Contents

9 Creative Ways to Cook with Liquors and Spirits

Photo: S-S-S/Getty Images

From summer cookouts to winter holidays, it’s easy to build up a surplus in your liquor cabinet during the year. Unlike a bottle of wine or can of beer, a standard fifth or liter of hard alcohol can take some time to finish. Spirits have a long shelf life and don’t need to be used up right away. An open bottle will keep for six to eight months if stored properly, and an unopened bottle will last even longer. Sure, you can use extra liquor for cocktails, but you’d be missing out on a myriad of clever culinary uses. From preserving fruit to enhancing sauces and glazes, spirits can boost sweet and savory recipes by adding elegance and complexity.

Below, we explore nine simple ways to cook with spirits from whiskey to gin to tequila. With each idea, we offer tantalizing recipes to put your know-how to the test. Whether you call them spirits, liquor, or hard alcohol, our versatile guide is sure to spark inspiration in the kitchen. From boozy bourbon butter to a rum-infused pan sauce, here’s how to think outside the (martini) glass and harness the culinary capabilities of spirits.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

Sign up for our daily newsletter for more great articles and tasty, healthy recipes. Image zoom Photo: Jennifer Causey

1. Flavor Sauces

Simmering spirits with other ingredients such as stock or butter softens their fiery, alcoholic punch. What’s left is pure aromatic, flavor that intensifies and brightens sauces for proteins, pastas, and more.

  • Steak Diane: In this classic American dish, smoky-sweet Brandy adds kick to a rich, cream-based pan sauce. Full of intense, toasty caramel notes, brandy also pairs well with fruit desserts.
  • Shrimp Vodka Pasta: A splash of vodka adds brightness and balance to this traditional tomato- and cream-based pasta sauce.
  • Grilled Pork with Mango and Rum Sauce: Here, we simmer rum with sugar, salt, and lime to make a tangy-sweet sauce for Jerk-spiced, grill-charred pork tenderloin.

Image zoom Photo: Brian Woodcock; Styling: Claire Spollen

2. Make Tipsy Fruit

Marinating whole or sliced fruit in alcohol, a process known as macerating, is a quick way to elevate their flavors. Whether it’s fall apples and brandy or summer peaches and rum, macerating fruit also lets you enjoy seasonal bounty past its peak. You can eat the fruit straight from the bowl or jar, spoon it over ice cream, layer it into a trifle, or pair it with rich meats such as duck. Thin-skinned fruits such as berries or peaches will over soften if they sit in alcohol for too long, but hardier fruits such as figs will stand up longer.

  • Gin and Maple Macerated Berries: Summer’s jewels are bright and juicy-sweet after infusing with a mixture of gin, salt, and lime juice.
  • Brandied Preserved Figs: Capture figs’ short growing season by letting them marinate in sweet brandy.

Image zoom Photo: Jennifer Causey

3. Mix Into Brine

Soak meat in brine, a solution composed of salt, water, and other aromatics, to make meat juicier and more flavorful. Add a bold-flavored spirit such as bourbon into the mixture to make the flavors sing. Be wary of the amount of alcohol you’re adding, as the key to a successful brine is nailing the right proportions.

  • Honey Bourbon Spatchcocked Turkey: Bourbon picks up flavors and aromas from the oak barrels it’s aged inside—here, we infuse a simple turkey brine with this smoky-sweet spirit.

See More: How to Spatchcock a Turkey

Image zoom Photo: YinYang/Getty Images

4. Keep Pie Dough Moist

Vodka is the secret dough whisperer. Adding a small amount with water to your dry ingredients when making dough makes it moist and easy to knead. The alcohol prevents the dough from drying out or becoming overworked. No need to worry about a vodka-flavored crust—the alcohol cooks out entirely when the pie is baked.

  • Cherry Almond Hand Pies: Make sure the vodka and water are chilled before adding to the dry ingredients. This ensures that the butter in the dough stays cold, helping the crust keep its shape later on.

Image zoom Jamie Vespa

5. Spike Your Pops

We know what you’re thinking—hard alcohol doesn’t freeze! While liquor won’t turn solid in the freezer on its own, it can certainly be frozen with other ingredients in small amounts. With a few materials, homemade ice pops are super simple to make. Choose a spirit that naturally complements the fruit you’re using, such as peaches and bourbon or pineapple and rum.

  • Watermelon Ice Pops: Watermelon juice, limes, and tequila are all you need for these super simple fruity pops. Tequila and lime are a natural match that complement juicy sweet watermelon.

Image zoom Photo: Jennifer Causey

6. Make Preserves

Making preserves out of fresh fruit is another easy way to preserve seasonal bounty. Flavoring your preserves with spirits and other aromatics can make for provocative flavor combinations. Darker colored spirits such as bourbon tend to pop more than lighter varieties.

  • Honey Bourbon Peach Preserves: Sweet peaches and smoky bourbon are a match made in heaven, while fresh thyme adds earthiness that ties everything together. This jam is a perfect spread for biscuits, topper for baked brie, or sauce for meats.

See More: Our 10 Favorite Bourbons

Image zoom Photo: Jennifer Causey

7. Elevate Glaze

Whether brushed over meat during cooking or drizzled over sweets after baking, glazes lock in moisture and can add a caramelized component to foods. Adding spirits serve to heighten and intensify the flavors.

  • Grilled Chicken Drumsticks with Bourbon Cherry BBQ Sauce: In our homemade BBQ sauce, tangy, pureed cherries complement smoky, caramel-laced bourbon.
  • Tequila-Glazed Grilled Chicken Thighs: Tequila’s sweet punch comes from the agave plant. Here, tequila combines with honey, pineapple juice, and lime juice for a tangy glaze that balances spicy chicken.
  • Apple Brandy Glazed Pork Tenderloin: Brandy teams up with apple cider, fresh thyme, Dijon mustard, and butter for a zippy, sweet glaze that’s brushed over pork during roasting.
  • Bourbon Brown Sugar Pound Cake: We elevate pound cake by brushing a bourbon-infused syrup over top. Cooking the bourbon down to a glaze gives it a creamy, subtle vanilla essence.

Image zoom Photo: Ryan Liebe; Styling: Mary Clayton Carl

8. Fold Into Butter

Pair butter, spirits, and others aromatics to create compound butter, a heavenly topper for cooked meats from hearty steak cuts to delicate fish filets.

  • Roast Beef Tenderloin with Cognac Butter: Cognac’s nutty and caramel notes harmonize with butter, shallots, and thyme before melting over slices of tender, succulent beef.

Image zoom PHoto: grafvision/Getty Images

9. Flambé!

There’s something totally satisfying about lighting your food on fire. Flambé, or the act of adding liquor to sauce and then igniting it, cooks out the alcohol to create intensified flavor. Not to mention, it’s also a surefire way to impress your dinner guests. The best alcohols for flambé are darker-colored varieties such as brandy, cognac, and rum.

