It seemed an easy question to answer: the drink to have with any dinner was wine; red with meat, white with fish and that was that.

But is wine really the best drink to have with food, or are there some new alternatives looking to replace our beloved vino?

With the rise of craft beers, small-batch gins and other flavoursome and diverse beverages, are there perhaps some equally good choices to get the most out of your next meal?

Craft Beers

Beer, although popular and delicious, isn’t really known for pairing with a fancy meal, as it can be quite heavy and masking in its malty flavours, however, the boom in the craft beer industry has changed all that.

Craft beers often look to the hops in the ale to add and transform the flavour of the drink. With complex, light, and hoppy IPAs now a standard on any drinks menu, it could be comparable to a spicy, tangy white as an accompaniment to food.

But if a hoppy beer isn’t your style, the fruity and almost botanical flavours coming through the indie breweries could be for you. With flavours varying from the citrusy tangs that we associate with sweet and refreshing white wines, to the rich, chocolate flavoured ales that would make a great alternative to a full-bodied red.

Does craft beer compete with wine when it comes to sheer diversity, range and affinity with food? No, not by a long chalk. But it does make for an interesting alternative every now and again.

Gin

Long has gin been the marmite of the spirit world; you either love it or you hate it. Yet, due to the surge in popularity of the juniper-based spirit, the range of flavours and the range of mixers that have emerged are impressive.

With a huge difference in botanicals depending on what your gin of choice is, the diversity of gin as a drink to have with food is incredible. When you add in the wide range of mixer combinations; tonics, sodas, juices, flavoured tonics, this gives the humble gin the variety to match it with plenty of food types.

As gin is naturally quite a dry drink, it does lend itself as a replacement for a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio, especially if you have a citrus-infused gin such as our Salcombe Gin. However, if you have a slightly sweeter tooth, adding a flavoured tonic or soda can level out the dryness to make it a similar food partner to a Chardonnay or a Riesling.

This being said, it can be difficult to find a gin that works as a substitute for a deep, full-bodied red – gin just typically isn’t that heavy – but trying a sloe gin instead of a lighter red, this can work very well. The fruity profile of the sloe berries is reminiscent of an easy drinking Merlot or a summery Valpolicella – a great choice for lighter, meaty dishes.

But can any drink really, truly beat wine as food’s best friend? The sheer variety of flavours, depths and availability means that there tends to be a wine for any dish – especially if you’re eating out. Although craft beer and gin are on the rise, the restaurants haven’t quite caught up yet – so for now at least, your favourite tipple is still the best drink to pair with food.