While it may be true there's no wrong match for a martini, there are several ways to enhance the drink-dinner combination through pairing. Factors to keep in mind when pairing are balancing, contrasting, and complementing flavors. And because there are so many varieties of martinis if you've already got your meal locked down, chances are you can easily find a martini to match it.
The Classic Martini
The best way to pair a martini with a particular food is to either enhance the flavor with a similar taste or complement it with an opposite flavor. Sharp cheeses or salty nuts enhance the bold and herbal bitter taste of a classic martini, while mild hummus and pita chips can contrast its sharp flavor. Both buttery chicken or fish appetizers work well, as do bold beef and game.
Pairing Opposites: Sweet, Sour & Spicy
If you're serving spicy dishes at a party, pairing them with cool citrus or sweet martinis is a nice way to balance the flavors. A lime martini goes well with a Spanish chili dish, while a sweet lemon drop or chocolate martini balances spicy chips and salsa. Try pairing a mild dish with a spicy drink, such as sweet bread, butter rolls or pastries with a mocha martini made with chili-infused vodka.
Pairing Matching Flavors
While matching flavors can enhance both the food and the martini, the goal is to not cancel them out. For example, while a lemon-drop martini goes nicely with sushi, a Manhattan isn't the best choice because the tastes don't supplement each other. Pairings that match well with sweet fruity martinis (such as pomegranate, strawberry, blueberry or mixed berries), are cream or crab cakes; or heighten the flavor of lemon shrimp with a lemon-drop martini.
Dessert martinis can be paired with spicy food, but they're more commonly served with sweet desserts. A well-chosen dessert pairing might be an apple or coconut martini with vanilla ice cream, or a chocolate mocha martini with apple or pumpkin pie. For fruity desserts like strawberry shortcake, serve a mixed-berry martini to match. A sweet Manhattan goes nicely with a cherry pie or something fancy like creme brûlée.
Marianne Luke has been writing professionally since 2005. She has experience writing instruction manuals, research, fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and she also reviews Orlando local music for "Orange Ave Lab" magazine. Luke earned a Bachelor of Arts in technical communications and creative writing from the University of Central Florida in 2010.