What To Drink With Scallops For Harmonious Flavors

Scallops are one of the most special and decadent pieces of seafood you can buy. When cooked properly, these mollusks are unbelievably tender and velvety, and have a buttery, slightly sweet flavor. Their peak season is the summertime, making them the perfect light yet satisfying entree for a warm evening. While already refreshing on their own, you'll certainly want a drink to sip alongside your scallops, and you have a range of options from the classic to the slightly more creative.

White wines are a go-to pairing for all types of seafood. Red wines have higher levels of tannins, a naturally occurring flavor compound that creates that tart, "drying" sensation in our mouths. This boldness can complement a fatty piece of red meat, which would also balance out that feeling of astringency, but lean scallops will be overwhelmed. A bright and complex white wine is a great choice, whether you sear, steam, or even grill your scallops.

Zesty varietals like Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc will cleanse your palate when paired with rich butter-basted scallops, without distracting from their flavors too much. If you'd like some fizz in your drink, sparkling white wines such as Champagne or prosecco match just as well with this seafood delicacy. Not a wine drinker? Luckily, there are beers and mixed drinks that will also do you right.

Pair fried scallops with a strong, hoppy beer

Searing in a hot pan (without flipping too much) is a surefire path to tender scallops, but there's another high-heat method that works deliciously. Deep-frying scallops in a crispy batter will create a crunchy yet juicy and tender treat. A glass of wine can still pair well with crispy scallops, but beer is a classic partner for deep-fried seafood, and IPAs are the best choice for these shellfish in particular.

Since breaded and fried scallops have a more assertive flavor, you'll want a bolder brew that provides a contrasting refreshment to the rich texture and slightly nutty taste. The intense flavors of an IPA can not only cut through the flavor of these mollusks, but their crunchy batter as well. A bitter American-style IPA stands up to the sweet scallops and salty seasoned coating, but these beers aren't so bitter or strongly alcoholic that they distract from the seafood's natural goodness.

If you're not a fan of IPAs, feel free to serve fried scallops with a lighter Pilsner or a hoppy wheat beer like Hefeweizen. Their fizziness and slight bitterness will give your taste buds some respite from the batter-coated shellfish, and bring aromatic hints of malt and spices.

Gin and vodka cocktails can complement scallops

Gins are a great spirit to try with scallops, since their grassy, citrusy notes will not clash with the subtle flavors of the mollusks. You can't go wrong with an easy and refreshing gin and tonic. Just mix the alcohol with tonic water, then spruce up each glass with aromatic garnishes such as mint or rosemary.  A little lemon juice and an accompanying liquors like vermouth can kick up your mixed drinks a little further, without complicating them too much.

If you're not a fan of gin, a vodka-based drink works just as well to match the flavors of scallops. Vodka has a clean and neutral flavor that's a great palette cleanser, but this liquor can have a pretty potent burn by itself. Try to incorporate it into a light cocktail that won't distract from the rich seafood. Citrusy flavors are always a nice complement to scallops, so try a classic Moscow mule with vodka, ginger beer, and lime over ice. 

If you're into neither gin or vodka, any other citrusy mixed drink will do, so long as it doesn't have strong or sweet flavors. To add those more of a bright citrusy taste directly to your entree, serve your scallops with lemony spring peas. Reinforcing the lightly fruity flavors will bring a delicious unity to your meal.