  • Brennan’s Banana Foster: This classic dessert combines bananas and vanilla ice cream with a rich sauce of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and dark rum. After the alcohol burns off, the remaining sauce is infused with a roasted banana and caramel aroma.

Out of all the articles I’ve written for AoM, I must admit that I enjoyed this assignment the most. You see, I subscribe to the two-hand cooking approach when in the kitchen — right hand for holding tongs, flipping steaks, stirring vegetables, or plating meals, and the left hand to hold my adult beverage of choice.

Fact is, one of my favorite forms of relaxation after a long day is standing over a sizzling cast-iron pan or my charcoal grill with an ice cold beer or glass of wine in hand. Certain days are harder than others, which is why I also have been known to enjoy a bourbon cocktail from time to time.

Regardless if you partake in an adult beverage or not, the truth is that we all enjoy a bit of booze in some of our favorite meals. From a red-wine-laced Bolognese sauce, to a beer-battered tempura, alcohol is a popular ingredient in most kitchens. In fact, its versatility — from being a cooking fuel to deglazing to braising to finishing — is unparalleled when compared to most other ingredients.

Such a subject is so detailed and encompassing that it would literally require a science lab and an entire book to do it justice. That said, I felt it important to showcase the very basic elements of utilizing this ingredient while cooking, along with some of my favorite recipes.

Crack open a drink and let’s get to work!

Pairing Alcohol With Food

In order to start, in my opinion, one must have a basic understanding of pairing food and alcohol as part of the finished meal. We often overcomplicate this mutually beneficial relationship with stiff rules. Truth of the matter is to keep it simple — which can mean using your eyes as well as your taste buds. What do I mean? Lighter colored beers, wines, and spirits tend to go with similar looking lighter colored proteins, sauces, cheeses, etc. As the alcohol gets darker, so should your pairings. Of course, this is a very basic assumption, and there are many exceptions, but to speak in terms of generality, I’ve laid out some of my most common wine, beer, and spirit pairings below:

  • Wine: Sauvignon Blanc; Beer: lagers — white or light fish, mild cheese, fruit
  • Wine: Chardonnay; Beer: pilsners, lagers, cream ales; Spirits: sake, clear spirits — grilled chicken, salmon, shellfish, and grilled fish; anything with a scampi or cream sauce
  • Wine: Pinot Noir; Beer: wheats, brown ales — grilled fish, vegetables, or lighter meats – chicken, pork, veal; pasta with cream or red sauce
  • Wine: Merlot; Beer: brown ales — red sauce pastas, red meat, sharp cheeses, smoked or grilled foods
  • Wine: Zinfandel; Beer: pale ales — tomato pasta dishes, pizza, pesto, red meats, chicken, heavier sauces
  • Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon; Beer: porters, stouts, high alcohol beers; Spirits: dark spirits — red meats, especially steak, grilled and smoked foods
  • Wine: Syrah; Beer: pale ales, IPAs, high alcohol beers — red meats, spicy foods, pan seared or blackened fish
  • Wine: Rosé, Champagne; Beer: hefeweizens — salads, pasta salads, chicken, fish, light spicy foods

Cooking With Booze 101

Now let’s talk about using alcohol to cook our foods. Similar to the pairing method above, lighter colored alcohols and spirits also make their way into lighter proteins, sauces, and meals — an example would be a white wine used in a seafood scampi sauce. Darker spirits work with heavier proteins, sauces, and dishes such as a dark rum used in a nutty caramel or chocolate sauce.

In my experience, folks underestimate the amount of residual alcohol that remains in the dish, even after the cooking process takes place. Let’s take a look at this chart from our trusty friends over at the USDA:

Preparation / Method Retained Evaporated
Flamed (flambé) 75% 25%
Left uncovered overnight, no heat 70% 30%
Stirred into mixture and baked or simmered for 1 hour 25% 75%
Stirred into mixture and baked or simmered for 2-1/2 hours 5% 95%
USDA Table of Nutrient Retention Factors, Release 6

Moral of the story? Don’t let your 10-year-old eat too much of that flamed bananas foster!

This brings me to my next and very important point. Don’t cook with anything you wouldn’t yourself drink! As displayed above, a good portion of alcohol will remain in most cooked dishes, which means you need to use a quality spirit that doesn’t taste like junk. There’s no need to break the bank on an ’85 cab, but don’t put into your food what you wouldn’t generally consume.

I’d be remiss to not also mention a couple safety tips. To keep lawsuits at a minimum, I’ve avoided the flambé technique in this article — I’ve seen too many near disasters. Remember that alcohol is highly flammable, especially if you are working over high heat using a gas stove. My suggestion is to always pull the dish off the heat, especially when deglazing pots and pans. If you get a flare up, don’t stress — remember the flame will likely burn down very quickly. (Keep an extinguisher on hand to quell the flames if needed — or use salt as a last resort.)

Got it? Good — let’s get cooking!

Cooking With Booze: 5 Mouth-Watering Recipes

This dish is arguably one of the most beloved from my first book, Have Her Over for Dinner. As such, my friends have nicknamed it Penne a la Moops (for those who are fans of Seinfeld). Anyways, this is a rosé sauce of tomato and cream, which contains a little bit of vodka to help pull the flavors together. This dish is hearty and super filling — not to mention the fact that it makes for great leftovers.

Prep: 10 min
Cook: 30 min
Total: 40 min
Serves: 6

  • 1 lb. dried penne pasta
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 16 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. vodka
  • 4 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated to taste
  1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, brown sausage in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until cooked through; remove and drain on paper towels.
  3. Melt butter in the same skillet; add onions and salt, and sauté until tender, about 6-8 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, red pepper, and mushrooms; cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes, cream, vodka, and return the sausage to the pot. Allow the mixture to come to a slow simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes uncovered.
  6. Prior to serving, fold in the pasta, followed by the spinach, and toss until spinach is wilted and incorporated. Serve with grated cheese.

Seafood Scampi

This classic dish is bursting with tender, succulent seafood in every bite. If you are not a fan of seafood, substitute cooked chicken breast instead.

Prep: 15 min
Cook: 20 min
Total: 35 min
Serves: 2

  • 8 oz dry linguine pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined with the tail on
  • ½ lb. large sea scallops
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chardonnay/sauvignon blanc wine
  • 1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  1. Bring a large pot of water with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 7-8 minutes, or just under al dente. Drain the pasta and set aside to keep warm (add olive oil to pasta to prevent from sticking).
  2. While pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter into 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.
  3. Season shrimp and scallops lightly with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper; add to skillet. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until shrimp are just pink and scallops are beginning to firm; remove from pan and place on a plate to keep warm, squeezing the juice of the lemon over the top.
  4. Add shallots and garlic to the empty skillet over medium-high heat and sauté for 1-2 minutes, careful not to burn the garlic. Deglaze the skillet with the wine, scraping up any of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the petite diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer and allow the mixture to reduce by one-third, or 6-8 minutes.
  6. Add the shrimp, scallops, and pasta back into the pan to heat through, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the remaining butter, stir until completely incorporated. Toss and serve immediately. Garnish with parsley.

