There’s a reason caviar’s usual drinking partner is vodka or champagne - each enhances the others’ flavor and textural characters, taking nothing away; it is a beautifully symbiotic relationship. A bit more challenging is pairing cocktails (mixed drinks) with caviar. Not quite as obvious as burgers and a beer; grilled steak with a juicy red wine or a Pimm’s cup and Deviled Eggs, there are nuances to consider. Bringing the caviar and cocktail duo together requires some thought and begs the question: which to consider first, the caviar or the cocktail?
2oz Pimm’s No.1
3oz Lemon-Lime soda (7up, Sprite…)
Splash of lemonade
In an ice-filled, tall cocktail glass, add Pimm’s and lemon-lime soda. Top with splash of lemonade. Stir well and garnish with cucumber wheel.
If there’s already caviar on hand, and cocktails to plan, start by considering the caviar’s roe size and flavor profile - briny, salty, buttery, nutty, smoky - to come up with a drink that plays well. Larger caviar eggs with a lush “pop,” are nicer on the palate with a neat spirit like Vodka or fine, dry champagne. Conversely, smaller, snappier roes, also divine with chilled neat vodka and/or champagne, can also handle something sturdier like a chilled Manzanilla sherry.
With a particularly bright, bold caviar, the cocktail should be soft, almost neutral, maybe a touch floral and possibly sparkling. If the caviar has a gentler taste and cushiony texture, amp up the flavors with a drink tinged by lemon, fresh herbs, flower water, and some lift - think Ramos Gin Fizz, a frothy, strongly shaken cocktail that has all the components for a great pairing - mellow gin, orange blossom water, egg white, half-and-half, lemon juice, lime juice and a smidge of simple syrup.
Ramos Gin Fizz
Adapted from Epicurious.com
1/4 cup (2 ounces) gin
1 dash (3 to 4 drops) orange flower water
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) half-and-half
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) simple syrup
1 cup ice cubes
Splash of soda water
In large cocktail shaker, combine gin, orange flower water, egg white, half-and-half, lemon juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake for another 30 seconds more. Strain mixture into 8-ounce glass. Slowly pour soda water down inside edge of shaker to loosen remaining froth. Gently spoon soda water/froth mix onto drink and serve.
Weather dictates whether to go bold or not. Summer’s heat means keeping everything light and simple - it’s about finesse. Try coupling toast points spread with sweet butter and caviar with a fresh, bitter-sweet Aperol Spritz (Aperol, Champagne, Soda Water and a lemon twist). Or go to the opposite end of the spectrum with a seriously neutral chilled Junmai Daiginjo sake. Both work wonderfully, only depending on mood.
2 oz Prosecco
1 1/4 oz Aperol
Splash of Soda water
Fill a large wine glass with ice. Pour first two ingredients over the ice, splash with soda water, stir gently, garnish with lemon peel and serve.
Have a cocktail in mind and want to bring caviar to the party? The same flavor notes and pairings hold true. Know the booze and keep in mind all the drink’s ingredients, including garnishes. A not-too-sweet Manhattan may pair perfectly with a small scoop of caviar on a plain water cracker, but that drink’s typical cherry garnish will not work well with caviar eaten straight or garnished by finely diced egg and onion.
If a breezy afternoon means citrusy gin and tonics made with a floral gin like Hendrick’s, go for a caviar that’s slightly briny. A cocktail like an airy, creamy Ramos Gin Fizz can stand up to stronger caviar or the fattiness of smoked fish.
Stick to or buck tradition when pairing summery cocktails with caviar - there’s almost no way to go wrong, though it’s best to avoid super sweet, highly acidic or milky cocktails that could distract from caviar’s delicate, yet pronounced flavor. Most important, don’t overthink the matter, ‘tis the season to stay cool.