How to Pair Non-Alcoholic Drinks with Food? Eating and drinking go hand in hand. If you sit down to enjoy a meal, chances are you are also going to have a drink. It is important that the drinks you choose go well with your food. An amazing meal has both delicious food and flavorful drinks!
If you have chosen to live an alcohol free lifestyle, it may be a little trickier to pair your food with creative drinks. There are many fantastic food and drink pairings that do not require alcohol at all, they are just not talked about quite as much. However, we are going to help you learn exactly how to pair your favorite foods with non-alcoholic drinks and make your meals complete and cohesive. Go ahead, pour yourself a mocktail, and let’s get started!
Consider the Season
The first thing we like to do when planning a meal is to consider the season. We think about what foods are fresh and in-season right now. In the summer, this may be vine ripe tomatoes while in the winter, hearty kale and potatoes may be more common. In the winter, we may opt for a heartier soup while the warmer months make me want to eat lighter salads. Matching your food choices to the season is a smart way to cook and it is a great way to think about what mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks will go well with your food.
Just as you choose food based on the season, you should consider the seasonality of your drinks. Pick cold, refreshing drinks in the summer and look for hot, comforting drinks in the winter. When you think about the weather then match your food and drinks to the season, chances are that the food and non-alcoholic drink will automatically go well together. When both your meal and your drinks are appropriate for the time of year, they will naturally complement one another.
Think About Flavors
One of the best ways to pair non alcoholic drinks to food is to think about the flavors found in both. When possible, try to have an ingredient that is in both the drink and your meal. This will ensure that the food and the beverages are cohesive.
For example, if you are having a light, spinach salad with strawberries, you may want to consider a non alcoholic drink that also has strawberries. A strawberry mojito or a strawberry smoothie may be great choices. If you are sitting down to enjoy an Asian Inspired meal made with fresh ginger, think about serving a honey ginger limeade on the side. When your drink has a similar ingredient as your food, a perfect pairing is a sure thing. Thinking about and matching flavors may be the easiest way to guarantee that your meal and drinks taste fantastic when served together.
Time of Day
When you are serving your food and drink paring is almost as important as what you are serving. There are a lot of drinks that are more breakfast-friendly and others that are much more suited for night. Mocktails are definitely better afternoon and night time drinks. You probably aren’t going to be taking out your muddler and cocktail shaker in the morning! On the other hand, smoothies and fresh squeezed juices are considered morning drinks. When deciding what non alcoholic drinks to serve with your food, definitely think about what meal you are eating and what drinks would be appropriate at that time of day.
How Filling is Your Food
A hearty meal may be best when served with a lighter drink. The amount of food you are serving can play a big impact on what drink would go best with the meal. This is a case when you actually want the food and the non alcoholic drink to be opposites. A filling meal goes well with a simpler drink. A light meal could benefit from a substantial drink.
For example, if you are serving a big, steak dinner, think about a non alcoholic drink that is bubble and fresh. A drink made with sparkling water or seltzer could be a good idea. If you are sitting down to eat a delicate dinner of fish and salad, you could do well with a drink that has a little more flavor and depth. You want your food and drinks to balance each other out rather than compete with each other.
Sweetness of Your Drinks
There are a lot of sweet non-alcoholic drinks out there. This may or may not be something you want depending on the food you are serving. Sweet drinks tend to compliment spicy and salty foods. A little bit of sugar can help tame an overly spicy drink. A cold sweet drink can go very well with a hot meal. Think about refreshing, sweeter drinks when planning a meal with a lot of heat.
If you are thinking of pairing a non alcoholic drink with a dessert, it is a good idea to keep the drink even sweeter than the dessert. Desserts can easily overpower drinks. When the drink is even sweeter than what is on the end of your fork, it will be much more complimentary and flavorful. Both the dessert and the non alcoholic drink will be able to shine. Sweeter is better!
Bitter and Bitter Do Not Mix
One thing we do recommend avoiding is serving bitter foods with a bitter drink. This is an area where too much is not a good thing. A food that is bitter is sharp, pungent and overpowering. While this can be good in small doses, too much bitterness can turn you off from your meal. For example, bitter arugula and a cup of strong coffee may not be a great combo. Broccoli served with a cup of green tea is another example of bitter flavors that just do not mesh well.
