The Right Way To Drink Soda With Charcuterie

Fine wines and cheeses are a classic match made in heaven, not to mention the delicious pairing of craft beers with cured meats. But what options are available for those who abstain from alcohol yet still want to enjoy a trendy charcuterie board with friends? Fortunately, interesting beverage pairings with charcuterie exist for anyone looking to have a night out without facing a hangover the next day.

The non-alcoholic beverage trend is going strong, and bars and restaurants are taking notice. Offerings sometimes come in the form of mocktails, non-alcoholic wines, or even something as simple as soda. In the end, the general rule of thumb remains consistent: Food and beverage pairings should either complement each other or interact in an interesting way.

While sodas may seem simple, they can provide an intriguing and refreshing experience when paired with elements on a charcuterie platter. The effervescent bubbles, touch of acidity, and hint of sweetness complement the rich components of charcuterie well, cutting through the fat and allowing your palate the enjoy the full spectrum of flavors. The trick to pairing soda with charcuterie is to ensure your drink of choice isn't flat — carbonation is key, here. Look for complementary flavor profiles and opt for sodas with lower sugar content so they don't overwhelm the cheeses or fruits on your platter.

It's all about the bubbles

Excellent news for teetotalers: Sodas are just as viable options for pairing with charcuterie as are elegant glasses of champagne or sparkling wine, thanks to the carbonation.

Sodas are slightly acidic, with average pH levels ranging between 2.5 and 3.5 — and this mild acidity mimics that of champagne. Why is this important when it comes to charcuterie? The effervescence that comes from a glass of bubbly soda or champagne acts as a palate cleanser and stimulates the tongue, making it receptive to the new and intense flavors typically found on a charcuterie board. Additionally, the cured meats and varied cheeses contribute delectably rich and fatty elements to your palate. The bubbles help lift these intense flavor sensations from your tongue, cleansing it and preparing your appetite for the next bite.

It's important to pick a soda that hasn't gone flat. Once soda loses its carbonation, the flavor profile of the drink changes and becomes much sweeter. Without the carbon dioxide to balance out the sugars and cut through the fat of the cheeses and meats, the pairing loses its magic.

Be aware of acidity and sugar

It's important to seek out more refined soda pairings for your favorite cheeses and cured meats than those typically found in vending machines. Sodas with a touch of acidity and restrained sugar content can offer an experience similar to traditional alcoholic beverages. On the other hand, sodas with strong, sugary flavor profiles risk overwhelming the delicate flavors of certain cheeses and fruits on a charcuterie board.

When considering soda options, think about flavor profiles that will be complementary to the components on your charcuterie platter. For instance, the cheesemongers at the Caves of Faribault suggest pairing root beer — they recommend looking for one "made with natural cane sugar versus the super sweet high fructose corn syrup based" brands — with Gouda cheese. Root beer's notes of vanilla and molasses bring out the sweet, caramel undertones of the cheese, with the carbonation serving as the all-important palate cleanser.

Creamy cheeses like brie pair well with citrus-forward sodas, such as Sanpellegrino Limonata. Meanwhile, the sweetness of black cherry cola can cut through the sharpness and creaminess of a goat cheese. Ultimately, it's all about experimenting to find the pairings that work best for you.