What to Drink When

Some drinkers are die-hard fans of one beverage and no alternatives exist for them. Others have broader preferences but there are hundreds of drinks to choose from. Knowing what to drink when can be quite a dilemma.

The adventurous drinker may order drinks that relate to the cuisine being served. Sake and Japanese beer are ideal choices for sushi, tempura, and most Asian-inspired meals. Tropical drinks add a touch of the islands to meals featuring Caribbean or Pacific Rim dishes. French wines are as good a choice for French or Continental foods as tequila and cerveza are for South-of-the-Border cooking. To borrow from an old saying, when in Rome, drink as the Romans do.

Time of day often dictates beverage choices. Breakfast and brunch drinks are usually a spirit-laced version of a breakfast-friendly fruit juice. Mix champagne and orange juice for a Mimosa. Vodka goes down quite well with orange, grapefruit, and tomato juices. A Tequila Sunrise packs a little more punch, with tequila, orange juice, and a splash of grenadine (pomegranate syrup), but it’s often served early in the day.

Lunch drinks are typically light and refreshing. Mimosas or plain champagne are perfect lunch beverages as are juiced-based drinks but light, fizzy cocktails, such as gin or vodka fizzes, Tom Collins, and fruity punches work well with lunch, too. Highballs often make an appearance on the lunch menu, especially when they are the drink of preference for an individual. Wine goes quite well at lunchtime, too, but since lunch is usually a lighter meal than dinner, white wines may be a better lunch choice while reserving the heavier reds for a heartier meal later in the day.

Heavier drinks, in body and spirits, are most often reserved for later in the day. Drinks straight or on the rocks and those made from mostly alcohol, like Martinis, usually don’t get served until the cocktail hour, with dinner soon to follow. By this time of the day, it’s OK to relax a little, to wind down after a busy day, with no worries of working after imbibing a serious drink or two.

Sometimes a setting inspires appetite, regardless of time of day. Being near the water brings out the pirate in all of us. Languishing around the pool or on the beach is always more effective with a Pina Colada in hand. Hurricanes and Mai Tais are popular in this setting, especially when served from a pineapple or coconut bowl, but there are dozens of other cocktails perfect for this setting, too. Most resorts, hotels, and restaurants in this environment have house specials that you may never encounter anywhere else. Seize the moment and enjoy every drop!

It’s almost impossible to think of sporting events in America without a beer in hand. From fishing to baseball to tailgate parties to ringside, beer quenches thirst like nothing else can do.

Outdoor activities that involve cold weather or snow set the stage for a whole host of après-ski (after skiing) beverages served warm and cozy. Look for hot Toddies, brûlots, warmed cognac or brandy, and coffee-based drinks to chase away the chills. Even if you’ve never been skiing.

Some bookworms wouldn’t even think settling down in a comfortable spot for a day of serious reading without a good sipping beverage to enjoy as the story unfolds. A good premium or top-shelf Scotch, brandy, or whiskey served straight or on the rocks makes solving whodunit a delight.

For an elegant nightcap after an evening of dancing, dinner, or theater, order a coffee with a brandy snifter of a high-quality liqueur or brandy on the side. Gran Marnier, Drambuie, Frangelico, Benedictine, and Amaretto are excellent in this setting but so is a premium cognac or brandy.

No matter the time, place, or cuisine, the best choice for what to drink when depends on the person ordering it. Waiters are happy to help and can usually recommend ideal choices. Don’t be afraid to enlist their expertise but don’t feel tied to it, either. The curious drinker will pick up clues and signals that influence drinking choices but won’t get stressed out over options. Life is full of serious situations but enjoying a cocktail shouldn’t be one of them.