It’s not easy to pair cocktails with food, especially when you’re serving a diverse, multicourse menu. So how do most mixologists go about planning and executing their drinks pairings? Very carefully.
Ryan Maybee, owner/barman of Manifesto and The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange in Kansas City recently put together a cocktail dinner at the Rieger for some bar industry experts. But these weren’t just any experts: Guests included cocktail luminaries Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Steve Olson and David Wondrich–partners of training consultancy Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR), who were in town to participate in Pernod Ricard USA’s BarSmarts program.
So it wasn’t an easy group to impress, but the dinner was a big hit. Maybee shared the menu, as well as the inspiration for and logic behind his cocktail parings with Cheers readers.
First course: Oysters Rockefeller
Drink: Champagne Cocktail with Mumm Cuvee Napa, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and Pernod Absinthe, served in a Champagne flute and garnished with a fresh lemon zest.
Why this cocktail? “The elderflower and the spicy notes from the Pernod played off of the traditional herbs garnishing the oysters,” Maybee says.
Second course: Fall vegetable salad with a panko-crusted egg
Drink: Absolut vodka with roasted butternut squash puree, chai-peach cordial, lemon, and celery-lovage bitters.
“This dish needed something that would cut through the panko-crusted egg, and the earthy, spicy notes from the house-made cordial and bitters did the trick,” Maybee says. Also, the roasted butternut squash puree in the drink complimented the squash vinaigrette on the salad, he notes.
Third course: Bouillabaisse (octopus, lobster, monkfish, clams, mussels)
Drink: Beefeater gin, homemade strawberry liqueur, Aperol, lemon, and sparkling water served over ice in a Collins glass.
“This was the toughest course to pair a drink with,” Maybee says. “I thought about what kind of wine I would likely serve with it and tried to play off the flavors of a Provence rosé.”
Also, he notes, “it was important to me not to overpower the delicate and subtle flavors of the seafood. So I cut back the portions a little, allowing for just slightly more sparkling water and giving the drink a light, refreshing quality.”
Fourth course: Pear Pithivier
Drink: Jameson Irish whiskey with honey-cinnamon syrup, mulled apple cider (from a local apple orchard in Louisburg, KS) and Peychauds bitters.
“This was basically a mulled punch, served hot and garnished with clove-studded pears,” Maybee says. The drink was spicy, sweet and “spiked with just a little extra Jameson at the last second to suit the wonderfully rowdy crowd that evening,” he adds.