Words: Shamim de Brún
Artwork: Paul Smith
Chocolate with caviar? Strawberries on burgers? Food pairing can be mental. And mental is always tremendous fun. So every week, we will bring you a new off the wall match to try. This week it’s Vodka Martinis and Tacos.
Sounds bananas but hear me out. Practically everyone knows that you can pair tacos with beer and margaritas. These drinks are pretty much standard pairings that every restaurant offers, and rightly so. They are great matches for the diverse taco. But if you want to step outside the box with something that sounds batshit but works, you have to try Vodka Martinis and Tacos.
Tacos already have a bold, savoury flavour, and if you serve them with guacamole, they’ll have plenty of oily richness. What’s missing? A light crispness! Do you know what’s light and crisp? – a banging vodka martini.
While cocktails are by nature higher in alcohol and more challenging to pair, it doesn’t mean that they should be taken off the table as soon as the starters arrive. One benefit of pairing cocktails with food is that they suit a broad range of flavours rather than matching a single dish or ingredient. That’s why the martini is perfect for tacos plural. It has enough complex and layered flavours to go with the variety of complex, layered flavours in tacos.
A martini cocktail tastes like its principal ingredient: Vodka at its most basic level. Vodka is the most neutral of all spirits. It’s as close to the spirit that comes off the still as you can get. The vodka will also cut right through any grease in some of the more tawdry tacos.
Vodka Martinis are made with two crucial ingredients. Vermouth and a “twist” of citrus. Whether consciously or unconsciously, you will also be able to pick up on the vermouth’s herbaceous and slightly sweeter taste. Vermouth is made up of botanicals (botanical is a catch-all term for plants that smell medicinal) that highlight and draw out the floral herbs used in almost every base meat in a taco.
In turn, this tete-a-tete between botanicals and herbs enhances the drink’s bitter taste and creates a contrasting pairing. Contrasts are designed to pique your palate’s interest through intense stimulation.
A Vodka martini is either garnished dirty with an olive or clean with a twist. Either would work with the tacos, but the twist is preferable. The Flavonoids or plant chemicals in citrus fruits increase the production of digestive juices, making heavy meals easier to digest. The twist works in the same way lime does. It eliminates spice and adds zest.
What all that means for you is that tacos and the Vodka Martini bring out the best in each other when consumed together. It may sound off the wall, but it’s scientifically valid. So give it a go, I dare you.
Where to Try It: This is one you’ll have to try at home because it’s so off the wall none of the taquerias has the Vodka Martini listed. But maybe if you ask them nicely, they’ll help you out.