Food: Charcuterie

A few posts ago, we talked about pairing bourbon with cheese (just scroll down the Whiskey Corner to refresh your memory).  To add to that pairing, I suppose making it a trio, this week we talk about pairing bourbon with dried, cured meats, or charcuterie, if you will.  Meats, cheeses and bourbon. The triple crown of entertaining. Speaking of triple crowns, this would be the perfect addition to kick off Derby week and add to your party menu!

For me, nothing presents more beautifully (or is easier to do) than cured meats and cheeses on a rustic board.  And since they are all the rage, finding a variety of meat to put on the board is easy! We know what cheeses we need, but before we get the meat of it, let’s talk accoutrements…

Just as we added olives, dried fruits and nuts to our cheese board, you can also add some interesting extras with our meats. Cut up some fresh fruits like figs and pears and add some tangy pickles, a swipe of grainy mustard and remember Aunt Mary’s jar of chutney that you’ve had stashed in the cupboard, on the board please.

One of my local whiskey bars serves pickled grapes with some of their apps.  The tang of pickle with the sweet grapes with different meats was amazing. The chef was kind enough to share his recipe which I reduced to a smaller scale.  Feel free to add some water to cut the tang and don’t fret about precise measurements. Whisk together 1 cup of white wine vinegar, 2 tbsp of sugar, 2 tsp salt and a tsp of mustard seeds (optional).  Fill a mason jar with 2 cups of halved grapes and pour the vinegar mixture over top. Keep in the fridge overnight or up to one week. Tangy, sweet and delicious. Ok…back to the meat.

Some cured meats have a higher fat, one of things that makes them taste so good!  While you savor the flavor of the meat, the fat will coat your tongue. Higher fat content meats like a delicious prosciutto, need a bourbon with a decent proof to cut through the fat and basically cleanse the palate.  Think cask strength or higher rye bourbons to complement the richness of the meat and bring out different notes in the bourbon. A higher proof bourbon would also work well with a smoky german salami.

A wheated bourbon or a sweeter bourbon pairs nicely with a spicy chorizo.  The creaminess of the wheat and the salty spice and heat of the meat play off each other.  Keep in mind that salty and spicy foods tend to enhance alcohol. Try it and see for yourself.  


Bourbon:  3 or 4 different types for tasting.  A wheated bourbon, a high rye content and a cask strength.  Don’t forget an extra 2 oz of bourbon – your choice

Meats:  3 or 4 different types that also provide different textures.  Cured ham, like prosciutto, nice and salty and fatty, a flavorful salami (german or Italian) and something with a little kick and smoke, like chorizio sausage.  If you are feeling adventurous, go all out and make a chicken liver pate.  You will never look back.  You could even cheat and purchase a prepared pate (it’ll be our secret).


You can use two separate boards for the meats and cheeses or place them all on a great big board.     The more rustic, the better. Assemble the boards about 30 minutes before your guests arrive.

Here is the artsy part.  Get creative and put each meat in a different spot on the board.  They don’t need to be side by side. Some of the meats will be presliced or if sausage, you will need to cut them in thin slices…think like pepperoni for pizza.  Thinner longer slices like prosciutto can be piled on the board. Arrange the salami slices like you would fan out a royal flush at a poker game. Winning! Line rounds of chorizio like dominos that have fallen.  You get the idea. In between, put a swipe of mustards, chutney or those pickled grapes.

Most importantly, remember that there are no rules.  Follow your own palate and preferences. Mix it up and try something you never thought would pair together.  You might just be surprised and find a new favorite combo.

Oh…did you think I forgot about the extra 2 oz of bourbon?  Hell no. Once the board(s) are put together, you have 30 minutes to kill before your guests arrive.  Pour yourself a glass, put your feet up and commend yourself on putting together a damn fine bourbon and charcuterie pairing.  


Maureen Linehan