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Sip and Savor: A Guide to Food Pairings for Classic Cocktails

As good as these classic cocktails are on their own, the right culinary pairing can unlock a whole new world of flavor. Check out our favorite food + drink combos for inspiration!
Sip and Savor: A Guide to Food Pairings for Classic Cocktails
Sip and Savor: A Guide to Food Pairings for Classic Cocktails
Kat Van Sligtenhorst at SideChef
Hey, Kat here! I’m a content writer fueling a travel-filled lifestyle with food from around the world. Always on the lookout for innovative vegan eats, the best cup of black coffee, and anything that features tempeh as its main ingredient.
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Kat Van Sligtenhorst at SideChef
Hey, Kat here! I’m a content writer fueling a travel-filled lifestyle with food from around the world. Always on the lookout for innovative vegan eats, the best cup of black coffee, and anything that features tempeh as its main ingredient.

It’s well-known wisdom that you shouldn’t be sipping on an empty stomach. But rather than grabbing whatever’s in your pantry, try these food pairings specifically designed to complement their respective cocktails. In this guide, we’re breaking down the palate-pleasing combos that allow both drinks and dishes to shine their brightest. Cheers!

Drink: Bloody Mary

Paired with: Easy Savory Dutch Baby Pancake

Paired with: Asparagus Galette with Baked Eggs

This bold, savory, and spicy cocktail is commonly served at brunch or as a “hair of the dog” hangover cure. (Allegedly, the vegetable juice, salt, and punch of alcohol settle the stomach, provide electrolytes, and get rid of headaches from the night before).

Given that fun fact, it only seems right that we pair this iconic drink with a few more hangover cures–this time in food form. Rich, warm, and generous on the carbs, these morning/midday meals are delightfully shareable. And as comforting as they are to dig into, both dishes are equally at home in an upscale brunch spread.

Drink: Le Grand Fizz

Paired with: Clam Aglio e Olio with Garlic Bread Crumbs

Paired with: Fresh Prosciutto Melon Salad with Mint Basil Vinaigrette

A cocktail as refreshing as Le Grand Fizz is just as at home alongside a decadent pasta dish as it is a light, flavorful salad.

That’s why we love to pair it with bright, simple dishes–Think fresh produce, light proteins, herbs, and spices. Skip your typical lettuce-based salad in favor of zingy arugula, savory prosciutto, sweet melon, and creamy mozzarella…all drizzled with a homemade mint basil vinaigrette. Or opt for a spaghetti dinner decked out with fresh clams, dry vermouth, and the beloved spice of aglio e olio (garlic + oil).

Drink: French Martini

Paired with: Plum Fennel Salad with Ginger Honey Dressing

Paired with: Mediterranean-Inspired Crudité Board

Invented in New York City in the 1980s, this cocktail is partly to thank for the flavored martini craze that kicked off shortly after. It gives vodka a sweet twist, mixing in pineapple juice and Chambord black raspberry liqueur.

The fabulously fruity French martini begs to be paired with fresh ingredients and delicately balanced dishes. So, between a satisfying snacking board, complexly layered summer salad, and plenty of extra drink to be poured, your next warm-weather picnic is practically planned for you.

Drink: Espresso Martini

Paired with: Irish Cream Banana Brownies

Paired with: Chocoflan

Ah, the espresso martini. This iconic cocktail is known around the world for its powerful one-two punch of alcohol and caffeine. Some sip on it to ward off waves of sleepiness in the middle of a night out. Others order for its elegance and subtle coffee flavor.

Either way, this drink’s rich, slightly bitter palate is perfectly paired with decadent, chocolatey desserts–much like an afternoon coffee + cake combo! Except, this time, it’s a naughty nightcap.

These brownies are leveled up with a crunchy nut filling, creamy milk chocolate ganache, and a topping of caramelized bananas…plus a little extra adult fun mixed in (hello, Irish cream liqueur). Meanwhile, the Chocoflan layers traditional flan + chocolate cake in a Mexican-inspired, ultimate sweet treat.

Drink: Cosmopolitan

Paired with: Christmas Charcuterie Board

Paired with: Buckwheat Galettes with Smoked Salmon

Sweet, sour, sassy…the original pink drink has long been a legend in the cocktail world. Cosmos were invented in the 1980s and later popularized thanks to their frequent appearance as Carrie Bradshaw’s go-to drink on “Sex and the City.”

The sharpness of each Cosmo sip is best complemented by rich, creamy, smoky flavors. On deck, we’ve got a charcuterie board full of fragrant cheeses, tender cold cuts, fruits, and nuts, as well as savory galettes loaded with rich smoked salmon and zesty herbed sour cream.

Drink: Ranch Water

Paired with: Nacho Fries

Paired with: Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Hailing from Texas, this is the perfect thirst-quencher for backyard barbecues and summer get-togethers. The Ranch Water cocktail is also ridiculously easy to make, utilizing a simple stirred mix of tequila, lime juice, and sparkling water.

Given its Southern origins and crisp, refreshing taste, the Ranch Water is wonderfully suited to Tex-Mex favorites like nachos and fajitas. We’ve kept these mouthwatering meals just as easy to make as the drink–both come together in 30 minutes or less! And packed with fresh veggies, lively herbs, and spicy seasonings, they certainly don’t skimp on flavor.

Drink: Paloma

Paired with: Korean Beef Tacos with Kimchi Pico de Gallo

Paired with: Chilaquiles Divorciados

Allegedly named after a Mexican folk song from the 1860s, the Paloma (which translates to “Dove”) provides a heavenly sipping experience indeed, blending sweet, sour, bitter, and slightly salty flavors into one drink.

Between tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime, you can expect bright, punchy flavors down to the last gulp. So how to best balance it? With decadent, complex dishes, of course!

That’s why we’ve paired it with some real standout ingredients, like Korean bulgogi beef, kimchi pico de gallo, and gochujang mayo sauce in one recipe, as well as a legendary salsa verde + salsa roja face-off in the other.

Drink: Margarita

Paired with: Easy Steak Fajitas

Paired with: Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings

Everyone loves a margarita. Some creation stories trace this cocktail all the way back to 1938 (that’s some serious staying power!), and fruity and frozen varieties have only further cemented its icon status.

You know the drill: tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and a salt rim make every sip a delight. As for pairings, spicy foods, and meaty comfort dishes let this refreshing drink shine. Bring on the fajitas, wings, and other bar menu staples!

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