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Moe Girton gets you in the spirit of the meal

Moe Girton's tips on pairing foods with spirits.
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When mixologist Moe Girton became co-owner and Creative Director of Spirits & Wine of San Diego’s insideOUT, she was tasked with creating an upscale and elevated cocktail menu.

As a 20+ year veteran of crafting unique and signature cocktails, she put her skills and experience on display at the 2019 SIP Awards by giving an insightful presentation on how to easily pair spirits with food when hosting a dinner party.

Moe conquered the challenge of training her staff on pairing her elevated hand-crafted cocktails with insideOUT’s Californian-Mediterranean cuisine by teaching her team some basic fundamentals to pairing spirits with food. Now, using the simple and easy concepts used for her signature dining experience, you can impress your friends and family and host a dinner party like a pro.

Light with Bright

The concept is pretty simple to grasp; say it with us - “light with bright,” light with bright”. Clear spirits such as vodka, gin, silver tequila and Jovan mezcal pair perfectly with brighter and lighter foods.


Vodka is one of the best spirits to pair with starter dishes at your dinner party. Briny, vinegary and salty foods such as oysters, caviar, shrimp, ricotta and goat cheeses or cured meats pair perfectly with a dirty martini to start your dinner party off on the right foot.


Moe says:

“Gin is a versatile spirit, and because of its many botanicals, pairs well with a wide variety of foods. If you’re planning to host a vegetarian or vegan dinner party, gin is the perfect spirit to complement. For those guests who prefer meat, the classic negroni pairs ingeniously with bacon and bold cheeses such as bleu cheese. To end your dinner party on a high note, lemon based sweets paired with a gin cocktail make the perfect dessert duo for your guests."

Blanco Tequila & Joven Mezcals

“When you think of lime and salt, they should be synonymous with silver & clear tequilas and Joven mezcals. Instead of overpowering your guest's palettes, these clear tequilas will give a clean and crisp complement to foods such as ceviche, fish, tacos, oysters, and dishes dressed in lime vinaigrettes."

Brown and Bold

Another easy concept Moe taught her staff when pairing spirits with food and as a host you can apply to your dinner party menu, is a brown and bold! Aged and brown spirits such as whiskeys, aged tequilas and mezcals pair best with bolder foods and dishes.  


Whiskey, in particular, is a very complex world but Moe has some simple basics to follow when pairing whiskey when hosting a dinner party. As a rule of thumb, light whiskeys should be paired with seafood such as salmon, sushi, and crab or any spicy dishes. Medium whiskeys should be paired with foods high in protein, like grilled steak, duck, smoked meats, smoked seafood and venison.

Full-bodied whiskeys should be paired with hearty foods that contain high-fat content, like sharp cheddar, aged goudas, ribeye, and pork belly. While it’s fun to pair whiskey with all courses, whiskey is actually Moe’s top pick for a dessert pairing! Dark chocolates, caramels, pumpkin pie, vanilla ice cream and cheesecake are a whiskey-dessert match made in heaven!

Aged Tequila and Mezcals

As with whiskey, the bolder your dish, the bolder the tequila. Moe emphasizes to her team that aged spirits can be used as an indicator to recommend protein dishes to the guests. If your dinner party guests enjoy bold dishes, then pair those foods with aged spirits. Reposado tequila pairs nicely with chicken and pork dishes and steak fajitas or carne asada are the fool-proof choice for anejos.

Matching Flavors

If you aren’t looking to become an expert at pairing spirits and foods and really want to keep things simple at your dinner party, Moe recommends using the method of “same-same.” 

Matching smoke with smoke or bourbon and barbecue takes the guesswork out of pairing spirits with food for your guests. Another helpful match-making tool is regional cuisine, regional spirits; Kentucky Fried Chicken and Kentucky bourbon or tequila and tacos, pairing spirits with food doesn’t get much simpler than that!

Using these simple and easy concepts are helpful ways to become a pro at pairing spirits with food. Moe’s simplistic light & bright and brown & bold concepts are an easy way to make your friends and family believe you’re a pro!

In the meantime, Moe says the best way to really become a pro at pairing spirits and food is by trying things out for yourself. Opening up your mind to trying new cocktails and spirits and expanding your palate will increase your overall knowledge and enjoyment!

Go say hello to Moe and get more spirit tips at insideOUT located at 1642 University Ave Suite 100, San Diego, 92103