Pairing Bourbon & Rye Whiskey

Mark Fichtner


Wine with dinner is a dining tradition that most, if not all, restaurant-goers already take part in. Pairing the perfect wine with your meal evolves and enhances both wine and meal alike. But can we get this same flavor elevation from Bourbon or rye whiskey? Absolutely!

Bourbon and rye have an abundance of unique flavors; chocolates, oranges, vanillas, spices, honey, caramel, char/ smoke, etc. This set of wildly new and exciting tasting notes open a plethora of new dining possibilities. And with any luck, by the end of this article, you will be trying these pairings with your next meal!

There are a couple of directions to start with when pairing Bourbon/rye whiskey with food:

  • Contrasting Flavors - This counterintuitive idea often goes against the typical school of thought when pairing wine with dinner (i.e. Red with red meats, White with fish, etc.). Breaking away from the safety of similar flavor pairings with Bourbon/rye whiskey will often result in an entirely new (and exciting) flavor in your meal!
  • Complementary Flavors - Combining more traditionally paired flavors will bring out a surprising intensity that complements this marriage of dinner and Bourbon.

Don’t be afraid to ask your server for tasting notes on both your Bourbon/rye whiskey and your meal. These complementary flavors add a depth and richness to the meal that will have you walking away saying “Wow!” every time.

Now that you are armed with Bourbon and dinner pairing knowledge, let’s give you some examples (accompanied by some of the best that Carson’s Food & Drink has to offer):

Carson’s Bone-in Ribeye

The Ribeye has some of the most intense flavors of any cut of steak as it is marbled with fat. Fat equals flavor.

As the ribeye cooks, the fat melts and falls onto the grill forming and coating the steak in a natural smokiness. This same type of smokiness is often found in Bourbons!

So now, what Bourbon do we recommend for such a full-bodied steak? Four Roses Single Barrel 100 Proof. The tasting notes of this Bourbon are complex, full-bodied, and compliment perfectly with our Ribeye. Take your time, enjoy every sip/bite, and take in that wonderful smokey combination.

Carson’s Sweet & Spicy Ribs

Life doesn’t get much better than Carson’s Ribs and Rye Whiskey – and our regular guests would have to agree. So how do you improve our tender pork ribs, smothered in our signature Carson’s Sriracha Bourbon BBQ sauce? Carson’s Private Label Woodford Reserve Rye.

Rye whiskey has a lower corn mix and a higher rye mix that results in a hot and spicy finish, compared to the more mellow finish of a traditional Bourbon. The resulting flavor of our BBQ sauce paired with that natural spiciness of rye can’t be described: it has to be experienced. Next time you’re at Carson’s, you can’t NOT try this delicious pairing.

Carson’s Famous Banana Bourbon Bread Pudding

When the meal is over and you couldn’t possibly eat another bite, you know you’ll still have room for something this delicious; Butter sautéed bananas, rich caramel, Bourbon, banana liqueur, all topped on our house-made bread pudding. Oh yeah, and did I mention whipped cream? What could POSSIBLY make our bread pudding better? Jefferson’s Ocean Aged Bourbon.

This Bourbon is full to the brim with vanilla and salted caramel notes, which elevates our bread pudding to a whole new level. “Sea?” We knew you wanted dessert.

It feels like we all should have been pairing Bourbon with dinner a long time ago, right?

Pairing whiskeys or Bourbons and dinner opens up new and exciting possibilities at every meal. And, after all, aren’t new and exciting experiences what dining is all about?

Hopefully, this article has equipped you with the knowledge and excitement to try many new and amazing flavor combinations. Plus, Carson’s Food & Drink has well over 100 Bourbons and ryes, just waiting to get you started on your pairing adventure. Cheers!