Cooking With Spirits

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Most of us are familiar with cooking with wine, whether we are making a delicious red wine sauce to complement our beef, or a white wine sauce to go with chicken, the acidic taste is distinctive and moreish. Beer, specifically ale, is another alcoholic drink that is often used in stews and pies to great effect. But have you ever thought about adding a shot of whiskey to your dinner, or marinating with vodka? When used properly, spirits can help to carry the flavour of a meal, so that it tastes and smells even better than usual. It is rare for a spirit to add any different taste to a meal, so you needn’t worry too much about ruining your signature dish – you are only going to enhance it. Here are some tips when it comes to cooking with alcohol:

Don’t use the expensive stuff


Its potency will be lost as its starts to cook off. But don’t use anything you wouldn’t ordinarily drink either.

Use in meat marinades


Only a little bit is needed so as not to inactivate the protein molecules in the meat, but it is enough to complement the flavours. As a rule, darker spirits taste better with darker meats, and lighter spirits with lighter meats. So whiskey and beef are a great match, while gin and chicken are also a tasty combination.

Liven up your desserts


Add a little flavoured liqueur to your cake mix for a tasty alcoholic twist, or add a little rum to your caramel sauce to pour over fruit or plain sponge cake. If you are making your own sorbet, try adding some gin to it for a smoother texture. Alternatively soak your sweets in bourbon for an unusual but delicious twist.

Take care when cooking creamy dishes


Burn off as much of the alcohol as possible before adding milk or cream to a recipe – preferably right at the end, to prevent curdling.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy


Remember that alcohol is highly flammable, so take precautions when cooking with it. A good tip is to remove the pan from the heat before adding your spirit of choice, and then return to the heat to continue to cook. And keep an extinguisher nearby – just in case!

Something to remember is that alcohol never truly “cooks off” in a dish, unless you plan on cooking it on slow for a few days. The percentage left behind depends on how long you are cooking for, and at what temperature, so just bear this in mind when cooking for children or anyone sensitive to alcohol.

Finally, have some fun and experiment with whatever you have handy in your cupboards. Add a little amaretto to one of your favourite cake recipes for example, or put a splash of tequila in your homemade vinaigrette. The kitchen is your alcoholic oyster!

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