Sugar, spice and seafood: How to pair gin with food

Unlike other spirits, gin is a medley of ingredients. The botanicals give gin its unique earthy flavour through a mixture of herbs, spices, roots, bark, berries, flowers… the list goes on. In fact, the name ‘gin’ comes from the spirit’s key ingredient: juniper. In the 16th century, the Dutch enjoyed a drink called genever, which the British drank before battling the Spanish – hence the phrase ‘Dutch courage’. It was a harsh malt wine, sweetened with plenty of juniper. By the 18th century, ‘gen’ had become ‘gin’, possibly because they were too drunk to pronounce it correctly.

All these herbs, spices and berries add a depth of flavour to the spirit, and are recognisable ingredients in many dishes. The drink is therefore incredibly versatile when it comes to pairing with food especially as its core ingredients – juniper, coriander seed and citrus – are used extensively in cookery.

Whether it’s for a quiet night in or a cocktail party, here is a list of foods you can try which bring out the fresh yet earthy flavours of gin:

food pairing with gin

Gin and Seafood

Gin’s citrussy notes suit seafood including smoked salmon, prawns and mussels. The salty, briny flavour of oysters and mussels are often off-set with a squeeze of lemon juice, so munch on some seafood appetisers while drinking our Lemon gin. During cocktail hour, try salmon blinis with cream cheese and refreshing cucumber, a favourite accompaniment in a glass of gin and tonic, or a summer barbecue of zingy ginger and coriander prawn skewers. Surprisingly, gin partners a fish and chips supper, cutting through the fatty batter and lightening the meal.

Gin and Charcuterie and pâté

Traditionally meats were cured and fermented with various herbs and spices which would aid the salt by acting as a cure, preventing the meat from going rancid and adding layers of flavour. Typical spices include black pepper and fennel which marry with the cinnamon, citrus and herbal notes often detected in gin. Meats such as prosciutto are rubbed or brined in a spice mix including juniper and herbs. Furthermore, gin is a regular ingredient in pâtés and parfaits as the sharp juniper balances the fatty meat. Next time you serve a charcuterie board of prosciutto, saucisson, and pâté, serve yourself a gin and tonic to wash it down.

Gin and Olives

Another nibble for your charcuterie board. Gin Mare is a famously ‘savoury’ gin, distilled with olive, thyme and rosemary so its earthy flavours are pronounced and is often served with a sprig of rosemary. Olives are also frequently used as a garnish in gin martinis which can be served dirty with olive brine.

gin and cheese

Gin and Strong cheese

Manchego, Stilton, or really pungent cheeses like Stinking Bishop, are refreshingly balanced with a shot of gin, likewise a strong brand to match the potency of the cheese. Creamy cheeses such as goat’s cheese also work perfectly with gin which works as a thirst-quencher with the salty flavours. Forget cheese and wine, start a cheese and gin night!

Gin and Game

Meats such as venison and rabbit are often paired with fruity red jellies seasoned with juniper. Sloe gin is a particularly complementary drink as its rich fruit flavour is full-bodied and stands up to the savoury game. During the Christmas period, serve sloe gin alongside venison in a red fruit and juniper sauce, or combine the flavours in a warming stew.

Gin and Lamb

Similarly, lamb is another gamy red meat. Its strong flavour profile can shine through robust and spicy marinades, and is often paired with rosemary, mint and garlic, the flavours of which can dominate dishes. Like game, lamb can be paired with red fruits and juniper, thus another excuse to wash it all down with sloe gin, yet meanwhile lamb is also complemented by sweet summer berries. Try a glass of our Love Spoon Wild Fruit gin with lamb in a blackcurrant sauce.

Gin and Spicy curries

The crisp tone of gin soothes a fiery curry and can even be added to the spicy marinades! The combination of the refreshing botanicals and a clean finish cleanses the palate after a bite of vindaloo. Indian foods and gin are a well-suited pairing which is no coincidence considering the East India Company soldiers drank gin frequently during the spice trade and colonial rule. The spices in both gin and Indian cuisine marry and meld beautifully; the spicy heat of a rogan josh can be complemented by a sweet vanilla gin, while a drink with notes of coriander and ginger can highlight the flavours in the curry.

Gin and Berries

Gin complements sweet foods as well as savoury. Berries are an excellent partner, balancing the sharpness of juniper and are often used as garnishes in fruity gin and tonics, and are particularly suited to pairing with our Love Spoon Wild Fruit gin. Try macerating red fruits in gin and sugar to plump them with juice, plus its excess liquid creates a vibrant syrup to pour over desserts.

gin and chocolate

Gin and Chocolate

Forget cheese and wine tastings, there are now chocolate and gin tastings. It is the ultimate indulgence; nibbling on squares of chocolate as you sip a gin and tonic. No matter your chocolate preference – milk, dark or white – gin suits them all. The herbal depth of gin is regularly paired with mild white chocolate, so select a fragrant summer gin seasoned with floral notes or berries to go with your white chocolate dessert. Meanwhile, dark chocolate stands up to strong gins with a forceful profile of juniper and citrus. As for milk chocolate, try Ali Pope’s milk chocolate bar stuffed with dried fruits soaked in our Bara Brith gin.

Gin and Rhubarb

The woody flavour in gin is from angelica root and is considered to be an essential ingredient by many gin makers. This dry tone complements rhubarb, especially when it is sweetened in a dessert. Furthermore, the rhubarb’s sharpness highlights the use of juniper. Try a rhubarb syllabub, cheesecake or ripple ice cream; the creamy flavour softening the fruit’s sourness thus complementing your gin and tonic.

Gin and Gingerbread

In the 1700s, there was a ‘gin and gingerbread’ phenomenon. During cold weather, the crowds would fall upon the London river bank where hot gin was served with gingerbread. Besides the poor quality of gin distillation at the time with eventually led to insanity and death amongst many of the party-goers, the idea is a festive one, and the fragrant warmth of spicy gingerbread continues to be matched with a hot gin toddy. Serve our Bara Brith gin in a spicy toddy with a twist of orange, a cinnamon stick and grating of nutmeg.


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