In Pour This, Pair That, Whisky Advocate asks professional chefs to share a recipe designed for a specific type of whisky. Learn why these food and whisky combinations work—and try them yourself at home!
Irish whiskey is nearly impossible to pin down. Whereas styles like bourbon, rye, or peated scotch have an easily identifiable character, it’s difficult to discuss Irish whiskey in such broad terms. Technically, Irish whiskey can be one of four different styles: malt, grain, blended, or pot still whiskey. But even within each of those categories, there can be significant flavor differences.
“Irish whiskey can be potent and powerful sometimes, but very beautiful and delicate at other times,” explains chef Nihad Hajdarhodzic, of Ardiente in Philadelphia. “The beauty of Irish whiskey is its timelessness, its ability to transform even the simplest of dishes, while highlighting others. Notes of vanilla, oak, caramel, straw, all the way to the deep flavors of peat can all be found in an Irish whiskey, which makes it a chef’s best friend.” For Hajdarhodzic, in fact, Irish whiskey provided a jumping-off point for this rib recipe, which incorporates Asian flavors through the use of teriyaki and hoisin sauces and also uses a half-cup of the good stuff.
Pour This, Pair That: Irish Whiskey and Hoisin Irish Whiskey Ribs
Pour: Irish whiskey
Tastes like: Irish whiskey runs the gamut from light-bodied with expressive fruit and floral notes to heartier examples full of bass-note richness and flavors of sultanas, nougat, and vanilla. In general, however, the best whiskeys exhibit a sense of balance and subtlety that make them particularly friendly alongside food.
Five to try: Midleton Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest (95 points), The Tyrconnell 10 year old Sherry Cask Finish (91 points), The Whistler 7 year old The Blue Note (91 points), Jameson Bow Street 18 year old Cask Strength (90 points), Slane Irish Whiskey (90 points)
Pair: Hoisin Irish Whiskey Ribs
Why it works: Ribs like these—a little sweet, a little spicy—find a natural pairing partner in the fruity, fresh, and occasionally spicy notes found in Irish whiskey.
Hoisin Irish Whiskey Ribs
Serves 4 as an entrée or 8 as an appetizer
- 1 cup hoisin sauce
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup amber agave nectar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sriracha
- 2 tablespoons sambal (available at Asian and specialty grocery stores)
- 3 tablespoons ginger, crushed
- 3 cups water
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 4 2-pound racks baby back or St. Louis-style pork ribs
- ½ cup Irish whiskey, such as Slane
- 2 oranges, split in half
- 2 scallions, chopped
- ¾ tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
1. Set oven to 325 degrees. Make braising liquid by combining hoisin sauce, reserving approximately 1 tablespoon, with vinegar, agave nectar, soy sauce, sriracha, sambal, ginger, water, garlic, and oranges in a 5-quart pot. Bring to a boil, then strain immediately.
2. Season the ribs generously with salt and pepper and place inside a roasting pan with no rack. Pour the braising liquid over the ribs and cover in two layers of aluminum foil. Cook in the oven for two and a half hours, then remove the pan and set the broiler to high. (At this point, the ribs can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours before being finished under the broiler.)
3. Remove ribs from roasting pan and transfer 1 cup of the braising liquid to a small pot. Whisk in whiskey and remaining hoisin sauce. Heat the liquid over medium-low until simmering and reduce by a third.
4. Line a half-sheet pan with foil or parchment paper. Transfer ribs to the pan, generously brush both sides with the reduced sauce, and broil, bone-side down, until browned and bubbling, approximately 2-4 minutes.
5. Remove ribs from the pan and slice. Garnish with chopped scallions and sesame seeds (optional).