If you’ve gone a little overboard with the frosé and lobster rolls this summer, your palate might be requesting another seasonally appropriate combo come Labor Day. So, why not go out with one of these not-so-average pairings from top chefs, mixologists, and restaurant owners in the culinary world? Your guests (and your stomach) will thank you.
Ceviche and Mezcal
Skip the margarita and serve fresh ceviche with smoky, spicy mezcal—it pairs perfectly with this bright, citrus forward dish.
At NEST Tulum, owner James Chippendale opts for the small batch artisanal Nakawé Tobala. “It’s a great balance for the nose and mouth, thanks to hints of green pineapple and pine that go nicely with the fresh fish. Remember to always sip your mezcal—take time to enjoy the complex makeup and flavors.”
Pork Milanesa and Sparkling Cider
A grilled pork chop is the perfect accompaniment to anything apple-based—but instead of making yours with sauces or sides containing the fruit, opt for a sparkling beverage instead. “Pork and apple is a classic combination that gets reimagined here as a food and beverage pairing,” says Luke Venner, the executive chef of Elm. “We like to serve a bone dry cider—the 2015 Northern Spy from Eve’s Cidery—since it has notes of buttered crust and savory herbs. It also has the grippy tannins necessary to stand up to the meat.”
Watermelon Salad and Sake
Watermelon is a given for summer soirées, but a watermelon, corn, and chorizo salad? Now, that’s a “this bowl will go fast” kind of dish. As for the spirit to offer alongside it, Uni’s assistant general manager, Matt Adams, likes sake. “Minowamon by Daishichi is my go to because it’s a Junmai Daiginjo Kimoto sake that’s smooth and delicate, with a luscious, mouth-coating finish. It also has a complex aroma of melon and ripe stone fruit, which complements the spice in the salad.”
Short Rib Steak with Chimichurri and a Smoky Red Wine
It’s important to find something that plays well with the high acidity of the tomatoes, but also the full flavor of the short rib steak. So, Chris Johnson of Mettā likes to pour a Fumin from a small producer in the Vallé d’Aoste, named Elio Ottin. “It’s medium bodied, with a finish reminiscent of wood smoke and the air cured beef found throughout the Alps. So, the Fumin is natural choice,” he says.
Avocado Pizza and a Sour Tequila Cocktail
Avocado toast might get all the love, but avocado pizza is definitely a crowd pleaser at parties. To highlight the cilantro and jalapeño ingredients often found in this delicious type of pie, go for a sour-style tequila cocktail. “The citrus will help cut through this decadent dish,” says Kola House mixologist Pamela Wiznitzer. “Adding Chile liqueur is a nice way to amplify the heat in the the pizza as well.”
Tuna Poke and a Dry, Mineral White Wine
Everyone’s favorite healthy bowl—the tuna poke bowl—needs a wine that will bring out the tenderness of the fish. “Here at Seamore’s, we love to pair ours with a Grüner Veltliner from Bründlmayer,” says chef and owner Michael Chernow. “The beautiful mineralogy of the wine pairs wonderfully with the richness of the yellowfin tuna.”
Fried Chicken and Champagne
It might seem like an unusual option, but champagne is actually a great choice for fried chicken. “I would recommend sticking with a brut rather than a sweeter variation, though, so it doesn’t become too overpowering,” advises Drew Sweeney, the beverage director of The Beach at Dream Downtown. “If you’re looking for something a little less pricey, Domaine Chandon Brut from California is a fantastic choice.”
Greek Salad and Moschofilero
Err on the side of simplicity and pair a Greek salad with a glass of Moschofilero, a grape only grown in that region. Avra Madison’s beverage director Scott Brayton is partial to it because “it’s a white wine that’s light and dry, which perfectly complements the tomatoes in the salad. It also has hints of floral, which round out the flavors of the dressing and salty feta cheese.”
Roasted Cauliflower and a Spicy Shiso Cocktail
Roasted cauliflower might be the dish of the moment, but play up yours with goat cheese, herbs, and a shishito vinaigrette, like Chef Michael Lewis does at Kyu in Miami. “Pairing this side or main with a spicy shiso sour cocktail mirrors the flavor profile of the herbs and heat in a really pleasant way.”
Berry Tart and a Raspberry Champagne Cocktail
Because champagne is a bit dry—while raspberries are a bit tart—the acidity in a raspberry champagne cocktail will make the entire dessert taste much sweeter by enhancing its creamy texture. “We pair the berry tart at Serafina Tribeca with our signature Serafina Champagne Cocktail, made with Belvedere Vodka, St. Germain, raspberries and champagne,” says Serafina Restaurant Group mixologist Kriss K.
Wagyu Sliders and a Cucumber Sparkler
In order to cut through the fattiness of a wagyu slider, you need a crisp drink—which is why Marc Marrone, the executive chef at The Highlight Room, prefers a cucumber sparkler for the job. “It’s a great match,” he says.