Perfect partnerships: pub food and drink matching

By Lesley Foottit

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Christmas pudding Wine Alcoholic beverage Chardonnay

Abbot Ale cheese board
Abbot Ale cheese board
Lesley Foottit looks at food and drink matching ideas for Christmas menus to maximise sales over the festive period.

Lesley Foottit looks at food and drink matching ideas for Christmas menus.

Customers are willing to invest a bit more in their Christmas experience, so it is up to licensees to let them know what is on offer. With more free time over the holiday period, people are likely to drink more and try new things.

Food is increasingly important to the industry and is expected to prompt 30% of all on-trade visits by 2015, according to drinks supplier Diageo. By understanding how to match food and drink, licensees can take advantage of the Christmas season to upsell drinks.

Wines by the glass

Wine supplier Enotria recommends licensees extend their range of wines available by the glass in the festive season to encourage customers to sample more premium bottles.

While people are looking to celebrate and many expect to foot a bigger bill for dining out around Christmas, it is worth offering some cheaper alternatives. Enotria suggests a sparkling wine such as Prosecco as a cheaper alternative to Champagne. Prosecco is the perfect pre-dinner drink for parties sticking to a budget. It should be available by the glass too, so that couples and smaller groups can enjoy a glass without the expense of buying the whole bottle.

Introduce a "manager's festive recommendation". People will trust "the manager's" judgement and be more likely to take such advice. Drinks such as mulled cider and Winter Pimm's also make a great start to Christmas meals.

Upsell drinks with dessert

For much of the year, only three in 10 diners will choose a dessert when eating out, according to Baileys owner Diageo. But indulgence is the buzz word at Christmas and pubs can expect many more dessert orders. Diageo is driving sales of Baileys as a 'sweet treat'. Baileys is poured over ice cream in a tumbler — the Baileys scoop — to encourage customers to make that extra order.

Enotria recommends having at least one dessert wine on the menu for people to enjoy with their Christmas pudding, and making sure customers know it is there.​ suggests pairing Christmas pudding with Guinness or other stouts, barley wines or old ales.

For people who have eaten a hearty meal, ensure there are lighter dessert options and after-dinner liqueurs so that they can treat themselves without overindulging.

Tips for matching success

"When you match food and wine you are looking to either complement or contrast flavours," explains Henry John, marketing manager at 3663 wine supplier Vivas. He says there are three basic principles to consider when matching food and wine — weight, acidity and intensity.

When matching weight, strong wines should be paired with heavy food and lighter wines with simpler, softer meals. "Acidity is important because it is the element that makes your mouth water and makes the wine refreshing, encouraging you to take another sip. Ensure that foods with high acidity levels, like tomatoes or vinaigrette dressing, are complemented with a crisp, refreshing wine such as Sau-vignon Blanc," says John.

Other wines that are great with turkey include Brown Brothers Tarrango. The brand's dessert wine orange muscat and flora is a good match with Christmas pudding and mince pies.

Cider is also a great match for winter dishes, both as an accom-paniment and in dishes. Westons cider recommends using their Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve in dishes such as cranberry cider duck and sticky toffee and cider pudding with hot fudge sauce.

Ale appeal

When a group of people sit down for a Christmas meal, there will normally be someone who commandeers the wine list and takes charge, ordering for the table. This means beer can be overlooked as a good accompaniment to food.

A spokesman says: "A whole lot of work goes into bottle design these days, so bottled beer looks fabulous on the table — from brightly coloured 33cl bottles to 75cl bottles with wire caging and corks. There are now so many beers in a range of colours and flavours to suit every food and every mood — be it lagers or ales — and licensees would be wise to use Christmas time to offer a wider range of choices." suggests using unusual glassware to serve beer to "add drama and become a talking point". "It also allows beer to stand alongside wine and enter the wine-pricing category."

Many beer brands offer bespoke glasses that can add premium to a drink. Alternatively, bottled beers can be served in Champagne, wine and brandy glasses to stand out. Use Martini glasses for fruit beers and keep glasses in the fridge to "add theatre to beer service" with a frosted effect.

So make sure beers are on your drinks list and described with as much love and passion as you reserve for your wines.

Push cheese and coffee

If your diners refuse to be tempted by a traditional dessert, all is not lost. Cheese can be a welcome treat after a heavy meal and goes well with one last beer. says: "The key is to partner the intensity of flavour of the cheese to that of the beer."

If a cheese board doesn't sell it, a strong coffee offer can often persuade customers to order something extra, and if you can tempt one member of a group, others will be likely to follow. Diageo is pushing concepts such as the Baileys Latte to show consumers that they can enjoy a post-dinner treat without having to commit to a whole dessert.

Although there are bound to be designated drivers among the diners, many people are likely to indulge in a liqueur coffee after a meal, so licensees should ensure a desserts and coffee menu is delivered to diners after the main meal.

Beer and food matching

As with wine, the intensity of the beer flavour must complement that of the food. A fish or salad dish will go with a delicate lager or ale and a beef stew will need a powerful beer full of barley and hops. Contrasting the beer and food also works — a dark stew will go with a creamy dark beer such as a sweet malty mild or creamy stout, or contrast with a bitter with orange hop flavours. recommends thinking about what condiment would best suit each food. A lemon sole that needs lemon or melted butter would go well with a lemony or smooth buttery beer and a hot chocolate pudding that tastes good with raspberry sauce will also taste good with a raspberry beer.

Warming up the festive season

Cider maker Aspall is re-introducing its mulled cider into selected top-end on-trade outlets for the Christmas season. It is available on draught from now until the end of January. Aspall recommends serving it warm with slices of orange in newly-launched branded mulled cider glassware. The glasses are shaped similarly to latte mugs with a handle. The drink is 4.6% ABV and made from Aspall Draught Suffolk Cyder, sweetened with Cox apple must and blended with mulling spices such as cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

"Our cyders lend themselves extremely well to food-matching and the mulled cyder is no exception, complementing a broad range of winter fare," said commercial manager Geoff Bradman.

"Last year we sold twice the mulled cyder volumes of 2008 and the growing list of on-trade customers who sell the product are already forecasting a similar success story this year."

Christmas food & beer matching

Salmon and prawns — Sol, Amstel or Grolsh Blond

Turkey and goose — sweet milds and gentle bitters

Camembert — gently sweet lager

Cheddar — India Pale Ale

Blue cheeses — India Pale Ale or old 6% to 8% ABV ales like Robinson's Old Tom or Brakespear's Triple

Food and wine matching ideas

Roast beef — Red wine such as Jackalberry Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

Roast lamb — Red wine such as Bordeaux or Rioja

Roast pork — Light red such as an old world Pinot Noir or a rich white

Salmon — A fine white burgundy, New Zealand Chardonnay or a young Pinot Noir

Stews — Red wine such as a Shiraz

Prawns — Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc

Cold meats — Fuller whites such as a

Related topics Food trends

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