Beer Can Chicken

No, good sir, it doesn’t get any manlier than smoking a whole chicken perched atop a can of beer. Often tried, but rarely perfected, this is one of those techniques which is a true marriage of cooking and booze. The beer (use any you’d like, as long as it’s in a can) lends extra flavor and moisture to the bird throughout the cooking process. To get the best results, use a komodo style smoker, otherwise, you can still get good results on a gas grill over indirect heat. You can pick up a stand/cradle to elevate the bird and keep it sturdy for about 5 bucks – which is a worthy investment in my opinion. Otherwise, you can go old school and just stand the bird up on the can.

Prep: 10 min
Cook: 60 – 75 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 min – 1 hour 25 min
Serves: 4

  • 1 4-5 lb. young chicken, washed and rinsed clean
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 can beer, open and with a couple swallers taken
  • Beer can chicken stainless stand
  • Butcher’s twine
  1. Prepare a charcoal smoker or gas grill for indirect heating/smoking over medium heat, about 275-300 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, coat chicken in oil, and evenly rub the Creole seasoning into the chicken, including the cavity. Stuff cavity with garlic and lemon, and place the bird on top of the beer on the stand. Secure by tying the legs together with butcher’s twine.
  3. Smoke the bird, rotating on occasion, until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F.
  4. Tent with foil and allow the bird to rest for 20 minutes prior to cutting and serving.

Pan Seared Filets + Red Wine Pan Sauce

Re-create that steakhouse experience at home without breaking the bank. Splurge on some top quality cuts of steak – remember that great meals start with great ingredients. The deep, rich flavors of red wine combine with the pan drippings to create a luscious sauce that will set this meal over the top.

Prep: 10 min
Cook: 30 min
Total: 40 min
Serves: 2

  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 8 oz. filet mignons, at room temperature
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
  • ½ cup cabernet or Syrah wine
  • ½ cup beef stock
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and season filets with salt and pepper. Add butter and sear filets, undisturbed, for 2-3 minutes. Flip filets, then put skillet onto the bottom rack of the oven for about 5-7 more minutes depending on the cut ( until internal temperature is 135 degrees F for medium rare/medium). Remove filets from oven and tent with foil to keep warm and rest.
  3. Place cast iron skillet back on stovetop over medium-high heat and sauté shallots for 1-2 minutes. Deglaze pan with wine, and reduce mixture by half.
  4. Add stock, and once again reduce mixture by half.
  5. Remove from heat, add remaining butter, and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sauce with steak.

Blueberry + Peach + Bourbon Granola Crisp

A simplified version of a classic cobbler, chock full of fresh peaches and blueberries. Better yet, I like to spike mine with a little bourbon to help bring out even more flavor. You can use this same fruit mixture for traditional cobblers or pies, but I like the crispy granola crunch on top – it’s also a heck of a lot easier to prepare.

Prep: 15 min
Cook: 40 min
Total: 55 min
Serves: 6

Fruit Mixture

  • 3 ripe peaches — pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp. Kentucky bourbon
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Topping

  • 1 cup granola
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 4 Tbsp. cold butter, cubed
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Toss the fruit mixture together into a greased cooking pan until evenly combined.
  3. Next, add the topping ingredients in a mixing bowl, cutting the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a course crumble.
  4. Spread the topping over the top of the fruit mixture and bake for 30-40 minutes or until browned and crispy.
  5. Cool slightly before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.

What are your favorite ways to incorporate alcohol into your cooking?

Do you want to cook with alcohol, but you don’t know how to use wine, brandy, or beer? You’re usually supposed to follow the recipe, but you should also know which liquid goes well with your other ingredients.

Sometimes – just sometimes – I like to have a glass of red wine while cooking. I open the window, I turn on the music, I roll up my sleeves, take a sip of wine, and I start playing with flour, chopping vegetables, or cutting some meat, depending on my recipe. Sometimes I even dance! But this isn’t an example of how to cook with alcohol! It’s just having fun while cooking, even if alcohol is involved or not.

If you start to cook with alcohol, you will find out that it’s a little less intuitive, so you should follow your recipe to the letter. But first of all, why should you do it? Because when it’s used properly, alcohol improves your food. Pour it in a marinade or a brine and it will help season and flavor the meat. Alcohol is also able to penetrate the meat better than other liquids, and it carries flavor into the meat itself. You can use alcohol when you make sauces or other dishes (even desserts) because, overall, it makes your food smell and taste better.

You can cook with wine, beer, brandy, whiskey, gin, or tequila. Just follow the recipe and you’ll be just fine.

Some types of alcohol, like brandy, cognac, or rum are used for flambé, which is the French term for flaming.

What happens with the alcohol while cooking?

The conventional wisdom is that all the alcohol you add to a dish evaporates or dissipates during cooking. But that is wrong. In fact, you have to cook something for a good 3 hours to eradicate all traces of alcohol, according to Whatscookingamerica.net. USDA research shows that 85 percent of the alcohol stays put after the wine is added to a boiling liquid and then removed from the heat. Another study showed that anywhere from 4 to 78 percent of the initial amount of alcohol did not evaporate when some dishes were done.

When you cook with alcohol, the heat will remove some of it, but not all. Still, the longer a dish is cooked, the less alcohol remains. You should be aware of this if you’re cooking for children or people who avoid alcohol because of health, ethical, or religious reasons.

What to cook with alcohol

Cooking with wine

The first rule when cooking with wine is to avoid those types labeled ‘Cooking Wine’ because they’re not good for your dish! Use the wine that you would drink on its own! An expensive wine is not necessary but choose a good quality one.

Red wine (usually dry) is good for long-simmered meat dishes, usually beef, lamb, and pork. You can also use it in sautés, casseroles, sauces, soups, stews, and in some desserts, like poached pears in red wine. A magic thing you can make with wine is deglazing a pan. This means making a sauce by pouring wine in a hot pan in which you’ve just made a steak, then scraping the bottom with a spatula to loosen the browned bits. You can add, if you want, some butter, spices, and herbs, then pour the sauce over the steak.

The most versatile white wine to cook with is a dry, crisp one. White wine is best for chicken, duck, fish, shrimp and other seafood dishes, but also for sauces, risotto, and sweets like white wine poached apricots.

For best results, wine should not be added to a dish just before serving. The wine should simmer with the food, or sauce, to enhance the flavor of the dish.

