While some people believe any food can be paired with martinis, there are several different ways to pair appetizers and meals to balance, contrast or complement the drink’s flavors. And because there are so many flavors, if you already have a food in mind, chances are you can easily find a martini to match it.
Classic Martinis with Appetizers
The best way to pair a martini with a particular food is to either complement the flavor with a similar taste or enhance it with an opposite. Sharp cheese or salty nuts complement the bold and herbal bitter taste of a classic martini, while mild hummus and pita chips can enhance its flavor. Both buttery chicken or fish appetizers work well, as do bold beef and game.
Pairing Opposite Flavors
If you’re serving spicy dishes at a party, pairing them with cool citrus or sweet martinis can balance the flavors. A lime martini goes well with a Spanish chile dish, while a lemon drop or chocolate martini balances spicy chips and salsa. Try pairing a mild dish with a spicy drink, such as sweet bread and butter rolls or pastries with a mocha martini made with chile-infused vodka.
Pairing Matching Flavors
While matching flavors enhances both the food and the martini, the goal is not to cancel them out. For example, while a lemon drop might go with sushi, a Manhattan would most likely not because the tastes don’t enhance each other. Pairings that match well include fruity martinis, such as pomegranate, strawberry or blueberry with mixed berries and cream or crab cakes, or a lemon drop with lemony shrimp in cocktail sauce.
Dessert martinis can be paired with spicy food, but they’re more commonly served with matching flavors. A well-chosen dessert might be an apple or coconut martini with vanilla ice cream, or a chocolate or mocha martini with apple or pumpkin pie. For fruity desserts like strawberry shortcake, serve a mixed-berry martini to match. A sweet Manhattan goes with a cherry pie or something fancy like creme brûlée.
References and ResourcesMix That Drink; Dry Martini; 2011
Evite; Martini Party Ideas; 2011
Martini Gold; Martini’s & Food Pairing; 2007
McCormick and Shmick's Grill; Dessert and After Dinner; July 2011