Cooking with Alcohol: An Introduction
When used with complementary ingredients, alcohol can unlock hidden layers of flavour in a dish. With our inspiring ideas, tasty pairing suggestions and a handy ratio guide, we’re confident you’ll be cooking successfully with alcohol in no time. Cheers!
From grilling and marinating to poaching and steaming, discover all the wonderful ways you can cook with alcohol. And remember: if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it!
Beer can chicken is an easy way to cook a whole bird. Preheat the grill to medium high and rub your favourite spice blend over the chicken. Open a tall can of choice and pour out half (chefs get to do what they’d like with the rest). Place the cavity of the chicken over the can of beer-it should stand on its own. Cook the chicken over indirect heat with the lid closed until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 85°C. As it cooks, the beer bubbles up inside the can, basting the chicken from the inside out. The result is crispy skin and tender, beer-infused meat.
Adding alcohol to a marinade enhances and develops flavour. Because alcohol is able to bond with fat and water molecules, the taste of the marinated ingredient is enhanced. Not sure where to start? Darker alcohols pair naturally with darker meat (think beef and red wine). Roast Beef Tenderloin With Red Wine Sauce is a good example. On the flip side, lighter alcohols (like tequila) pair well with pork, fish or poultry, like in our Tequila Lime Grilled Pork with Peppers & Onions.
Sweet or savoury, food simmered in an alcohol-spiked cooking liquid will make your taste buds sing. When poaching plums for compote, swap some of the juice for red wine or port. Alternatively, try white fish or salmon poached gently in a few cups of white wine infused with garlic, peppercorns and fresh herbs of your choice.
Once you’ve finished cooking a piece of meat in a pan, remove it and pour in about three tablespoons of wine, beer, cognac or brandy — just enough to make sure that the bottom of the pan is covered with liquid. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan (this is where the flavour lives). Reduce and serve the quick pan sauce over the meat.
Perk up the flavour of shellfish like mussels, clams or crabs by steaming them in beer or wine. Once seafood is rinsed, add to a large pot of simmering beer or wine seasoned to taste—you’ll need about an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pot. Cook and cover until done. Remove the shellfish from the pot and serve with the sauce and plenty of crusty bread.
Cookies, cakes and fruits are natural sponges, ready to absorb whatever you dip or soak them in. When making a classic tiramisu, add some rum or liqueur to the espresso that you dip the ladyfingers into. Fresh peaches, apricots and berries can be macerated in a splash of vodka or complementary fruit-infused liqueurs such as limoncello or schnapps.
More Ways to Add a Splash of Flavour
Quick and easy ways to add some spirit to your favourite recipes.
- Sauce up sauces – Rich, creamy sauces like gravies can benefit from having a bit of acid added to them. Anywhere you’d add a squeeze of lemon juice, wine works nicely. We love the addition of white wine in our Vegan Mixed Mushroom Gravy.
- Flavour whipped cream – Before whipping fresh cream (or coconut cream), add a splash of liqueur.
- Add brew to batter – Lighten up the texture of a tempura or fish-fry batter recipe with the addition of beer. Beer Batter Apple Fritters are a sweet option.
- Drizzle for dessert – Coffee-, nut- or fruit-flavoured liqueurs drizzled over ice cream or added to coffee with a dollop of whipped cream make a quick dessert.
Play it Safe
- Contrary to popular belief, not all of the alcohol added to a dish evaporates. Different cooking methods and times impact how much alcohol the dish will retain. Make sure you’re serving spiked dishes to an age-appropriate crowd.
- Alcohol is highly flammable, so exercise caution when using it. Ensure that the vent is turned on or mix the alcohol with another liquid to dilute its potency. Also, don’t pour the alcohol directly from the bottle into a dish on the stovetop to prevent it from catching on fire. Measure out the amount required into a cup or bowl and add as needed.
- Stay alert and don’t leave a dish on the stovetop or in the oven unattended. Cooking requires complete attention and adding alcohol to the mix makes it riskier. If you have a fire extinguisher, keep it close at hand.
When it comes to cooking with alcohol, less is more. Adding a small amount of a spirit to an existing recipe enhances the flavours that are already present; adding too much overwhelms them. We’ve assembled a rough ratio guide to aid you in your cooking adventures.
|Whipped Cream||Add one tablespoon of liqueur to one cup of cream (or coconut cream) before whipping.|
|Batter||To turn regular batter into beer batter, replace the existing liquid in the recipe with an equal amount of beer.|
|Tomato Sauce||For every cup of tomato sauce that a recipe makes, add one tablespoon of wine.|
|Marinade||Swap the vinegar in an existing marinade recipe with wine.|
|Tiramisu||Spike the espresso for dipping the lady fingers with two tablespoons of liqueur.|
|Fondue||For every pound of cheese a fondue recipe calls for, add one tablespoon of kirsch.|
|Coffee||Turn a cup into a nightcap by adding three tablespoons of liqueur to six ounces of brewed coffee.|
DISCLAIMER: Enjoy responsibly. When serving dishes prepared with alcohol, make sure that everyone enjoying the meal is 19 years of age or older It’s also important to inform guests who are (or may be) pregnant, taking medication or recovering from addiction issues that alcohol has been used. Remember, when enjoying food prepared with alcohol that it does absorb so please be responsible and treat it no different than when drinking alcohol. Stay safe and don’t drink and drive!