Substitutes:

If you don’t want to cook with alcohol, but you want to try a recipe that requires it, substitute red wine with an equal amount of red grape juice, cranberry juice, chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, clam juice, fruit juices, or flavored vinegar.

White wine can be replaced with water, chicken broth, vegetable broth, white grape juice, ginger ale, or white grape juice.

White wine is best for chicken, duck, fish, shrimp, but also for sauces and risotto.

Cooking with brandy

Brandy is a distilled spirit made from fermented fruit or starchy vegetables. Unlike gin, vodka or whiskey, brandy is great in all kinds of food. Use small amounts, because it’s stronger than wine. It works with seafood, chicken, turkey, liver, pork, sauces, mashed potatoes, or noodles with veggies. If you love exotic tastes, top your bowl of soup with 1 teaspoon of brandy. Brandy is also used to flambé foods, but for this technique, you need some extra skill and a lot of precaution!

You can add a few drops of brandy over a fruit salad, in a cheesecake, cake batter, a pudding, in your crème Brulee, or in caramel or chocolate sauces.

Substitutes:

If you want to avoid cooking with alcohol, keep in mind that brandy can be replaced with white grape juice, apple cider or apple juice, diluted peach or apricot syrups. Substitute equal amounts of liquid.

Cooking with beer

People who cook with alcohol often choose beer. Maybe because it’s cheaper than wine, who knows? You can use it in marinades most of the time, but also when making a dough. Usually, light beer works best for chicken and fish. As well as red wine, dark beer is best for red meat. You can also use it for braising legumes or in cheese dips.

A lot of cooks say that the yeast in beer also makes baked goods lighter and springier. You can use it when making a batter (let’s say for your fish and chips), because it works like sparkling water to carbonate the mix, helping to make it crisper, lighter, and airier. Add it to your pizza dough or make beer bread.

Substitutes:

Replacing the beer in a recipe will change the taste, of course, but you can try – for a similar flavor – chicken broth, beef broth, mushroom broth, white grape juice, or ginger ale.

20 Alcohol-Infused Healthy Bites

Alcohol and healthy are two words we don’t often see together when we’re talking about weight loss—and usually for good reason. Chugging back those mixed drinks, malt beverages, and creamy beers can leave you bloated, dehydrated, and craving greasy foods. Instead of taking in those unnecessary liquid calories that come with drinking, get your buzz going with a bite of food. The secret behind consuming alcohol on a diet? Moderation!

Not only do you still get to enjoy your favorite spirits and keep your beach body, these healthy, alcohol-infused bites are loaded with good-for-you nutrients and vitamins. From dinners to desserts (and okay, a couple of beverages), alcohol can be infused in tons of enjoyable treats that won’t deem your diet donezo. If you need even more reason to you to try these alcoholic food recipe ideas, remind yourself of these health benefits of alcohol!

1

Pina Colada Popsicles

Take a trip to the tropics with a healthified version of the tasty island drink! Make Pina Colada popsicles by blending pineapple, coconut milk, coconut water and rum. Freeze for 12 to 24 hours in plastic cups with a stick for holding (or those fancy popsicle freezer molds found as #12 on our list of healthy cooking gadgets). Coconuts have some pretty amazing nutrients that will benefit your hair, skin, and even energy. Plus, it tastes awesome! These treats are a refreshing snack that can give you the buzz without the bloat!

2

Boozy Melon Salad

Watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew are all perfect fruits to infuse alcohol into. These juicy melons can be scooped out using an ice cream scoop and soaked in triple sec, fruit flavored vodka, and a touch of pineapple juice. After about 2 to 5 hours, enjoy yourself a fruit salad that’s bright in color and bold in flavor.

3

Beer Braised Chicken

The Eat This, Not That! team was recently dazzled by how creatively alcohol can be used when we were visited by Cody Goldstein, founder of Muddling Memories, a cocktail and bar consulting firm. You may have heard of “beer can chicken” before, but you’ll want to do it Cody’s way if you ever attempt it: “I like to place two pounds of chicken breast—along with carrots, celery, onions, garlic and fresh herbs—into a braising pot or slow cooker. I add my favorite local wheat ale (I recommend Brooklyn Greenmarket Wheat) which will give a really great zesty and citrus flavor to the chicken and help break it down as it cooking.” Cheers to that!

4

Prosecco Ice Cube Fruit Water

There’s nothing better than gulping back an ice cold glass of water on a hot day. Well, there may be an exception; how about an ice cold fruit water with prosecco ice cubes? Simply freeze prosecco in an ice cube tray overnight and slice oranges, kiwis, limes, and strawberries. Add it all to a pitcher of water. Drinking water will not only keep you hydrated, it helps boost your metabolism to aid weight loss efforts. Next time you think about reaching for a mixed drink with sugary additives, skip it and go for a glass of this thirst-quenching drink. Try out one of these detox waters for weight loss!

5

Tequila Lime Shrimp

Use tequila and lime to bring out a bold flavor in a shrimp dish. Shrimp is an awesome protein that is a definite go-to for anyone looking to lose weight. Add this shrimp to a salad, lettuce wrap, or a stir-fry, and you’re sure to be happy and satisfied!

6

Whiskey Marinade

Spice up your life and go for a whiskey marinade when you grill chicken, tofu or veggies! For the marinade, combine whiskey, honey, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, lime juice, and garlic. This is a flavor-packed way to enhance those proteins and add an extra kick!

7

Mezcal Gazpacho Soup

Here’s another delicious idea from Goldstein! He likes to combine 2 ounces of Creyente Joven Mezcal in the blender with tomatoes and herbs to get a soup with a great smokey flavor. Since the soup is served cold, you will really taste the agave that has been smoked underground and the flavor will complement the roasted tomatoes. Don’t miss these healthy gazpacho tips for more tips and tricks.

8

Tipsy Mojito Icey

Transform the classic cocktail into a refreshing, waist-whittling dessert! Combine honey, lime juice, lime zest, mint, white rum, and water, and then freeze. Now that’s a cool way to satisfy your sweet tooth!

9

Tequila Spiked Salsa

The agavins (a natural sugar) found in Mexican tequila has been shown to help lower glucose levels and make you feel fuller than when consuming artificial sugar. So, go ahead and add two tablespoons of tequila to your salsa, along with the tomato, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and sea salt. Not only will this taste great, it’s a snack that will help you lose that unwanted belly fat!

10

Jello Shot Oranges

Instead of making jello shots with those packages of flavored jello that are filled with artificial sweeteners, make your own at home using unflavored gelatin powder and fresh oranges. Cut the oranges in half and scoop out the inside to use for juicing. Combine with alcohol and put the mixture back into the orange skins to refrigerate overnight. You can use any hard liquor for this little treat, but we suggest going for an orange flavored vodka. Fresh orange juice is loaded with vitamin C with a low glycemic index that won’t send your blood sugar skyrocketing.

