duck)
                                    Roast beef crostini with horseradish-herb cream (this always steals the show)
                                    Shortbread cookies
                                    Brownie bites
                                    Caramel profiteroles with chocolate-caramel sauce
                                    Maple cheesecake

                                    On the side:
                                    Candied nuts
                                    Chocolate-dusted almonds
                                    Salted nuts

                                    For anyone out there looking for suggestions, hopefully that will help get the creative juices flowing!

                                    1. bacon wrapped dates
                                      "pig candy" (bacon made on the grill (on aluminum) covered with lots of brown sugar, some ceyanne and chili flakes)
                                      vanilla whiskey bread pudding
                                      carmelized onion and fig tarts (spread pastry or filo dough with fig jam, top with caramalized onions and gruyere)
                                      mini grilled cheese with caramelized onion and bacon jam