Why Popcorn And Bourbon Are The Perfect Party Pairing

Certain combinations of booze and food come intuitively — think a crisp pilsner beer pairing for plain potato chips, or all the classic food and wine pairings in existence. Yet there are also more obscure flavor complements that pleasantly surprise in their execution. The grassy notes in a shot of tequila tantalizingly mingle with a fresh salad, and a dry gin martini alongside oysters is an underrated food and cocktail pairing.

Try popcorn and bourbon for another easy-to-assemble example of a shot meets snack. The combination — which involves two corn-based components — shines for a manifold of reasons. Firstly, there's the palatable textural contrast. Just like with chips, that crunch and crispiness entice another sip.

Then, there's merit in flavor. If you go for caramel corn, the snack's sweet palate meshes with bourbon's sugar content, highlighting the spirit's spice and barrel character. Alternatively, a buttered, salty popcorn contrasts with the alcohol slicing through the fat. Plus, it's easy to batch the snack — and patrons can pour their own shots — making the pairing an especially good party move.

Carefully select bourbon styles to align with popcorn flavors

As with other spirits, no two bottles of bourbon are alike, so it's necessary to give some thought to your liquor selection. Since there's no mixing involved — and popcorn isn't an especially dominant flavor — it's worth the splurge on one of the best bourbon brands.

For the smoothest possible experience, look for tasty wheated bourbons like the venerable Pappy Van Winkles or more easily found Maker's Mark. These floral and drinkable spirits will align seamlessly with buttered popcorn for a gentler combination.

If you're after big flavors, consider crafting a batch of caramel corn, perhaps with a tangy tamarind twist. Pair with a bold expression selected from one of the best high-proof bourbons. The Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a good call — it delivers rich notes of rye, chocolate, and caramel that'll wow guests alongside the snack.

Or perhaps you're after a post-dinner drinking and snacking session with a twist. Throw some peanut butter on the kernels for an ingredient that'll change your popcorn forever. Serve alongside a sweet bourbon –like an Evan Williams or Woodford Double Oaked bottle — for a dessert-like experience. And once you've finished all the popcorn, explore other bourbon-food pairings, too. There are lots of possibilities with this flavorful and diverse spirit.