When it comes to seafood pairings, most people gravitate towards a white wine of some kind. While keeping it traditional has its place, there are some extraordinary cocktail pairings for fish and shellfish. So the next time you are making that trending TikTok pan-seared salmon or are out for fish & chips, think about ordering a cocktail to go with your ocean dinner. You won't regret it.
Pairing Classic Seafood Dishes With Cocktails
Between all the fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, the world of seafood is about as vast as an ocean. Every cuisine seems to have a go-to fish dish that the rest of the world has come to know and love. There is a perfect cocktail (or two) that pairs well with all of these seafood dishes.
Fish & Chips
Classic fish & chips is pleasing to the palate because of its fried, fatty, and salty nature. Fish & chips need a bright cocktail with some acidity to cut through the fat. A Moscow Mule is a great pairing because of the sharp ginger beer, bright citrus, and refreshing character.
This delicious Valencian dish can have everything from shrimp to mussels to clams ordaining the large, saffron-rice and meat-filled pan. A Mezcal Margarita is a great pairing for paella, with the mezcal mimicking the smoky flavors in the dish, and the salt and acidity balancing the rich characteristics.
This traditional Provençal stew is a seafood medley with sea bass, clams, cod, squid, and halibut in a spicy fish broth infused with saffron and orange zest. When paired with Pineau Spritz, the hint of citrus, honey, and Angostura bitters add complexity to the dish without overpowering it.
Gravlax with Hovmästarsås (Dill Sauce)
A smørrebrød of cured Nordic salmon served with a creamy, fresh dill sauce on rye bread is classically Scandinavian and seriously delicious. A timeless Cucumber Martini is a great pairing for the cured salmon. The botanical gin and cool cucumber were meant to be with this smørrebrød.
Ceviche is bright and citrus-driven. The raw fish is accompanied by cucumber, avocado, tomatoes, red onion, or cilantro, making it light and fresh. There is plenty of acid in ceviche, so balancing it with something that leans sweet, but is equally fresh, is best. A Mojito is a brilliant pairing with all the fresh mint.
Moules à la Marinière
These mussels are nestled into a delicate buttery, garlicky, white wine broth. It's a beautifully simple and balanced dish that pairs well with a fresh, herbaceous cocktail, such as a tarragon-infused Gin and Tonic. The botanical gin notes and fresh tarragon are a great match with meaty mussels.
Fish tacos allow for endless creativity. Using a lean, flaky white fish, such as halibut, cod, or snapper, is a good start. Crunchy, citrus-driven slaw, queso fresco, avocado, and sour cream add a wide spectrum of flavors and textures. A Whiskey Sour is the perfect pairing for your fish tacos, bringing the zippy citrus and real zing from rye.
Meaty, buttery lobster packed into a toasted bun is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. If you're eating a lobster roll, chances are you are sitting at a sunny picnic table on a warm afternoon, maybe even in close proximity to the beach. A Ranch Water is the perfect spritzy, fizzy, light cocktail with a kick to match both your luscious roll and the weather.
The purity in flavor and simplicity in presentation of salmon, tuna, or yellowtail sashimi is best paired with a cocktail that isn't too overpowering. A Shiso-Jito is an excellent match here. The vodka keeps the drink clean and straight-forward, just like the fish, while the shiso and ginger elements add just the right amount of fresh zing to the drink.
Malabar Matthi Curry (Goan Fish Curry)
This flavorful and spicy fish curry with sardines, snapper, or mackerel, packs a punch. When paired with a Vodka Tonic, the spice is toned-down and each sip recalibrates your palate for the next bite.
Pan-seared Sea Bass
Simply searing a piece of sea bass in a pan of butter is surprisingly satisfying. That crispy, golden-brown crust and flaky inside is the perfect combination of textures. Pairing the sea bass with something relatively delicate, like a Gin Basil Smash, brings key flavors to the dish with the basil, without overpowering the fish.
Tips For Creating Your Own Seafood Cocktail Pairings
If you're feeling creative, start making your own cocktail pairing the next time you are cooking fish. Seafood pairings are more versatile than you might think. Remember to consider flavor and body when choosing your cocktail and match them appropriately with the fish. More often than not, you'll want to keep it on the lighter, more refreshing side so as not to overpower the fish. If your fish dish is particularly fatty, bring the acid in the cocktail. Finally, play with matching herbaceous notes and citrus to really bring the pairing to life.
Fishing For A Cocktail
Cocktails are incredibly diverse. Their personalities range from light and flirty to pensive and subdued. Finding the perfect pairing for your seafood menu is a fun and creative task. Once you make that perfect match, you'll find yourself making many more.