Get Into the Holiday Spirit(s)!
Give your favorite festive foods an extra oomph by pairing them with complementary wines, beers and liquors.
I love the holidays. It’s a time to get together with family, doll up and cook the house down! If you’re hosting a dinner party, don’t forget about the drinks. Here are some of my favorite beverage pairings with the season’s most decadent foods. And yes, there’s a desi twist!
Sweet Potato Samosa Pie with Sparkling Rosé
Take a samosa and make it a pie. Take spiced sweet potatoes, peas and other favorite veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, onions, etc. and fill them up in a pie crust. Cover with phyllo dough before baking. It’s simply a massive samosa with a fall ingredient and makes for a stunning addition to a dinner table. Serve with mint and cilantro chutney.
I’d pair this with sparkling rosés. Go for an off-dry or medium-sweet to offset the spice level of your samosa pie. The tart fruitiness of the wine will accompany the sweet potato well, and the acidity will slice through the fatty flavors.
Tandoori Turkey with Pinot Noir
Why does the centerpiece turkey have to be bland? Marinate your turkey in classic tandoori and garam masala spices in yogurt before roasting. The yogurt will also help keep the meat from drying out.
I’d pair this with a pinot noir, preferably from Oregon. Pinots have lovely acidity that will cut through the fattiness of turkey, and the fruit will balance out the spice of the food. These wines are aromatic and flavorful: floral with hints of red fruit such as raspberries and strawberries, forest floor on the nose, and even cloves and mushrooms when aged. Pinot noirs from Oregon have more dried spice characteristics, like thyme and sage, which is why the region is a perfect match for something this flavorful.
Nutty Cranberry Pulao with Mencia
This gorgeous side dish is equal parts festive and grand. And it’s simple to put together. Pair this with your main course and a light Spanish red, like Mencia. A bit like a pinot noir, Mencia (pronounced “men-thee-ah”) is earthy, vegetal, with berry notes and a stony minerality. I describe it as a pinot with a salsa dress on! Spanish wines are a bang for your buck—great value for the level of quality they offer.
1 cup basmati rice
2 tbsp ghee
1 thinly sliced onion
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp red chili powder, salt to taste
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup dried cranberries
¾ cup mixture of cashew halves, slivered almonds, pistachios
¼ tsp saffron, soaked in 2 tablespoons of hot water for 10 minutes
Rinse and soak basmati rice in water for at least 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat ghee on medium heat in a Dutch oven.
Add sliced onions and sauté until they begin to color.
Add salt, red chili powder and turmeric. Mix. Next add cranberries and nuts, and mix well.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to medium-low.
Add drained rice to the pot. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
Once the rice is fully cooked and fluffy, pour saffron water over rice evenly. Top with additional nuts and ghee.
Are ya drooling yet?
Baked Brie with Crémant de Bourgogne
This is a stunner at any holiday table, especially as your guests pile in! This warm and gooey brie is easy to prep, and there’s plenty to share. Serve with a Crémant de Bourgogne (crémant from Burgundy).
Crémant is a sparkling wine made in the traditional style that champagne is made in but sold for fraction of the price. I like crémant from Burgundy for its zippy acidity and creamy, bready flavors that linger on the palate. You can pick from many different regions like Alsace, Bordeaux, Jura, Loire, and so on— they all have beautiful differences.
A full wheel of brie
¼ cup dark brown sugar
Chopped toasted nuts like pecans, walnuts or pistachios, almonds
Cranberries and rosemary for garnish
Pack brown sugar on a full wheel of brie. You can remove the top rind first, if you prefer. I leave it on, I love the rind! Bake at 350°F for about 15-20 minutes, until the inside feels gooey.
Dress with toasted nuts, aromatic rosemary and cranberries to make a wreath. Serve with crusty bread, apples, crackers or a shovel... that’s how I devour mine.
Chai Crème Brûlée with Belgian Dark Ale
Fall is the best season for craft beer. A slew of pumpkin lagers, saisons and hard ciders make their seasonal debuts. And guess what? They’re a perfect accompaniment to dessert!
A classic crème brûlée is rich in vanilla flavors with a burnt sugar crust on top. Seeping masala chai in the custard will add beautiful subtle spices to the dessert. Pair this with a Belgian dark ale like Brooklyn Brewery’s Local #2. It’s brewed with European malt and hops. The sweetness of the malts complements the bitterness of the sugar crust, while the hops cut through the sweetness of the custard. There are also hints of spice, dark fruit and honey in this beer.
However, if you just want a beer form of this French dessert, consider Southern Tier’s Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout.
Gulab Jamun with Ruby Port
When pairing sweet foods with wine, make wine the sweeter of the two. If the dessert is sweeter, you will lose your wine completely. Ruby port, a delicious sweet wine, has stewed berry flavors, including plum and dried fruit like cherries and raisins. The notes are followed by cinnamon, the perfect level of spice to pair with an Indian dessert. Tawny port has more woodsy and caramel notes, another great pairing.
What about something lighter, like kheer? I’d go for a crisp, sparkling Vouvray.
Winter-Spiced Golden Milk with Brandy
Who doesn’t love a warm cup of golden milk by the fireplace? Spiced with turmeric, cloves, cardamom and ginger, this is the perfect holiday treat to close out the night. Did you drink this growing up?
4 cups of milk
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 dried rosebuds
Small knob of ginger root (about an inch long)
1 tsp of vanilla essence (can substitute for 1 fresh vanilla pod)
1/2 tsp crushed cubeb peppercorns
3 crushed cardamom pods
1 tbsp brown sugar
Simmer the milk with all spices for at least 20 minutes and then strain. Garnish with saffron or a sprinkling of cinnamon. Add a shot of brandy or bourbon, and you’ve got a festive cocktail! Divine served hot, delicious chilled!
Pro Tips on Wine Pairings
Good rule of thumb: pick wines that won’t compete with the complexity of the food. With Indian cuisine, the curries, chutneys, aachar, grain and dairy are a coordinated dance on a single plate. You’ll want to pair a wine that can cut through the noise and stand on its own.
1. Alcohol makes spicy food spicier. Aim for lower-alcohol wines with spicier foods.
2. Sweeter wines are an excellent balance with spice and heat.
3. Acid cuts fat. Acidic wines pair well with rich meats, and heavy gravies. Think sauvignon blanc, and pinot noir.
4. Salt cuts tannin. Salty foods will make an intense tannin wine like Barolo more enjoyable.
5. Wine should be sweeter than dessert.
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