A Bourbon Steward Shares The Best Brands To Pair With Steak

There are so many creative ways to cook with bourbon or Scotch, from adding a little whiskey to your steak sauce to using a spray bottle of the spirit to elevate smoked meats. But, if you're looking for a spirit to drink alongside your beef, it can be tricky to get the right match since you're dealing with such big, bold flavors in terms of both the food and the drink. To get some tips, Food Republic asked expert Chris Blatner.

The Chicago-based Executive Bourbon Steward (@‌urbanbourbonist) is passionate about all things bourbon, and says that a great way to find a good boozy pairing for steak is to try to find flavors within a whiskey to complement and enhance the taste of the beef. "To me, the Jim Beam flavor profile is a great match for red meat," advises Blatner, also suggesting Knob Creek 9 Year Bourbon to do the trick. "It's a little bit nutty and savory with some touches of sweet vanilla and charred oak that complement the umami and sometimes buttery flavors of steak."

While tailoring your choice of whiskey to your personal taste preferences will help you to discover a good match, it's worth thinking about the cut and age of the beef you're eating, too. If you're going for something like an aged bone-in ribeye, which is full of flavor and with a good amount of fat, then try a high-rye bourbon to bring a touch of spice and savoriness to elevate the rich meaty steak.

Try a sweeter whiskey for a thrilling contrast of flavors

Another great way to match whiskey with meat is to go for the sort of flavors that actually contrast with the steak rather than complement it. This might sound like a more daunting option, but it can be as simple as choosing a spirit that boasts a little more sweetness to counteract the intense savory flavors of the beef, for example. If you want to try this combo, bourbon expert Chris Blatner suggests Penelope Four Grain Straight Bourbon.

"This is a light and elegant whisky at 40% ABV but it still packs a lot of powerful taste and aroma," he explains. "It has a sweeter profile that is more of a contrast of flavor with the general richness of steak, but that contrast works incredibly well to form a harmony of flavors on your palate."

Again, keep in mind the different cuts of steak and how they're cooked when picking out a good match. Lighter and sweeter bourbons, such as Blatner's pick, work especially well with steaks that are on the leaner side without a great deal of marbling — something like an un-aged tenderloin, for example. And that delicious sweetness can also pair well with steaks that have been smoked or barbecued, delightfully contrasting with the smoky, savory notes in the beef and bringing balance to the combination of flavors.