11

Coffee Liqueur Fruit Dip

Make a quick fruit dip by mixing Siggi’s Icelandic yogurt and a coffee based liqueur. Icelandic yogurt is actually strained an extra time than the popular Greek yogurt and the process increases the protein content!

12

Rum Balls

Courtesy of Fresh Fit n Healthy

Itching for a sweet treat? Go for these Coconut Rum Balls from Fresh Frit & Healthy! They are naturally sweetened with dates and use cocoa, which is one of the healthiest spices on the planet since it can help reduce heart problems and control inflammation. These tasty things are the perfect way to have both your after-dinner drink and your dessert. Win-win!

13

Spicy Beer Mustard

When you’re looking to add extra flavor to your grilled chicken or steak, go for spicy beer mustard. Mustard seed is low in calories and reportedly can help boost metabolism. Use brown and yellow mustard seeds, vinegar, honey, cayenne, allspice, turmeric, and dark beer for a condiment like no other.

RELATED: Learn how to fire up your metabolism and lose weight the smart way.

14

Amaretto Cherries

Skip the bright red jarred cherries from the grocery store that you might see on top of a sundae or in a Shirley Temple cocktail. (Those are loaded with belly-bloating high fructose corn syrup and fake coloring. Yuck!) Instead, go for the real thing, made at home. Soak cherries in amaretto to get a garnish you won’t have to feel guilty about; one cup of natural cherries has less than 100 calories and is loaded with cancer-fighting flavonoids and fiber.

15

Infused Ice Pops

Who says ice pops are just for the youngsters? Try out ice pops infused with any of your favorite cold alcohols! Try combining Smirnoff Ice or Bud Light Straw-Ber-Itas with water or freshly squeezed fruit juice to lower the fake sugar content and keep that same sweet flavors. Freeze it for 8 to 12 hours and you have yourself a treat that you can feel better about. You could even just melt and refreeze one of these best popsicles for weight loss with a liquor!

16

Spiked Fro-Yo Cupcakes

Make a crust by pulsing pecans, maple syrup, and coconut oil and pressing it firmly into a greased cupcake pan. Combine Greek yogurt, coconut sugar, vanilla vodka, and pour over the crust. Freeze for about 5 to 12 hours or overnight and you’ve got yourself a fun treat that will make you feel like a kid again!

17

Beer Stuffed Mushrooms

Saute onions in your choice of beer to get an extra flavor profile in your stuffed mushrooms. Mix with panko bread crumbs, cheese, and spices to get the perfect party appetizer that everyone will love!

18

Chocolate Strawberry Shot Glasses

This one takes a bit of work but the end result is too cute! Here’s what you do: First, cut off the point of the strawberries and dip them in melted chocolate; this makes for a stable, balanced “cup.” Without destroying your strawberries, remove each center with a paring knife to leave a cavity that’s large enough to fill. Use a vanilla or chocolate flavored liquor in combo with some of the remaining melted chocolate to fill the strawberry shot glass. (Always choose a chocolate with more than 70 percent cocoa or higher.) After you take the shot, you can forget a high-calorie chaser; just eat and enjoy the strawberry instead!

19

Caramel Apples

Soak Granny Smith apples in a caramel vodka for a few hours before dipping them in creamy almond butter. It’ll taste just like that popular fair treat without all the sticky sugary caramel.

20

Bourbon Peanut Butter

One last idea from Goldstein that we could resist sharing: Try spiking your peanut butter with bourbon! You can easily make it at home, too. “After I roast the peanuts in a sautéing pan, I blend my peanuts with brown sugar, raisins, and 3 ounces of bourbon,” he says. “I recommend Amador Whiskey to add a bit more complexity; the notes of that bourbon (brown sugar, vanilla, oak, and spice) really compliment the other flavors.” The Eat This, Not That! team reminds you to be responsible—and not add too much of that brown sugar. Check out our exclusive guide to added sweeteners ranked by nutrition for more info. And in the meantime, enjoy your tasty-bite imbibing!

Get the New Book!

Want to lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds—all without dieting?! Get your copy of Eat This, Not That: The Best (& Worst) Foods in America!, and learn how to indulge smarter and lose weight fast!

Share this with friends!

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Pin

1shares

Alcohol is an incredibly versatile beverage. Not only is it something that we turn to if we want to relax or have a bit of fun, but alcohol is also a powerful ingredient in cooking.

For most of us, including alcohol in cooking isn’t really about getting drunk or buzzed. After all, most (but not all) of the alcohol will burn off during cooking and most recipes with alcohol don’t even use all that much alcohol compared to the serving size.

The power of alcohol in cooking comes from its effect on food. For example, alcohol can often be a way to add some unique flavor to a dish, especially in the case of alcohols like bourbon, which have a distinct taste. But, alcohol also plays a role in chemical reactions and just the presence of alcohol can alter a dish in unexpected ways. I mean, why else would some dishes use vodka?

In this list, I’m focusing on dinner dishes that specifically use alcohol as one of their ingredients. Some of the combinations are pretty common, but other recipes may use alcohol in a way that you have never really considered before.

And another easy way to do this is with alcohol-infused savory sauces. Then you can drizzle or drench them on your favorite meats!

PS. You might also like our list of boozy sweet sauces, which also have alcohol in them, but skew towards the sweeter side!

Savory Boozy Dinner Recipes

Maple Bacon Beer Burgers

Kristin // Iowa Girl Eats

This recipe comes from iowagirleats.com and burgers combine flavors of sweet maple bacon and beer. Overall, that combination would work extremely well, especially as many of us would typically have a beer with our burgers anyway.

In this recipe, the beer would add in a subtle flavor, especially as the recipe does contain other strong flavors. This is a fun way to make burgers taste a little bit different and it’s a perfect recipe for anyone getting a little sick of plain old burgers.

Beer Battered Chicken Sandwich

David // Leite’s Culinaria

Using beer in the batter is a technique with a long history and this recipe from leitesculinaria.com is just one example of this approach. With beer batter, the emphasis is strongly on the effect of the beer and not its flavor.

The inclusion of beer adds bubbles into the batter. This helps to make the batter lighter and can also give it more body. Now, this recipe is a bit different because it’s fairly uncommon to see chicken done in beer batter, but there is no reason why not.

While we’re on the topic, I want to note that this isn’t your typical beer batter recipe either. The recipe uses a few more ingredients than you might expect, which gives the batter a more complex and appealing taste. Overall, this is probably an amazing sandwich with a more unique taste than the image suggests.

Beer Braised Chicken Tacos

Jackie // The Beeroness

Using beer in cooking is certainly a common approach, so here’s another recipe that does just that. This time, the recipe comes from thebeeroness.com and as you might imagine, that is a great site to check out if you’re interested in including beer in recipes.

