There’s a Fine Art to Pairing Food with Gin, According to an Expert

Pairing spirits and food is difficult. It’s much more down to your mixing skills than it is the flavour of the booze as compared to wine or beer. A chardonnay is only really affected by temperature but your spirit is going to need mixing up and the level of alcohol in your drink is going to change what you’re able to consume with it.

Thankfully we have Paul Birtwistle, head of the famous Toko Japanese restaurant in Sydney’s premier foodie destination, Surry Hills, to talk you through all the tips and tricks for matching gin and food.

Take it away, Paul

To start with, the most foundational rule of gin pairing is “use something that the gin has in it”. “That’s the golden rule, it’s gin 101”

Gin is made from a base grain spirit that has been infused with other flavouring elements known as botanicals. The most prominent and characteristic one is juniper. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s game. Most gins will use herbs and spices like coriander plus citrus elements in its flavours that you’re aiming to match with your foods.

In order to really emphasise the botanicals “you have to add other elements to the gin, to draw out those elements of it”. For a London dry gin, you might use a wedge of lemon or lime. ROKU Gin might be best served with more oriental flavours like ginger.

“Use that particular botanical within the dish itself” Paul says. “It’s really just trying to emphasise what’s in the gin or an element of the gin and then match that”.

ROKU uses six particularly Japanese botanicals and those ingredients are “finding their way through all kinds of modern Australian and modern British cuisine, even French at the moment”. That means you’ll have a fair bit of leeway in what you can pair it with.

“ROKU tends to be a little more of an aromatic style of gin. How savory you can go with it, I’m not a hundred percent sure but lighter, fresh, fragrant, flavours will work”.

“You can really pick up on those aromatic characters, whether it be the citrus character or the blossom character and really be able to lift those in the gin”.

If you are looking to pair your gin with a stronger, denser flavour, it can be done, you’ll just have to up the alcohol content too.

“The Japanese kind of have these strong bar snacks which can be things like karasumi, which is like bottarga with daikon. Savoury things. What they use if you go into a Japanese-style pub, they have dried squid and they’re quite strong. So, something like that. If it’s a really strong flavor, you could probably match it up with gin on the rocks or something or a martini or Martinez or something like that”.

Ultimately, use strong flavours to match strong flavours and lighter ones to match lighter ones.

If you’re doing a straight gin martini, use a strong flavor. “It’s all about complementing it”, Paul tells us. Now you’ve heard from the best, go out and experiment to figure out what else is possible. Cheers to that.