Steak is one of the dishes that pair well with almost any drink. But there is one pairing that is going to blow your mind, if haven’t tried it yet: Scotch whisky and steak. Discover, here, the best scotch to pair with steak and other types of meat!
If you are a Scotch whisky and meat aficionado, this is the guide for you. We’ll explain you how does this pairing work so well, how to make it work perfectly and present you several options of scotch whisky to pair with steak and other meats, like wild game.
Table of content – Sip this Article
- Does Scotch Go Well with Steak?
- How to Pair Scotch and Steak
- The Best Scotch to Pair with Steak
The short answer is: yes! Scotch Whisky do go well with steak. Truth is, there is something magical in how the fat from the steak coats the mouth so you can feel all the flavours in a whisky, and how the whisky cleans the palate after eating a meat with stronger flavour.
As it happens with other whisky and food pairings, there are a few wild cards to pay attention to. Not all types of scotch whisky go well with every type of meat and vice-versa. In general, you can pair almost any whisky to any kind of steak. But you might want to pay attention to the “almost” in that sentence.
Stronger meats, like wild game, need a milder and smoother whisky so flavours are balanced. If you’re having a grass-fed grilled tenderloin, you might want to have a peated scotch or a high-rye bourbon for an extra kick.
The best Scotch whisky and steak pairing depend, mainly on the type of meat you will be having for your meal. As it happens with scotch whisky, there are a lot of meat types and ways to cook it – these, of course, influence the way these pieces taste.
There are a few ground rules we have mentioned before in some of our whisky pairing articles to better create a whisky and food pairing:
- Bitterness will balance sweet and salty flavours.
- Sourness will enhance salty flavours, as it will balance sweet and spicy notes.
- Salt will enhance all flavours.
- Sweetness cuts spicy, smoky and salty flavours, as well as the alcohol punch.
- Sweet flavours also bring up the fruit flavour notes.
- Spiciness match other spicy flavours and enhance the sweeter ones.
- Smokiness match other smoky flavours and uncover caramel flavour notes.
- Fresh flavours (like mint or herbs) will match floral and herbal flavours, and enhance the sweet flavours.
- Nutty flavours will play along the woody flavours, and bring up the sweet and spicy notes.
The first thing you might want to consider before pairing Scotch whisky and meat is… choosing the piece you will cook! There are a lot of details that influence the flavour of the meat itself, such as, from the fat of the piece to the food the animal eats during its life.
The most important factor is, definitely, what the animal eats during life. Grain or corn-fed beef will have a sweeter taste and more fat. Grass-fed beef, by its turn, will have a clean and raw taste, with herbal hints of flavour.
The cut of the beef itself is also a factor to pay attention to. It not only determines if the beef will have high or low level of marbling, but will also determine if it has bone or a potential for dry-aging.
The marbling (the cubes of fat present in a piece) will determine how much flavour it will absorb during cooking. That is, the fatter the steak is, the more flavour it will absorb from any condiments you cook with.
Regarding the bone in the cut, it usually gives the meat a nuttier flavour. Pieces like a T-bone will have an earthier taste, because of the bone present in there.
By its turn, the dry-aging of the beef boosts the natural flavours of the meat. This method consists in letting a piece of meat rest for weeks (or even months) in a controlled environment, so it does not have a chance to rot. The dry-aging also affects the tenderness of the meat. And, like it happens with whisky, it gets a stronger flavour if it ages for longer.
Lastly, choose the way you’ll cook the meat and the condiments you will use to prepare it. It will all influence the taste of the meat, as well as the scotch you’ll choose to pair it with.
Choosing the type of Scotch Whisky
After choosing the type of beef you’ll have for your meal, its time to choose the best scotch to pair with steak. As it happens with many other whisky pairings, you have two options: either you choose to balance everything out, or you choose to play with complementary opposites.
To come up with the perfect pair you should look at how the flavour play with themselves. Scotch, because it has such a wide range of flavours and characters, might be the perfect whisky to pair with different kinds of beef, depending on the meat itself.
