The Best And Worst Spirits To Pair With Caviar

The phrase "champagne wishes and caviar dreams," which host Robin Leach used as he signed off every episode of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," has cemented that food and beverage pairing in everyone's imagination as the ne plus ultra of opulence. If you'd like a slightly more spirited (or less effervescent) beverage to accompany your fancy (and super-pricey) fish eggs, though, Amanda Davenport, beverage director at Denver restaurant Noisette, suggests a few basic booze options.

In an interview with Mashed, Davenport advises looking for "a vodka with a clean, fresh flavor profile," something with which many Russians would no doubt concur as vodka is traditionally served with the appetizers known as zakuski (some of which may include caviar). She advocates steering clear of any vodkas with strong flavors but apart from that makes no particular recommendations as to what to look for, although some connoisseurs feel that the slight nuttiness from rye or wheat-based vodkas helps enhance caviar's natural brininess. If you're not a vodka fan, Davenport does offer one spirituous alternative, telling us "I would suggest a dry gin." Anything with a strong or bold flavor of its own she says to steer clear of, so something like a spiced rum, full-bodied bourbon or rye whiskey, or astringent single malt Scotch might not work so well with caviar.

Too much flavor clashes with caviar

The reason Davenport suggests you not pair caviar with drinks she describes as "too full bodied or bold in any way" is that, as she explains, "Caviar is so delicate and you wouldn't want to overpower." Some experts, however, suggest steering more towards lower-octane beverages such as sherry or sake if you want something with a bit more depth to it than still or sparkling white wine to wash down your caviar. While sherry and sake do have plenty of flavor, they are on the lighter side and their dry or sweet tastes go quite well with caviar's salty seafood tang.

Those who eschew alcohol also have options when it comes to caviar pairing. Tomato juice and orange pekoe tea are among the offerings suggested by various beverage professionals, but perhaps the best drink of all to accompany caviar might be a glass of unflavored seltzer with a squeeze of lemon juice. The fizz and citrus will help cleanse the palate, while the plain, clear water will keep your taste buds focused on fish eggs without any distraction brought on by an overly bold beverage. You can even serve this drink in a champagne flute and it will look just as festive as a certain other bubbly beverage.