Drinks

What to Drink with Chicken

Hint: It's not just white wine
9 Drinks to Pair with Chicken (Think Beer, Booze and, yes, White Wine)
Photo: Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table

It can be fried, rotisseried, grilled or stewed. You can pile it into a pita with tzatziki; buttermilk-brine it; or stuff it with mushrooms, truffles and brioche, and pretend you never saw that marriage proposal coming. Chicken, our nation's most popular protein, is both versatile and ubiquitous. And while white wine may be the bird's best-known beverage pairing, it's not the only Gamay in town. There are multitudes of wines, spirits, beers and cocktails that complement the flavor profiles of different chicken preparations. So we've talked to sommeliers, bartenders and beverage directors, and compiled their tips and tricks with a few of our own to bring you nine ways that make America's favorite bird, well, fly.

 India Pale Ales

Hops are an admittedly acquired taste, but their floral bitterness can complement—and even soothe—the heat of spicy chicken dishes, such as platters of Buffalo wings. Want to get hoppy? Try Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA . Those who prefer to balance their hops with malt and caramel, however, might consider Cigar City’s Jai Alai.


 Sake

Firing up the grill? Seared, grilled and salty chicken, such as Japanese yakitori (the term translates to "grilled chicken"), is a perfect match for sake. "Your palate is already being pulled in so many interesting directions in terms of taste and texture," Samuel Barickman, sake sommelier at Manhattan sushi den Zuma New York, says, "so having a solid junmai- or honjozo-type sake will help cleanse the palate and offer a nice home base to return to before diving into the next salty bite. . . . Anything too aromatic or assertive will tend to fatigue the palate and slow down the pace of the meal." For those grilling their birds at home, Barickman recommends Daishichi Kimoto.


 Syrah and Other Full-Bodied Red Wines

Chicken and white wine is the pairing equivalent of buying Dad a tie for Father's Day: effective but safe. Certain reds, however, are perfectly suited for rich, hearty preparations, such as barbecued or stuffed and roasted chicken. Thomas Pastuszak, wine director of New York City's NoMad Hotel (which serves an esteemed version of the latter), recommends Italian Barolos and Barbarescos, red Burgundies, and Syrahs from France’s Northern Rhone Valley for such bold birds. "In the fall and winter, we look to red wines of fuller body that are also really earthy . . . but still have acidity to cut through the richness of the dish," Pastuszak explains.

RELATED   Why (and How) You Should Pair Your Food with Beer »

 Whiskey

Whether you're firing up the smoker or just tricking out your oven, tender, salty preparations of smoked chicken bring out the vanilla, sweet fruit and smoky flavors of brown spirits like 10-year Glengoyne Scotch whiskey. And, if your internal smoke detector goes to 11, give High West’s Campfire a try.

 

High West Campfire ⬇⬇⬇ Via @margarett_maria Vital Stats: 92 proof, a blend of straight rye, straight bourbon, and peated blended malt Scotch. Aged at least five years. $50 to $60 for a 750ml bottle. Appearance: A ruddy amber. Nose: A very rich, wood-heavy nose at first, with lots of caramelized sweetness, but then things take a strange turn: metal friction, melted plastics, solvent, a bit of wet paint, and an odd note of rubbery medical equipment and disinfectant. Sort of dystopian, like a Chinese factory – but not as unpleasant and intense as that sounds. The smoke is subtle at first, but as the dram opens up more it becomes apparent: a distant campfire, dry and smoky; and then a wetter, ashier note, like extinguished coal. An industrial symphony – very interesting. Palate: This is very strange. Lots of peat at first, the wet, earthy, decaying kind, coupled with a vanilla-scented, chocolate bourbon-y sweetness, just like a Christmas bourbon ball. Punchy, spicy rye with dill emerges strongly in the mid-palate, trailing off into a lovely dénouement of sweet malt and melon coated with cracked black pepper. A bit of water irons out some of the high values, taming the rye a bit while retaining that peated earthiness. #whiskey #whisky #instawhisky #instagood #instamood #instadaily #happyhour #thewhiskeywash #sundayfunday #weekend

A photo posted by The Whiskey Wash (@whiskeywash) on


 Chardonnay and Other Full-Bodied White Wines

Like Daryl Hall and John Oates, Chardonnay and chicken are a popular pair for good reason: They bring out the best in each other. The rich, savory flavors and creamy texture beneath the flaky crust of a chicken potpie deserve a wine to showcase that structure, and a Chardonnay can do just that. We recommend Jordan Chardonnay from California’s Russian River Valley.

 

Easy as one-two-three.

A photo posted by Jordan Winery (@jordanwinery) on


 Gin & Tonic

The quintessential British sundowner was made popular in India, so it's fitting that its cool and refreshing characteristics pair nicely with spiced Indian favorites like tandoori chicken or chicken curry. A mixture of Schweppes and Hayman’s Old Tom Gin will settle the fire in your mouth better than another spoonful of raita.


 Old-Fashioneds and Similar Stirred Cocktails

Good news for traditionalists: Classic stirred cocktails are the perfect match for simple, beautiful roast chickens. "In general, stirred drinks stand up beautifully to roast chicken, because they don't overwhelm it with specific alcohol notes," Nathan O'Neill, head bartender at The NoMad Hotel, says. "For example, bourbon and apple brandy are very smooth to drink, and, when paired with a vermouth or sherry, the alcohol level is brought down, allowing the complexity of the ingredients to shine through." There's also a practical reason to embrace this pairing. "Stirred drinks take time to reach perfection, as does a roast chicken," O'Neill explains.

 Riesling and Other Semidry White Wines

Semidry white wines are a great match for globe-trotting spicy chicken preparations. The sweetness of their residual sugars can neutralize and even add dimension to a hot Sichuan dish like kung pao chicken, or Mexican tinga de pollo. We like Best’s Great Western Riesling, an affordable bottle without the cloying sweetness of some in this category.

 Champagne and Other Sparkling Wines

The lively effervescence of Champagne and sparkling wine pairs perfectly with fried chicken—so much so that an entire restaurant, the aptly named BIRDS & Bubbles in Manhattan, is dedicated to the combo. But you don’t have to go to New York to embrace this pairing; if you’re eating delicious fried chicken anywhere, that’s already cause for a celebration. Bollinger’s Brut Special Cuvée, with its velvety fine bubbles and ripe fruity flavors, is a great way to get things poppin'.

 

And there was Bollinger Special Cuvée. #lifecanbeperfect #champagne #bollinger

A photo posted by Champagne Bollinger (@champagne_bollinger) on

Around the Web

Get the Tasting Table newsletter for adventurous eaters everywhere