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A Match Made in Culinary Heaven: Spring/Summer Cocktail and Canape Pairings

Warmer days are on the horizon and many PAs are already underway with planning their company’s early summer events. As we are led by the Government advice on fresh air being a huge benefit to the covid-fight, many of these events will inevitably move outdoors, and catering will need to reflect the change of scene.

Simple, tasty canapes matched with seasonally inspired spring/summer cocktails make a great focal point to any al fresco event; whether it’s for 200 guests or a smaller gathering at your own home.

Alex Fretwell, head chef at 12th Century manor house, the Best Western Plus Mosborough Hall Hotel has provided some great ideas for spring/summer cocktails and canape pairings. A rising star on the Northern gastronomy scene, Alex proved his calibre as an innovative culinary force at Whirlow Brook Hall, before joining Mosborough Hall three years ago. His ethos focuses on using quality local Yorkshire ingredients throughout his menus and cooking to seasonal availability. His creative style centres around taking simple classic British cuisine and infusing with a modern interpretation or adding unexpected ‘surprise’ ingredients. The result is a unique dining experience.

Here Alex provides his choices…

Canape: Savoury French Toast with Tomato, Bacon and Cheese
I chose the Bloody Mary cocktail ahead of the canape for this first pairing, as I love the savoury flavours and umami elements of this classic drink. A tip when pairing cocktails and canapes is to match your foods to the strongest flavour of the drink, which in this cocktail is obviously tomato. Any egg-based dishes like omelettes or French toast will marry well with tomato as they strike your palate with the familiarity of breakfasts and provide a calming cushion to the acidity of the juice.

I actually love the surprising idea of a breakfast cocktail and canape. Who says our first meal of the day can’t be as refined as dinner? Although if it’s a regular occurrence you should maybe leave out the vodka.

Pair with: Bloody Mary
A classic Bloody Mary combines vodka with tomato juice, lemon, Worcester sauce and tabasco. And there’s actually no need to pair this choice with food as you can serve it all in one – a cocktail and canape combined! For a twist on the classic, serve a shot of bloody Mary served with an individual prawn and caper garnish.

Canape: Smoked chicken roulade
I had to include a nod to our new menu at Mosborough, so for the next canape, I have chosen the smoked chicken roulade from our Tasting Menu. It’s proving a real favourite for all those who’ve tried it. This is technically an amuse bouche, which really just refers to the status on the menu and the fact they’re served according to the chef’s recommendation. However, this one is certainly a crowd pleaser as the smoky chicken flavours are perfectly complemented by classic Caesar and parmesan. Obviously, I can’t give too many secrets away but this recipe from the Food Network, brings very similar elements to the one on our menu.

Pair with: Whiskey Old Fashioned
The saltiness of the smoker will bring out sweet, vanilla flavours in whiskey and other brown spirits. Therefore, a great cocktail to match with smoked chicken would be an Old Fashioned or similar whiskey/bourbon based stirred cocktail. This type of cocktail is smooth and subtle enough not to overpower the food, mirroring but also allowing the more complex, smoky notes to take centre stage.

Red Pepper Toast with Goat’s Cheese Curd
Our vegetarian option from the new menu pairs sweet red pepper with the tanginess of creamy Goat’s cheese curd. Sweet and salt are always a taste match and if you’re emulating this canape at home make sure the bread element is robust enough not to go soggy. Ideally something with a bit of bite to give contrast in texture as well as flavour.

Pair with: Blackberry Gin Fizz
Goat’s cheese has herbaceous notes so it’s always a good to pair it with herbal gins. You don’t want something too sweet that will go head-to-head with the pepper so a lemony or tangy, berry gin cocktail would work brilliantly. The thyme garnish on this version from BBC Good Food will really help to tie the whole thing together.

Canape: Coconut Prawns with Nam Jim
This dish has a real kick brought to you by the fabulously firey Nam Jim – a type of Thai dipping sauce. The prawns are best served with the skin on but you can remove it if you’re worried about guests juggling drinks while trying to deshell their seafood.

Pair with: Rhubarb Martini
My philosophy is to use ingredients that are locally sourced and in season. Being that we’re based in Yorkshire, you can’t look any further than rhubarb. Some surprising combinations for rhubarb include coconut and ginger which makes this Rhubarb Martini a great pairing for those spicy prawns.

This has the right balance of sweet and tangy flavours to balance out the saltiness of the fish sauce without being overly sweet. It’s worth remembering that sweetness tends to shut down the palate and signal to the brain that it’s the end of dinner, so save those cocktails until last.

Some tips on pairing cocktails and canapes:
Try to find flavours that balance and complement rather than compete. That doesn’t mean flavours have to identical although similar flavours paired with one another will work. Remember opposites can attract – balance heat and cool, sweet with sour.

Consider body as well as taste. Cocktails made with heavy cream or tomato juice have a completely different feel in the mouth to spritzers and tonics.

My final tip is to always try and include an element of surprise as this will really elevate your dish and give it that professional feel.   That could be an ingredient, or of course, a unique presentation idea. You don’t have to serve canapes on a plate!

During lockdown Alex Fretwell has been responsible for a complete revamp of the menu at Darcy’s restaurant at Mosborough Hall. The full tasting menu with wine pairing will be unveiled on May 17th as lockdown restrictions ease across the country. Visit for bookings.