In certain parts of the world, wine and beer just belong to the dinner table. On that thought, my mind races to the chic Italian cafes, where a wine glass stands close to a warm plate of risotto. It also takes me to the German pubs with a proud mug of beer sitting on every table to complete the meal.
Let's change the landscape. In India, the idea of alcohol and food pairing is one that is yet to sprout. Having said that, people have definitely become more than willing to question, learn and experiment. We've even stirred up some of our own rules like whiskey with kebabs and tikkas. If Euromonitor International is to be believed, India guzzles about half of the world's whiskey. Nights that are spent soaking up Patiala pegs are usually accompanied by platters of kebabs. Smokey and earthy flavours, juicy and tender ones, those with a creamy accent - all kinds grace the occasion.
You can kiss monotony goodbye because all this is about to change now. With growing thirst, the Indian palate is becoming adventurous. Mixologists are giving more thought to the balance, body, depth and complexity that is involved in pairing alcohol with food to tap the best flavours.
Keeping the festive spirit in mind (pun intended), we asked Chef Manu Chandra, Owner of Monkey Bar and The Fatty Bao, to pick the perfect pairing for the classiest kebabs.
Galouti Kebab with Dark Rum
Having been invented in a Royal Kitchen, Galouti is the true Nawab of all kebabs. The name comes from the word Galawati which means 'melt in the mouth'. The original recipe is known to have used very finely ground meat with over 100 spices for flavouring. These kebabs are browned in desi ghee which makes them heavy on the palate. The bold and strong flavours stand up to this smooth woody spirit.
Dum Pukht's Galouti Kebab Recipe
Hara Bhara Kebabs with Mojito
These kebabs burst with the green goodness of peas, spinach and herbs like mint and coriander. Mint also adds a delightful punch in Mojitos. So, why stop there? Match this herby concoction with the fresh flavours of the kebabs.
Hara Masala Kebabs by Chef Aditya Bal
Seekh Kebabs with Beer or Whiskey
Unlike the others that are pan-fried, these kebabs are grilled on skewers over charcoal fire or sometimes in a tandoor. They were introduced to the Awadhi cuisine by the Mughals. The char-grilled and smokey tones of Seekh Kebab bond well with beer or whisky cocktails.
Baked Chicken Seekh by Chef Divya Burman
Seekh Kebab with Seb Pyaaz ki Chutney from Foodistan
Dahi Kebab with White Wine Sangria
The soothing flavor of yogurt goes well with the subtle taste of white wine. The creamy textures also compliment the sweet and fruity characteristics of white wine sangria. In fact, pairing it with white wine can uplift the sober flavour of these kebabs.
Dahi Kebab by Chef Marut Sikka
Low Fat Yogurt Kebab by Chef Seema Chandra
Shami Kebab with Vodka or Gin
Spices like brown cardamom, mace, cloves, cinnamon and black peppercorns add warmth to these kebabs. What makes them different from Galouti kebabs is the use of chana dal or sometimes even egg for binding or holding these kebabs together. You can partner them up with vodka based cocktails or gin and tonic to create some drama.
Mughlai Shami Kebab by Chef Dulari Ji from Agra
Shami Kebab by Waza Brothers
So, how do you pick your drink if you're no expert?
As far as food and drink pairings are concerned, there is no single rule of thumb. Simply put, there can be two ways to go about it. You can pick a drink with contrasting flavours, but it shouldn't be overpowering. The other way is where the drink complements the characteristics of your food, offering continuity with flavours. And allow me to add a third one. If your mixologist greets you with a flattering smile, just go with the flow.
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