What To Drink With Mussels
Mussels capture the fresh salt and mineral flavors of the sea. Light and easy to prepare, they are the essence of breezy coastal living. Mussels are a blank canvas that adapt well to a wide range of flavor profiles and regional preparations; French, Spanish, Belgian, and Thai are just a few of the cuisines whose culinary styles compliment the briny bivalves. But what to drink with them? Wines and beers pair equally with mussels, depending on how they are prepared.
Aromatics such as lemon, shallots, and bay leaves or tarragon provide the base for a broth that showcases the flavor of the mussels. In a simple preparation like this, it's best not to reinvent the wheel. A crisp, dry, unoaked white wine or a refreshing pilsner beer compliment the mussels and broth without overwhelming them.
Mussels paired with a broth made with tomatoes call for a beverage with a bit more heft than a white wine or pilsner. A rosé stands up better to a tomato-y and can better handle more complex seasonings. A bright and bitter beer with plenty of hops pairs well with a spicy tomato broth, so look for a pale ale when eating mussels cooked this way.
Mussels and smoky bacon or chorizo are delicious together and are complimented by fruit undertones in wine or beer. For wines, try a light red with berry flavors such as Pinot noir, Grenache/Garnacha, or a Merlot. Heavier reds such as Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are much too full-bodied for mussels, even when served in a meaty, smoky broth. Slightly sweet beers with subtle fruit in the background pair nicely with smoky broths. A crisp, dry cider is also welcome, especially when paired with bacon.
Thai-style mussels flavored with coconut milk, garlic, ginger, chiles are best eaten with a fruity, high-acid white wine. A range of sweetness works with the spices, from a dry Sauvignon Blanc to a sweeter Gewürztraminer or Riesling. A crisp yet full-bodied beer is a nice compliment to the spiciness, as long as it's not too bitter.
The unofficial national dish of Belgium moules frites combines tender steamed mussels in a rich broth with a side of crispy, salty fries. This is pub food at its finest and is tailor-made for pairing with Belgian beers. A Belgian white ale—a crisp, wheat beer with notes of citrus and coriander—is a top choice.
If all else fails ask the waitstaff at the seafood restaurant you go to what their recommendations are.