This particular recipe is pretty cool because beer is actually an ingredient in the tortillas and also in the chicken. The impact and flavor of the beer would work well with the freshness of the other ingredients, like the avocado and cilantro, although you could use your own garnishes instead.

Classic French Onion Soup

Willow // Will Cook For Friends

There aren’t many dinner recipes that traditionally use alcohol as an ingredient, but French onion soup is one example of such a recipe. At the same time there is a huge amount of variation in recipes for French onion soup and finding a good one can sometimes be challenging.

This recipe comes from willcookforfriends.com and it certainly does match up with the idea of a classic version of the recipe. In this case, the recipe actually uses two types of alcohol but both would significantly contribute to the flavor of the dish.

Slow Cooker Red Wine Pot Roast

Jeanette // Jeanette’s Healthy Living

I’ve always loved the idea of cooking a roast in a slow cooker. It’s a wonderful way to make a hearty and warming dish without requiring all that much effort.

The idea of including alcohol in this dish just serves to make it that much better, especially if you’re making this type of dish in the depths of winter. Red wine is also a natural complement to red meat in general, which is why recipes like this end up working so well. You can find all of the information that you need to make this one at jeanetteshealthyliving.com.

Vegan Beer Chili

Dana // Minimalist Baker

This recipe comes from minimalistbaker.com and Dana notes that this is a good one to try even if you don’t normally drink beer. Beer can be a great tool for cooking, adding in a depth of flavor.

In this case, the beer serves to make the dish taste a little rustic, which is pretty much perfect for chili. The recipe is for vegan chili. However, you could also add meat to the recipe if you preferred and the directions do give information about how to make this substitution.

Sticky Bourbon Chicken with Rice

Lindsay // Pinch of Yum

I found this recipe at pinchofyum.com and I love the idea of using bourbon in a chicken dish. In general, bourbon does have a deep and somewhat rich taste, which would be a perfect complement to the chicken.

The recipe is also a surprisingly simple one to make, so it would be a great choice if you didn’t have much time. Because the recipe relies on a marinade, you would need to get started the night before. Nevertheless, the amount of hands-on work with this recipe really is minimal.

Beer Battered Yogurt Fried Chicken

Katerina // Diethood

I know I already highlighted one recipe for beer battered chicken, but I had to include this one because it really is quite different. Much of that is to do with the yogurt mixture that is used on the chicken. That mixture would make the chicken taste quite different and I imagine the approach works especially well on chicken drumsticks.

At the same time, Katerina from diethood.com, also includes her own combination of beer and spices into the beer batter, which further adds to the overall depth of flavor that the recipe offers.

Penne Alla Vodka

Ali // Gimme Some Oven

If you’ve never cooked with alcohol, the idea of including vodka in a pasta sauce makes absolutely no sense. After all, vodka doesn’t have a taste of its own. Yet, vodka really does influence the way this dish turns out.

This particular recipe comes from gimmesomeoven.com and the recipe contains a creamy vodka sauce. All-in-all, the end result sounds just wonderful, especially if you happen to be a big fan of pasta (or vodka) to start off with.

Rosemary Cornmeal Beer Battered Fish

Gina // Running to the Kitchen

To me, this fried fish looks exactly like I expect fried fish to look (even though it rarely does). So, as you can imagine, I was pretty taken by the photo in general and the recipe itself is even better than the photo.

The recipe comes from runningtothekitchen.com and there are actually two parts to it. The first part is the fish, which includes the beer. The second part of the recipe is for the remoulade (the yogurt dip). That dip doesn’t contain any alcohol but it’s a perfect complement to the fish.

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp Scampi

Kimberly // Daring Gourmet

So, here’s an option for any seafood lovers. Many variations of scampi do use wine as a key ingredient and this recipe follows this trend. The recipe uses a few key flavors to complement the flavor of the shrimp. The most significant ones are lemon and garlic but red pepper also makes an appearance.

The taste of the wine itself would also be evident in the final dish, complementing it nicely. You can find all of the ingredients and directions for this dish at daringgourmet.com if you’re interested in trying it out.

Red Wine and Beer Braised Short Ribs

Laureen // Art and the Kitchen

I have always loved the combination of red wine and meat, and this recipe is a great way of taking advantage of those flavors. This would be an especially good dish for a cold winter’s day because the dish itself is warming as is the alcohol that it contains.

As the name suggests, this recipe actually contains two different types of alcohol – red wine and beer. The beer of choice is either Guinness or any stout beer, which would just add to the rich taste of the meat. The recipe comes from artandthekitchen.com, so you can find all of the ingredients and directions over there.

Joanna // Jo Cooks

We’re talking about alcohol and cooking, so I really did have to mention beer can chicken at least once. The images for beer can chicken do always look a little silly, but there is a really good reason for the approach.

Beer can chicken works because the flavors of the beer infuse into the chicken and the steam from the beer also makes it incredibly tender (which is why you have to put the beer can where it is in the image). You can find all of the details at jocooks.com.

However, as a word of warning, you do have to have enough space in your oven to stand a chicken upright like this, or the recipe simply won’t work.

Beef Teriyaki

Bee // Rasamalaysia

This recipe is a little bit different because it uses sake (rice wine) as the alcohol of choice. Most western dishes don’t use sake and many people haven’t even tried the alcohol (although personally, I do find it appealing). Regardless, this recipe is a good one to try if you’re looking for flavors that are a little bit different.

The recipe itself is pretty simple and this would be a good recipe to serve to guests. The recipe comes from rasamalaysia.com, so you can head over there to find out more details.

Vodka Cream Penne with Chorizo

Lorraine // Not Quite Nigella

This recipe is another example of how powerful vodka can be in a cream-based sauce. This particular recipe is from notquitenigella.com and it’s a fairly simple introduction into the world of vodka and pasta.

Don’t let the simplicity of the dish fool you though, this is still a very flavorful dish, particularly because of the sauce itself and the use of chorizo. It’s also an easy dish to prepare, which is certainly a bonus if you’re in a hurry.

Bourbon Pulled Pork Totchos

Meseidy // The Noshery

Pulled pork can be an especially appealing food in general, so you can imagine how much better it gets once you add bourbon into the mix. This recipe comes from thenoshery.com and it really is worth trying out.

To make the whole thing even better, the pulled pork itself is made in the slow cooker, which dramatically decrease the amount of work you have to do. Actually, this entire recipe is easy to pull off and involves relatively little prep work or effort. Of course, you could also just prepare the bourbon pulled pork if that was the part that interested you the most.

No-Stock French Onion Soup

Alexandra // Alexandra Cooks

Here’s a second French onion soup to add to our list. This one comes from alexandracooks.com and it is a fairly simple example of French onion soup.

