Drinks Pairings for Food and Soft Drinks: I Challenge You!

How many pages do you think have been written on pairing food and wine?

Google returns 2,140,000 results for “food and wine matching” and another 299,000 for “food and wine pairing”.

To my surprise, “food and beer matching” does even better with more than 37 million hits, though I strongly suspect a quirk of the search terms on that one.

But it seems far less people are talking about how to match food with soft drinks.

Given how many of us choose not to drink alcohol with every meal, this is a real shame, especially as the current availability of what I’d describe as grown up soft drinks means there’s far more choice than Coca Cola or fruit juice. (I’m not criticising either).

You might remember that Pete and I were sent a range of soft drinks from Luscombe to welcome us gently into the new year. Early in February, we arranged to meet Gabriel David, the owner of Luscombe Drinks, to find out more about the drinks and talk about matching them with food.

Gabriel took us to the Duke of Cambridge pub – which we totally loved; a wonderful space, shabby chic style, great food and drink and friendly service and the UK’s first fully organic gastropub – so that we could experiment with matching some of the Luscombe drinks to a variety of foods. The pub didn’t stock the full Luscombe range, so we played with what we had, but some of the results really opened us both up to the potential of really, really good matches between food and soft drinks.

And of course, as Gabriel said, it’s far broader than encouraging you to try only Luscombe drinks with food.

There are more and more producers waking up to the fact that soft drinks aren’t just for kids and making non-alcoholic drinks to suit adult palates.

As someone who doesn’t drink beer and only enjoys dessert wine, I’ve been enjoying more sophisticated soft drinks with my meals for a while, revelling in the offerings of producers like Belvoir Fruit Farms, Bottlegreen (including Blossom Cottage), Pixley Berries, Thorncroft Drinks and Rocks Organic as well as supermarket own brand products. In fact, even the big soft drink brands have started introducing more adult-oriented products into their range.

And of course, there’s an increasingly wide range of top quality fresh fruit juices and smoothies available too.

My notes about the matches that worked best during our little lunch experiment are at the bottom of this post.

I challenge you!

I’d really like to hear more about your favourite food and soft drinks matches.

For those of you who blog, would you consider writing a post about one or more pairings you’d like to share? Link back to this post in yours (with the logo above) and I’ll do a round up post linking to all your suggestions on Sunday 24th April. (Let me know about blog posts via email or comments).

For those of you who don’t blog, please do share your ideas in the comments.

You can give recipes for food and drink you think work well together or tell me about matches you’ve particularly enjoyed when eating out.

I’d really like to share some great ideas to help more of us enjoy good food without non-alcoholic drinks and I’m calling on you to help me!

My Matching Notes

Here are my thoughts on the matches that worked best during our lunch.

Pan fried pig’s liver with Jerusalem artichokes and balsamic red onion

Both apples and ginger are well known favourites with pork and we all agreed that the Ginger & Apple juice was the strongest match; the meaty pig’s liver was robust enough to balance out the strong flavours in the drink.

Chicken liver pate with chutney, pickles and toast

The winner with this dish was very clearly the Elderflower Bubbly. Somehow, this pairing brought out both the elderflower and the chicken liver pate.

Other drinks proved decent matches, but not as quite as mutually improving.

Smoked mackerel salad with beetroot and apple

We initially thought the Sicilian Lemonade or Lime Crush would be the most obvious choice, given the affinity of lemon and fish, especially oily fish. We were wrong, the citrus was too strong and didn’t work at all.

What we picked instead was the Elderflower Bubbly, which worked with the fish and enhanced the beetroot in particular.

Cream of celeriac, mushroom and leek soup

None of us could find a great match for the soup in amongst the reduced range we had. Do let me know your suggestions. What do you think would work?

Mussels with chorizo and a dark ale sauce

No photo of this dish, I’m afraid, as we demolished it fairly quickly.

We each had a different favourite here. For me, the Lime Crush worked well against sweet mussels, spicy chorizo and beery sauce. The Ginger & Apple juice also worked.

Spaghetti with creamy mushroom, red onion sauce, ricotta and parmesan

The more acidic drinks didn’t work well against the cream in the sauce. Again, the Elderflower Bubbly worked well.

