Alcohol with Indian Food

Mallika Basu - Alcohol with Indian Food

Posted 23rd November 2006

wine.jpgRight. Back to the subject of what alcohol to drink with Indian food. You remember a few days ago I touched on this subject, then got drunk and vowed never to touch alcohol again?

Well, here I am again. Sipping a Californian Rose, writing about what tipple best suits a curry. The research is over, and has also been tested on my consumer PR colleagues at Monday’s dinner party.

As a rule, I would never recommend drinking anything too heavy or complex with Indian food. The food has enough different spices to keep your taste buds content for it to be necessary to complicate matters with booze.


Let’s start with spirits, because that is what most people drink before dinner in India. Scotch and vodka are perennial favourites. Scotch for the men and vodka for the ladies.

My nutritionist actually recommends sticking to vodka when drinking because it’s so pure, it doesn’t interfere too much with the digestive system (Always good to think about the digestive system when eating Indian food).

Drinking spirits can be tricky at dinner parties though. How do you know what people prefer? And getting mixers to suit different requirements can also be a pain.


In my experience, beer is drunk during the daytime than at night in India. It’s more of a lunchtime tipple, presumably because of its low(er) alcohol content.

I am not a big beer drinker. But I believe many lighter and slightly sweet Belgian beers are excellent with Indian food, like Leffe. Indian beers like Kingfisher and Cobra are also hugely popular, sometimes because you don’t get a very exhaustive drinks list at Indian restaurants.


Ah-ha. This is where I can really show off with some new found knowledge.

Wine drinking in India is fairly recent phenomenon, with producers like Grover and Sula making inroads into international markets with their great wines.

My media and wine expert research has uncovered that aromatic and unoaked white wines, with a touch of sweetness worked best with Indian food. Rose wines also work well and with red wine, the light and fruity types with soft tannins (the dry taste you get at the back of your mouth, after a sip of the wine) are your best bet.

The Aberdeen Press and Journal was a huge help with this summary. Now, I am no expert, but this sounds to me like any wine that is described as “soft and fruity and drinkable”.

The other thing to look out for is acid. In my years of excessive wine drinking with Indian food, I have learnt that acidity and Indian food do not team well. According to wine expert Matt Skinner:

As a rule, wines produced north of the Equator will be higher in natural acidity and lower in alcohol.

At the dinner party, we tried Australian Chardonnay, Italian Pinot Grigio and Californian Rose wines and they all worked well. On the red front, we enjoyed a very drinkable Chilean Merlot. And I am happy to report that no one complained a dodgy tummy the next day, from the food or wine.

This is obviously a very simplistic view, as wines are wonderfully complex beings. But if you like me usually buy alcohol for dinner party drinking in a mad panic and are stuck for options in a restaurant, then these should help as easy-to-remember guidelines.

Just as I thought I had come to the end of my research, I found this fabulous article on how turmeric prevents alcohol-related liver disease! Glug…

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