That is intentional though, as Alexandra notes that traditional French onion soup should be simple and certainly shouldn’t make use of stock. The approach seems to work exceptionally well because the simplicity lets the taste of onions shine through much more than most other versions of French onion soup.

Pineapple and Rum Glazed Ham

Amy // The Blond Cook

When you’re baking a ham for any big occasion, the glaze really can make all the difference. This recipe, from theblondcook.com, is powerful in that regard because the glaze here contains rum and pineapple, which is sure to make an amazing holiday dish.

Perhaps the most important part of this glaze is that it isn’t going to be drowned out by the taste of the ham. Instead, the two things are going to complement each other nicely. You couldn’t ask for anything better when it comes to glazed ham.

Bourbon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans

Cheyanne // No Spoon Necessary

If you love baked beans then this recipe is for you. It contains a fantastic combination of flavors, including brown sugar, bourbon and (of course) bacon. The recipe itself is from nospoonnecessary.com, although you would actually want a spoon to serve it.

Now, there is a decent amount of prep work involved in making this dish but it is always worth taking that time if the end result is going to be an amazing dish. Plus, this recipe also makes a large amount, so it would be a good way to feed a family or to create leftovers.

Mustard and Beer-Braised Pork

Michelle // Blackberry Babe

These pork ribs from blackberrybabe.com look absolutely amazing and I love the idea of using beer to add to their flavor. As with other recipes, beer would add a depth of flavor to this dish. So, it’s worth giving it a try even if you don’t especially like beer in the first place.

The recipe calls for any type of beer, so you can choose whichever you have lying around. Nevertheless, it’s likely that the specific beer chosen would have some impact on the overall taste of the dish, so be aware of that when making your decision.

Rich Pork and Red Wine Ragu

Darina // Gratiee

The focus of this particular recipe is on the pork and wine ragu, and this could really be served on top of most types of pasta. To me, this recipe is a good reminder that you really don’t need to buy jars of bottled pasta sauce from the grocery store.

Instead, you can make your own rich pasta sauce with relatively few ingredients. The red wine is a natural complement to this type of sauce and makes it taste that much better. You can find all of the details you would need for this recipe at gratineeblog.com.

Smoked Gouda Beer Burgers

Jessie // Life as a Strawberry

This burger recipe comes from lifeasastrawberry.com and it focuses on using a heavy stout or lager to help create a smoky flavor. I love this recipe as a way to make burgers a little bit more interesting.

After all, sometimes burgers can seem a little bit repetitive simply because the burger patties always taste pretty similar to one another. You could actually use the burger patties from this recipe with any combination of burger buns and other burger ingredients.

Ribeye Steak Saute with Red Wine

Mike // Dad Cook’s Dinner

This final entry comes from dadcooksdinner.com. I find this recipe pretty appealing because many people find that steak ends up dry or tasteless when they cook it at home.

This recipe is fairly simple, but it acts as a great way to infuse the flavor of alcohol into the steak while also making the cooking process that much simpler. Besides, the final steak does look pretty good on the plate too.

Wine and cheese nights are great and all, but why go through the agonizing struggle of drinking one thing while eating another when you could just do both at once? I mean, most of us love to eat and love to drink, so combining them has to be some sort of sorcery. Here’s 11 tasty alcohol-infused treats that will satisfy both your hunger and your alcoholic needs in just a few bites.

1. Absinthe Cones

Alex Frank

Take an absinthe shot and you will probably feel as though there are holes being burned in your throat. Take a few too many and you will literally burn to the ground. This is where absinthe cones come to save the day. By combining your absinthe with some ice cream, you can avoid this hellish sensation and leave the absintherie unscathed.

2. Drunken Donuts

Alex Frank

They say “American Runs On Dunkin'” but I personally believe that America would run a little faster on Drunken’. Hence, drunken donuts aka your new favorite breakfast food.

3. Vodka Pizza

karina rao

Say goodbye to the days of ordering pizza after a long night out while sobering up and hello to pizza at the pregame. With vodka-infused pizza you get the best of both worlds all in one slice- heavenly.

4. Fireball Cupcakes

Caroline Ingalls

That’s right—now you can have your cake and drink it too. With the perfect amount of cinnamony booze and fluffy cake, you can now tastefully relive your high school glory days (aka chugging fireball in your friend’s basement—don’t lie, we all know you did).

5. Boozy Milkshakes

Teodora Maftei

Whether you’re a bourbon fan, a whiskey fanatic, a vodka fiend, or a rum aficionado, alcohol-infused milkshakes are right for you. Unless of course you hate ice cream, in which case you probably would have stopped reading after #1 and not have even gotten this far.

6. Tequila-Spiked Salsa

Caroline Grew

When chips and salsa are set out at a Mexican restaurant, there’s nothing stopping you from eating ten times as much as you should. Which is fine, but why not get buzzed while doing so? Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to blackout before someone at the table next to you has a sombrero shoved on their head while all employees SCREAM happy birthday (happens every time).

7. Piña Colada Popsicles

Andrea Lim

If you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain (bet you’ve never seen that as an Instagram caption before…) or if you just like piña coladas but NOT getting caught in the rain, you will LOVE piña colada popsicles. Just try to eat it before it melts (alcohol isn’t the easiest substance to freeze so this is likely to happen quickly).

8. Adult Caramel Apples

Alex Frank

How much more enjoyable would the classic family fall festivity of apple picking be if you were blackout? Probably a lot more. How do you accomplish this, you ask? Grab the nearest caramel flavored liquor, whip up some boozy caramel sauce, and go for a dip (with your apple, that is… but I guess you could swim in it too if you wanted).

9. Beer Cheese Dip

Cassandra Bauer

They say that one can of beer is equivalent to eating seven slices of bread… talk about healthy. Honestly though, if you’re already in that deep, you might as well ball out and make it into a beer-infused cheese. This taste of heaven will be enough for you to forget the fact that you will have likely consumed an entire bread factory in one night.

10. Liquor-Filled Chocolates

David Leggit

You’ve most likely heard the saying “All you need is love — but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt” from the wise Charles M. Schulz. Well, ya know, Charles? A little (or better yet, a lot) of liquor doesn’t hurt either. With these liquor-infused chocolates, you might not even need the love component.

11. Hungover Gummy Bears

Jaryl Cabuco

These bad boys are simply a cuter and easier-to-make version of Jell-O shots. Just fill up a bowl of vodka, pour in the gummy bears, and watch them drown.

#SpoonTip: Use the leftover vodka for SHOTS to achieve an even more obnoxious level of drunk.

So there you have it, 11 ways to drink your alcohol and eat your food at the same time. I mean, what’s better than killing two birds with two stones AND enjoying each bite along the way? Next fancy house party you throw (since I know, as a college student, you do that often), I expect boozy apps and intoxicating desserts. Truly the best of both worlds, and it will surely impress (and buzz) all of your guests.

