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…

19 responses to “Alcohol with Indian Food”

  1. White wines made of the Viognier grape are also very recommended!

  2. kanika says:

    Dear Shagun,
    As a P.R consultant and dealing in wine show im really amazed by your article on Wine with Indian food.Its amazing the kind of knowledge you are dealing with.
    On 7th december we are having exhibition of IFE India 2006 would appreciate if ypu can come.

  3. shilpa says:

    mallika, this is super informative! thanks a ton. hope you’re having fun in Cal, am so jealous 😀

  4. CookingChat says:

    I just had a very good match with some Indian food (takeout–Chicken Tikka Masala & some Aloo Palak)–a Chardonnay Viogner blend from Chile called Oveja Negra. The viogner gave it a lively slightly sweet flavor that complemented the spice nicely, with some balance & character provided by the chardonnay.

  5. CookingChat says:

    I’ve elaborated on my suggestions with an article here on CookingChat:

  6. Karan says:

    please send me some indian recipies witch r served with red or white wine or with beer. i shall be very thankfull to you.

  7. Jay says:

    About remaining true to our culture and not drinking alcohol at all? Some of you people are just too desparate to act Western…just to let you know you’ll never fully be accepted by the Westerners you aspire to be.

  8. Mallika says:

    Hi Jay – perhaps you should start acting like the illiterate villager you are and stop using the internet?

    You’ll never be accepted by anyone with your idiotic view on our culture, where alcohol has been copiously consumed since the days of Mohenjodaro and Harappa.

  9. Jogesh says:

    Dear sir. My 1st ever drink was a peg of red wine..And till i love it.Can u pls tell me some indian veg food with wine.
    And no daubt ur artical is wonderful..Thanks

  10. mohan says:

    Saki is an excellent (and often overlooked) accompaniment to Indian food.

  11. Surajit says:

    Great content,I also read a recipe at

    I hope this will also be beneficial for the readers.

    source :

  12. First of all, thank you for this post. Although I rarely post any comment on any blog but this time I though I should appreciate your good effort and tell you to keep going.It was just amazing to read through this Wine is something I really like to share thoughts

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  14. tholeti says:

    In my opinion, wine doesn’t go well with Indian food. if your meal is rice based like pilaf / biriyani (veg / non-veg) drink a beer before food and one along with the food.

    if your course is Indian curries with indian bread, 2 or 3 drinks of scotch is very good. Spicy Indian food tastes very good after a couple of drinks of scotch.

    If you want to drink only Wine, go to an Italian restaurant and have Italian food with Wine.

  15. Gudrun Olan says:

    You completed a number of good points there. I did a search on the topic and found the majority of people will agree with your blog.

  16. […] doing a little research and some of my suspicions were confirmed. I found a great blog on it on Quick Indian Cooking.  Something I hadn’t thought about was beer!But, back to the wine: another more recent post by […]

  17. Mehul Teli says:

    You have spoken about Wine and there’s no mention of Cheese :-o. Would love to have a list of Cheese that can be had with different wines. Thanks in advance Mallika

  18. mithun says:

    I regular use alcohol before dinner. Pls send what type of food pair with, meet, chicken or vegetable or fruits is best

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