32 summer sippers

Tips for pairing cocktails and food, plus recipes for our favourite summer drink recipes

A cold drink on a hot summer’s day can only be improved by an impeccably paired snack or meal, especially when there’s an option to enjoy both components while sitting outside. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pairing cocktails with food. With so many elements at play, especially when a cocktail contains multiple ingredients, a perfect pairing doesn't need to be a formal affair — it only needs to taste good.

Four tips to consider when pairing cocktails and food

Build pairings around a single cuisine: If Tex-Mex is on the menu, make up a batch of margaritas, or try its grapefruit juice-infused relative, the Paloma. Recreate the feeling of being on an Italian vacation by serving a selection of antipasti with an Aperol spritz or prosecco-based cocktail. For a Canadian-themed feast, there’s no better occasion to pour out a spicy bloody Caesar or a white wine spritzer.

Keep alcohol content in mind: Sangria, punch, and spritzers are generally low in alcohol, making them ideal for serving alongside lighter fare; think salads, fresh fruit, delicate appetizers, and grilled seafood. Traditional cocktails, which tend to have a higher alcohol content, should be served with richer, more filling foods such as grilled or roasted beef, pork and lamb, cheese, charcuterie or dessert.

Consider the length of the meal: If the meal is to be served over multiple courses, keep the alcohol content of the drinks low. This is especially important to remember if you plan on choosing a pairing for each course.

Focus on a single spirit: When cocktails and other mixed drinks contain multiple ingredients, how can you be sure which tasting element to focus on? To avoid confusion, base the pairing on the cocktail’s base spirit using any of the suggestions below as inspiration:

  • Gin: smoked salmon or gravlax, sliced cucumber, shrimp, marmalade, rosemary, hard cheeses, mussels, and lamb
  • Vodka: ginger, pickles, sashimi, crackers, smoked fish, tomatoes, watermelon, and dumplings
  • Tequila: lime juice, tropical fruit, grilled fish and shrimp, tacos, chocolate, queso fresco or feta, and salted popcorn
  • Rum: coconut, pineapple, mango, banana, fish tacos, extra-aged gouda, and grilled chicken
  • Whiskey: dark chocolate, aged cheddar, blue cheese, roasted nuts, cherries, oranges, and beef
Punch and sangria

There are many benefits to serving punch and sangria, including the fact that they can be made in large batches ahead of time, are typically more cost effective and can be adapted to suit the ingredients you have on hand. To keep the punch cold without watering down the flavour, use frozen fruit (including citrus and cucumber slices) instead of regular ice.

Classic libations

The classic cocktails in this section may be reliable, but they’re anything but boring. Using quality ingredients, including the alcohol, mixers, and ice, can elevate a standard beverage into something truly special. Small details, like chilled glasses, pith-free citrus garnishes, pasteurized egg whites and fresh fruit juice, will help make the drinking experience the very best it can be.

Reinvented cocktails

When it comes to breathing new life into traditional cocktail pairings, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Fresh herbs, citrus peel, vegetable juice, cordial, and flavoured simple syrup are just a handful of fun ingredients that can be incorporated into reinvented cocktail recipes. Feel free to serve these cocktails in non-traditional glasses; juice cups, wine glasses and even small jam jars can be used to beautifully display the results of your mixology efforts.

Mocktails

Alcohol-free but packed with refreshing flavour, these beautiful mocktails don’t skimp on quality ingredients or presentation. If you plan on serving alcoholic drinks alongside non-alcoholic beverages, make sure both are clearly marked to avoid confusion or accidental ingestion.