Why Cranberry Juice Is A Great Non-Alcoholic Drink Pairing For Steak

Red wine and red meat are a match made in gustatory heaven. From Primitivo to Pinot Noir, a glass of red will always complement a juicy steak — it's just a fact. Yet, pleasing as the duo may be, wine isn't the only beverage that pairs well with a grilled filet. The reality is that there are all sorts of viable candidates, including a breadth of non-alcoholic options. Of these suitable sippers, it might surprise you to learn that cranberry juice is a top contender to serve with steak.

To understand the science behind pairing cranberry juice and steak, we need to understand why red wine and steak pair well together. Essentially, steak boasts big and bold flavors. Savory, fatty, and decadent, it needs to be accompanied by a beverage that can contrast these qualities and provide balance. Since red wine is laden with astringent-tasting tannins, it's able to cut through the richness of the meat. Meanwhile, the fat of the meat softens the harsh tannins of the wine. With the meal and beverage in harmony, an enjoyable dining experience can be had.

How does this all relate back to cranberry juice? Similar to red wine, cranberry juice contains a reasonable amount of tannins. Riddled with these bitter and mouth-drying compounds, the juice functions as a zero-alcohol stand-in for wine. Juxtaposing decadence and umami, tart cranberry juice proves itself as an equally effective palate cleanser. Plus, the chilled beverage also provides a nice contrast temperature-wise against a sizzling steak.

Remember, not all cranberry juices are created equal

Much like varying bottles of red wine, no two cranberry juices are the same. Depending on the brand, flavor and mouthfeel may differ. It's for this reason that it's worth testing out a few types of juice before settling on the right one. That said, we recommend going for options with minimal sugar so as not to detract from the steak and overwhelm taste buds.

If the concept is intriguing but cranberry juice is just too tart for you, don't give up just yet. To make the beverage more palatable, cut it with plain or sparkling water to dilute some of the sourness. Otherwise, you might want to try pairing steak with still-tannic, but slightly sweeter drinks like pomegranate or cherry juice. Similarly, even beverages with some acidity like lemon-laced club soda can help balance the richness of a savory steak.

At the end of the day, finding a suitable drink pairing for steak is a matter of preference. If you're a big believer that a New York strip should always be served with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, then stick with what you know and love. But if you're open to experimentation, give tart and tangy juice a try — you might be surprised at how well a tall glass of bright cranberry juice can fare with a T-bone or filet mignon!