Bitter foods tend to go well with sweet or acidic drinks. If your nonalcoholic drink is the bitter component of the meal, choose foods that are sweeter. Harsh, powerful drinks and foods should not be combined! One component has to take the center stage.
Delicious Food & Drinks Combinations
We wanted to give you a few examples of food and beverage pairings that we really love. Give these a try when you make your next meal. You can also keep these drink options in mind when you choose your own favorite non alcoholic drinks to pair with your meals. These combinations are definitely not set in stone, but they are a good starting point to get you thinking about what will taste great!
Steak and chicken are both hearty meats. While one is a red meat and one is white, both are typically juicy, loaded with protein and can be quite filling. Tart, refreshing and thirst quenching drinks can be good with steak and chicken. Flavors like pomegranate and cranberry will help cut through the heaviness of the meat. A bubbly club soda drink can help balance the rich meat. Citrus flavors will also balance out the steak and beverages. Here are a few of our favorite drink recipes to pair with steak or chicken:
- Cranberry Basil Sangria Recipe
- Strawberry Ginger Lemonade Recipe
- Hibiscus Pomegranate Iced Tea (coming soon)
A nice hot pizza can go well with a lot of drinks. You want to b sure the drink you choose pairs well with rich, greasy cheese. When you think about eating a pizza, you may think about how thirsty you can get! A refreshing drink can definitely help balance out your meal. Choose lighter drinks like soda, sparkling water or lemonades. These will all quench your thirst and compliment that hot, cheesy meal.
- Cuba Really Libre (coming soon)
- Signature Collection Recipe «Fresh Pinemonade»
Pasta goes very well with sparkling, bubbly drinks. The slightly bitter flavor of the carbonation goes well with the sweet, heavy pasta. Choose a refreshing, easy to drink beverage when pairing a drink with your pasta. Here are a few examples we love:
- Fresh Grapefruit Kombucha Recipe
- Rosemary Pink Lemonade (coming soon)
Sushi is full of powerful flavors. It is a good idea to pair sushi with a drink hat can cleanse your palate between bites of food. Green tea is a great palate cleanser that will refresh your mouth after each piece of sushi. Ginger drinks will also have the same, flushing effect. Here are two of our favorite drinks that go with sushi.
- Mango Iced Tea (coming soon)
- New Fashioned (coming soon)
- Matcha Mojito Mocktail (coming soon)
Citrus drinks are very good when paired with fish. Think about how often fish is dressed with fresh squeezed lemon juice! Choose a bright, slightly tart drink and you’re sure to have a perfect food and beverage pairing.
Mexican Food 🌮
Mexican food tends to have a little bit of a spice to it. You want to pick a drink that is refreshing and also a little bit sweet. Choose a fresh made juice, a sparkling refresher or a bubbly mocktail to pair with your tacos or burritos.
- Agua Fresca (coming soon)
- Coconut Lime Electrolyte Drink (coming soon)
Indian food 🍛
Indian food is another very spicy cuisine. You may want to choose a cold drink that will help cool your mouth down after all that heat. You may also want something that is sugary to compliment the spice. A yogurt based drink that has a tart flavor may also be delicious. Yogurt is often used in Indian recipes so adding it to your beverage can be a great match! Give one of these drinks a try with your next Indian food meal.
- Mango Lassi (coming soon)
- Guanabana Smoothie (coming soon)
Final Tips 🔥
Hopefully this quick guide will help you create incredible food and drink pairing without relying on alcohol. Here are a few final tips to summarize how to pair food with non alcoholic drinks.
- Consider the season and weather when choosing both food and drinks
- Match an ingredient in your food and your beverage
- Pair bitter with sweet or acidic flavors
- Consider the time of day when choosing a meal and a drink
- Sweet goes well with spicy and salty
- Lighter drinks compliment hearty meals
- Hot drinks don’t always go well with hot foods
Let us know your favorite food and non alcoholic drink pairings. We always love to hear about what you are eating and drinking!