The San Francisco Wedding Blog

Wedding Cuisine

Your Guide for Hosting the Ultimate Food-and-Drink-Pairing Cocktail Hour

Ding ding ding. It’s five o’clock (somewhere?) and your weekly Cocktail Hour is here just in time. Now, it’s time to set down your work, because this evening we are taking a two-handed approach: a glass in one hand and a perfectly complementary hors d'oeuvre in the other.

We’re talking the ultimate food-and-drink-paired cocktail hour. It’s a trend on the rise, and one that blows your classic Blushing Bride and Grinning Groom straight out of the water. Think a meticulously crafted small bite followed by a tastebud-ravishing sip of its liquid counterpart. Rinse, wash, and repeat.

Now, before you start throwing together scaled-down versions of your favorite entrée with shot-glass-sized Mai Tais, remember that the flavor profile of a dish is a delicate thing: one conflicting spice and you’ve got a Deflategate-level catastrophe on your hands. But when you follow that rich, fatty bite of pâte with the elegantly acidic, palate-cleansing taste of a Greyhound? Now that’s magic.

Equally enchanting twosomes include:

Sliders and Beer

An American favorite. Who doesn’t want to follow a juicy bite of beef, cheese, and bread with an ice cold swig of craft brew? And with bites this mini, it’s time to get creative. Try pairing a brown ale with a bacon burger slider topped with caramelized onions and a blue cheese crumble. Alternatively? Seaside soirées are complete only with the addition of miniature salmon sliders with dill crème fraîche and a summer ale. Yum and yummer.

Caviar and Vodka

When sophistication and low-grade alcoholism collide. A bite of caviar (from an edible cracker spoon, of course) will instantly transport your wedding guests to fancy-dom. Then, vodka, a.k.a. heaven. Black tie affairs don’t stand a chance, but don’t be afraid to pull out this luxurious combo at more casual events as well.

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Sans alcohol, plus nostalgic comfort food. This is an inclusive option for guests who choose not to (or legally can’t) indulge. Melted sharp cheese with the just the right amount of toasted crunch followed by a soul-warming slurp of creamy tomato soup and just a touch of basil.

Tacos and Margaritas

It’s a fiesta in your mouth. Like sliders, tacos are license to get creative. Think mahi mahi tacos with a mango coleslaw and a peach margarita, or black bean and corn tacos with an avocado aioli and a classic Gold Coast ‘rita. Now, just searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.

French Toast and Hard Cider

Breakfast of champions. Make it savory and top it with seared foie gras and apple gelée. Pair it with an iced apple cider. This is where hearty warmth and cool spice mingle with consummate elegance. Whether it’s a daytime reception or evening affair, with this pairing it’s love at first bite.

Wine and Cheese

But not your average couple. I’m not talking slices of cheddar and a sip of pinot noir. Wax gourmet with pear wedge spoons topped with Camembert and thyme, then introduce this delicate dish to its new best friend: a cordial glass full of crisp unoaked Chardonnay. A classic match made in heaven—with an epicurean upgrade.

As you sit down with your caterer and plan your food-pairing cocktail hour menu, keep in mind these two guidelines: complement, or contrast. This applies to taste, texture, and color. Other than that, you’ll have the cocktail hour of the ages if you consider skipping the signature drink and letting the food call the shots instead.

Found a miniature culinary pair as perfect as you and your partner? Send them my way—because you know I love my small bites.