You Should Think Twice Before Pairing Bourbon With Spicy Food

Whether you are a new-found or old-time lover of bourbon, there may be a way of enjoying it that you have overlooked. By pairing bourbon with food, the liquor's flavor can be enhanced, according to Bourbon & Banter. While the go-to alcohol pairing with food may traditionally be wine with its acidity and tannins, bourbon hasn't been as keenly drunk at mealtime. However, Bourbon & Banter says that when drunk, bourbon causes the tongue to tingle, making it more sensitive to flavors.

The flavor of bourbon, which can be described as a caramelized sweetness, complements foods that also have a caramelized component, whether that be a dessert or a meat entree. When selecting food to go with a glass of bourbon, consider its proof, age, and mash bill. When it comes to proof, the higher the proof, the better it is paired with foods with big, strong flavors like meat. Lighter foods such as seafood and vegetables go best with bourbons that have a lower proof of below 46% alcohol by volume, per Whisky Advocate. Bourbon and Banter advise that high-fat foods are delectable with bourbon because of how the bourbon interacts with the flavors. (Think ham, milk chocolate, and cheese.)

While there are many foods that taste amazingly good with bourbon, there is one classification of foods that should be avoided – spicy.

Overpowering flavors

Alcohol in general doesn't always pair well with spicy foods, according to Craft Beer. By drinking alcoholic beverages like bourbon with spicy foods, the painful reaction to the food may be heightened. Both alcohol and capsaicin in spicy foods trigger pain receptors in the brain. So, by drinking a glass of bourbon with Nashville hot chicken, the brain may have a more intense reaction to the capsaicin or heat of the dish's spices. Bourbon Banter agrees that avoiding pairing bourbon with spicy foods is for the best because of the strong reaction it can create. 

A discussion on Straight Bourbon about pairing spicy foods with bourbon had a variety of comments with some people liking the combination, but others saying it was best to be avoided because the spicy food overpowered the subtle tastes of the bourbon. The flavors of bourbon and the food could also clash.

Bottom line, if you enjoy tasting the subtleties and nuances of bourbon and spicy food, it's best to enjoy them separately.