Starting with the diet of the animal, if a steak is grass-fed, you might want to pair it with a cleaner scotch. On the other hand, if a steak is grain-fed, a peated scotch will be a stronger partner without overpowering the taste of the meat.
Regarding the marbling of the beef, you might want to pair a smoother whisky with cleaner steaks and full-body whisky (such as ex-sherry cask) for pieces with more fat. If you’re playing with complementary opposites, just switch the options.
If you are cooking a piece with bone, you might want to go for a single grain scotch whisky, since the mild flavours will pair perfectly with the nuttiness of the steak.
To end with, choose the condiments you’ll cook with and try to play along with some of the flavours. If you are cooking with herbs, you might want to go with a Speyside Scotch whisky pairing. And, if you’re grilling, needless is to say, you should go for a rich peated expression.
Now that you know what kind of scotch will be the best pair for steak or any other kind beef, its time for us to present you some power couples! If you have any other suggestion, feel free to leave it in the comments!
The Viking Pride bottled as an 18-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch whisky. This Highland Park expression is truly one of the brand’s wonders, as it continues to be awarded year after year.
This expression is a peated scotch whisky, aged in sherry and American Oak Casks with notes of cherries, honey, dark chocolate and peat smoke. As expensive as this whisky is, it deserves to be paired with an expensive cut of beef: the Tenderloin Steak.
This is a tender steak with almost no fat and, being grass-fed, the meat will have a raw, herbal taste, which will pair perfectly with the citrus, sea salt and aromatic peat smoke present in the Highland Park 18-Year-Old Scotch.
Who said Monkey Shoulder is to be used in cocktails only? This blended Scotch Whisky has a lot of flavour and is an outstanding expression that pairs perfectly with a grilled steak, especially if it was grain-fed.
Although Monkey Shoulder was made, primarily, for mixing, this is a smooth, rich and multi-awarded Scotch whisky that is also perfect to sipping. This blend is composed with The Balvenie, Kininvie and Glenfiddich whisky, so you can expect a fruity and mellow dram with a creamy mouthfeel.
Given the smoky taste of a grilled steak, it will match the toasted barley and spicy flavours present in Monkey Shoulder. The whisky also has fruity flavours, such as berries, which will be enhanced by the nutty flavours of the grain-fed steak.
You might also find sweet flavour notes, as vanilla, honey and butterscotch, that will pair with the sweeter flavours of the steak. This type of meat, usually, has more fat than grass-fed meat. This means that the fat will cut the alcohol punch of the whisky, allowing you to taste all the flavours.
This Aberlour expression might very well be the best scotch to pair with steak. Aged in Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks, the Casg Annamh is a rich and sweet dram that deserves to be paired with an outstanding steak.
Speyside is known for its fruity and smooth whisky and Aberlour is one of the brands that better represents this type of Scotch whisky. This expression is slightly spicy, with notes of cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg.
A dry-aged steak is a tender type of steak with a nutty kind of flavour. For this type of meat, the Aberlour Casg Annamh Single Malt Scotch Whisky is the perfect match, since it will give a boost on the steak’s flavours.
Auchentoshan Single Malt Whisky is one of the wonders of the Scottish Lowlands and has been releasing award-winning whiskies since the day the distillery was established. The Three Wood, as the name states, was matured in three types of wood.
After aging in ex-Bourbon casks, the Auchentoshan Three Wood Single Malt Whisky matures in Oloroso Sherry casks and finishes its maturation in Pedro Ximenez Sherry Casks. Due to this maturation method, this dram ends up being complex, fruity and sweet. And it is due to this maturation process that this is one of the best scotch to pair with steak.
The raw and beefy flavours of a grass-fed steak enhance the sweet sherry and toffee flavours of this Auchentoshan expression, while the smoky flavours of the grill will play nicely with the nutty and spicy notes. The finish of this dram ends with a fresh take, that balance out all the flavours.