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
17 Comments to "Drinks Pairings for Food and Soft Drinks: I Challenge You!"

  1. Nordic Nibbler

    I do like a bit of Luscombe – their Sicilian lemonade is my favourite. You’re right though, Kavey; beyond the usual coke/water/juice trinity it’s rare to find a decent non-alcoholic drink in a restaurant. I suspect looking East, where alcohol isn’t traditionally drunk with a meal, might give some inspiration. I’m thinking lassi, tea, jal jeera etc.

    Interestingly, when I ate at Noma we were offered the option of a matching juice menu. We went for the wines instead, but part of me thinks that the juice would have been far more exciting.

    Will be really interesting to see what food/drink pairings people come up with.

  2. meemalee

    “Interestingly, when I ate at Noma we were offered the option of a matching juice menu”

    OH MY GOD, Nordic Nibbler! As someone who also (notoriously) won't drink beer or wine, I am over the moon at this news!

    Kavey, brilliant idea – will try to

  3. Foodycat

    I've discovered that the drink I like most with food when I am not having booze is a cup of tea. I feel it channels the folkways of my people – I bet the last 6 generations of East Enders in my family all drank tea with their meals.

  4. Kavey

    Nordic, oh that's really great to learn… like Meemalee, that's music to my ears as I don't drink wine or beer so I'm often left with really poor quality juices even in high end restaurants. I hope you'll consider posting somethiing for this?

    MiMi, hope you can join in, I know you're a fellow soft drinker much of the time!

    Foodycat, really? That's interesting, I'm not so much on hot drinks with food, though I will occasionally!

    Fiona, many thanks. Love your suggestions for soft alternatives, that's fabulous!

  5. Su-Lin

    This is brilliant – as you know, I barely drink myself and I hope that more restaurants will consider more interesting drinks for us not wanting an alcoholic beverage.

  6. miss south

    I'm going to be watching this with interest. I enjoy both wine and beer, but my budget is so tight when eating out that I often prefer to skip the booze to make the pennies go further, but then find myself drinking sickly sweet stuff that makes me feel a bit sick and ruins the food…

    I've had good experiences in Mexican and South American restaurants with the hibiscus waters and horchatas and lemon based drinks, or even the iced tea that Americans love, but find it tricky in British places. I await your findings with interest!

  7. Kavey

    Thanks, Miss South! I have a very sweet tooth but I don't always want sickly fizzy drinks or juice because they don't match well with all foods. So I understand competely.

    I see you blog too – won't you consider joining in and posting a blog entry of your own on the topic? If you can link back with the logo/ let me know, I can include it in a round up and we can all share our ideas with each other?!

  8. tori

    What a great idea. Will put my thinking cap on. NB, at Mugaritz we had some super interesting non alcoholic pairings, including a some incredibly interesting distillations. When I'm not drinking, I found that chilled herbal teas mixed with some soda water give some nice options that aren't sugar laden…

  9. Kavey

    Thanks Tori, would love to have you participate, that would be fabulous and love the idea of those iced teas mixed with soda water. Not come across that before.

  10. celia

    My problem isn't the flavours as much as the bubbles – I always find they can be distracting from the food itself. I quite like teas with food as a non-alcoholic alternative, both hot and iced…

  11. tasteofbeirut

    I like good wine and the classic pairing, white with fish and red with meat; I have a lot of learning to do in that department obviously! Love that pâté plate, yum!

  12. Kavey

    Helen, absolutely! I am not a huge drinker, so I'm biased, but I know many drinkers who simply don't always fancy wine or beer with every meal so it's definitely a broad-interest topic, I'd think!

    Celia, oh really? I love bubbles, I find they help clear my palate, don't know how though!

    TasteofBeirut, it's definitely something I want to encourage people to think about!

  13. Miss Whiplash

    I have a real problem with soft drinks.
    Whilst, as a defective diabetic, I can eat pretty much anything I want (contrary to common misconception), drinks are much more of a problem – sugary drinks, including fruit juices, raise your blood sugar extremely quickly (useful in hypo situations, not good the rest of the time).
    I don't drink hot drinks because I don't like them and, other than booze, I'm pretty much restricted to aspartame filled diet drinks and water.
    If any soft drink experts have any alternative suggestions, I'd love some advice!


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