Images Courtesy of Remy Anthes and Stocksy
When you think of the perfect oyster wine pairing, your mind might immediately go to the standby: crisp white wine. Although you can’t go wrong with the classics—think Picpoul, Chablis and Champagne—more and more oyster bars and restaurants are pairing these briny, happy-hour favorites, whether fresh or cooked, with cocktails. The results can be revelatory.
But getting people to change their eating and drinking habits can be a tall order. In 2014, when Hog Island Oyster Co. revamped its restaurant in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, it introduced an entire bar and cocktail program overseen by Saul Ranella. He recalls that getting diners to enjoy their oysters alongside a mixed drink wasn’t so easy.
“People were stuck in this linear mode of pairing oysters with white wine, sparkling wines, light beers and stouts,” he explains. “It took a long time for people to catch on that we were even serving cocktails.”
Ranella says that the gateway to opening minds was spirits served neat, like whiskeys and mezcals, to show that they naturally complement flavors found in oysters. The smokiness in mezcal, for example, pairs perfectly with the briniest oysters; Ranella suggests a sip of a Japanese whisky to go with the mild sweetness of Kumamoto oysters. From there, it became easier to convince guests to occasionally veer away from a glass of bubbles in favor of a cocktail.