If you’ve been around these here parts long enough you’ll know that I love to cook with alcohol. My love for cooking with alcohol has little to do with it’s intoxicating effects and comes from the excitement on how a small addition of alcohol can add so much complexity to accent a dish. Adding a bit of scotch to a stew to add smoke or deglazing a pan that was used to cook game with the flavors of juniper that come in the liquid form of gin or increasing the acidity of a pasta sauce by adding a few glugs of red wine is near and dear to my heart.

My love for using booze as an accent is what had (and HAS) me so excited for “Cooking with Cocktails”, a new book by our friend Kristy Gardner from British Columbia. Instead of using booze as an accent to a dish she based an entire book on creating dishes that were inspired by cocktails. Imagine Rob Roy Braised Short Ribs, a Mojito Watermelon Chopped Salad, Mezcal Pan Asparagus with Perfect Poached Eggs and more! If you’re a little less adventurous there are some classic dishes such as Mussles with white wine (she uses Gerweurztraminer), Chocolate Chip Cookies with Amarula and a kick-ass recipe for baked beans that includes 2 cups of stout. Being a competent preserver Kristy also features a few easy preserves including quick-pickled onions, a booze beet shrub and bourbon-soaked cherries (an absolute staple in our house).

Good recipes are the cost of entry of any good cookbook – and Kristy has plenty of great recipes, knowledge and inspiration in her book. I love the concept, her photography is gorgeous and find the book extremely easy to use and all-around fun. But that’s not why I think you’ll LOVE it. I think you’ll love it because Kristy is one of those rare writers who has such a unique voice that reading her book makes you feel as if you’re sitting with her over a drink and she’s sharing some of her inspiration with you. Some of the sub-headings in her introduction include, “Read the Damn Recipe”, “Google That Shit” and “Season Everything.” The writing is punchy (and not at all condescending) and fun and light and exciting and feels as though the reader is getting an unfiltered view of her passion and love for what she does.

As I read through parts of the book I found myself responding to some of her encouragement, questions and anecdotes with a loud inner voice. Reading this book wasn’t a passive experience – I found myself laughing at some of her jokes and sarcastically quipping back at some of her wit.Like a good work of fiction I found myself transported into Kristy’s world and felt as though I had a seat at her table – or her bar.

The book features 100 recipes and is full of wonderful photography and easy-to follow recipes. It includes recipes for cocktails, apps, starters, meat, fish, veg, sweets and staples. It also includes some great tips to make you think about pairing food and has recipes that can used year-round for the seasonal readers amongst us.

To grab a copy check out your local independent book seller or buy online.

Alcohol’s Role in Cooking

by David Joachim and Andrew Schloss
from Fine Cooking #104, pp. 28-29

A glass of wine with dinner makes a meal more civilized and enjoyable. Yet the real power of alcohol, especially for the cook, lies not in what it does at the table but what it does in the kitchen.

Like salt, alcohol brings out the flavor in food. Whether you’re cooking with wine, beer, or liquor, the alcohol in those beverages improves flavor perception in at least two important ways: by evaporation and by molecular bonding. Let’s take them one at a time.

Into thin air
Open a bottle of 16-year-old Lagavulin single malt and you smell the scotch right away. The alcohol molecules swiftly carry subtle caramel aromas and soft peaty smoke to your olfactory sensors (that is, your nose). The alcohol molecules can do this because they’re volatile, meaning they evaporate rapidly.

That’s why adding a splash of kirsch to a fruit salad or macerating peaches in Pinot Noir helps convey the fruit’s aroma to our nostrils, enhancing our overall enjoyment of the food. This “volatility effect” works best when a dish contains a low concentration of alcohol-1 percent or less. If more than 5 percent of the dish is alcohol, the aroma of the alcohol will dominate.

Hitching a ride
Food also benefits from alcohol’s second remarkable quality: It bonds with both fat and water molecules. In this way, alcohol bridges the gap between our aroma receptors (which respond only to molecules that can be dissolved in fat) and food (which consists primarily of water). This is crucial, because most of the great “flavor” in food comes from aromas in the nose rather than tastes in the mouth. (Notice that you can’t fully “taste” your food when you have a stuffy nose.)

Alcohol’s ability to bond with both fat and water is well illustrated by a marinade or brine. In this case, the flavor compounds in aromatics like garlic, herbs, or other seasonings dissolve only in fat (i.e., they are fat-soluble). Alcohol helps carry those compounds into the meat that’s soaking in the marinade. At the same time, alcohol also carries any water-soluble flavor compounds into the meat’s cells. (Water-soluble flavors include sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.) The result of alcohol’s efforts? More flavor and aroma in the marinated food. And it doesn’t take much: Adding even a tablespoon of neutral-tasting vodka to a marinade or brine noticeably improves the flavor penetration of the marinade.

The same principle is at work when you baste a piece of meat with wine, beer, or spirits during cooking. Of course, the liquid helps moisten the meat’s surface, but the alcohol also carries flavor compounds into the meat, improving its taste.

Put the science to work:

Beer-Buttered Roasted Rib-Eye with Beer and Cider Sauce

High intensity
Alcohol’s enhancement of flavor perception can be seen in reduction sauces as well. When you deglaze a pan with wine after searing a steak, not only are you capturing the deliciously browned proteins stuck to the bottom of the pan, but you’re also dissolving them in alcohol, which carries additional flavor to the sauce. If you deglaze with a nonalcoholic liquid such as broth, fruit juice, or water, the flavor of your sauce won’t be as intense.

With both of alcohol’s flavor-enhancing abilities, less is more. When it comes to evaporation, just a jigger of tawny port in a braised beef dish can make a distinct difference in flavor perception. And with molecular bonding, just a splash of a spirit in a marinade intensifies the flavors in the finished dish. All the more reason to bring alcohol into the kitchen.

Does the Alcohol Used in Cooking Burn Off?
Contrary to popular belief, the alcohol added to a dish does not “burn off” during cooking. How much is retained in a finished dish is determined by several factors: the amount of alcohol added, the amount of heat applied, the cooking and standing time, and the physical dimensions of the cookware.

If your aim is to put on a show, flambé is the way to go, but if you’re trying to reduce the amount of alcohol in a finished dish, the most effective method is to simmer or bake the mixture in a wide uncovered pan for an extended period of time. See the chart below.

Preparation / Method Retained Evaporated
Flamed (flambé) 75% 25%
Left uncovered overnight, no heat 70% 30%
Stirred into mixture and baked or simmered for 1 hour 25% 75%
Stirred into mixture and baked or simmered for 2-1/2 hours 5% 95%

Source: USDA Table of Nutrient Retention Factors, Release 6

Illustrated by Martin Haake

Cooking with alcohol recipes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *