How to cook with spirits without destroying your dinner

There are lots of ways cooking with spirits can go wrong, so on the first time play it safe!

cooking with spirits is tricky but rewarding

On Friday we’ll make bourbon and maple-glazed chicken wings to see you into the weekend.

Spirits are a serious business - high alcohol and high flavour, and they can take some getting used to when you cook with them for the first time. So if you fancy a little Saturday food playtime, here are some top tips for cooking with spirits for the first time.

Look at the colour

The rule for spirits is the same as for wine - when in doubt, match colours. For lighter food like fish use light spirits like tequila. Game and red meat works well with darker spirits like whisky.

You can replace wine with spirits

Plenty of dishes you’d normally cook using wine can use spirits instead. Again, just throw in a splash, burn off the alcohol, give it a taste and see how it works out!

Keep an eye on marinades

Because alcohol is very acidic, spirit-based marinades will cook the meat even without heat. That means they don’t work brilliantly overnight – you only want to leave the meat to marinate for an hour or so before cooking.

Give it a taste!

Some spirits have more flavour than others. Whisky adds a smokey note to food and tequila is fairly woody. Gin is exploding with flavour, so go easy and experiment lots to find the right balance.

Burning off the alcohol takes time

In 15 minutes of simmering you can get rid of about 60% of the alcohol in a sauce. To get that up to 90%, though, will take a cool two hours. This is because water and alcohol form something called an azeotropic mixture, which, er, we totally understand but don’t need to go into right now…

Let us know if you take up any of these tips and give it a go - we'd love to hear about the results @JustHospitality.