Pairing beverages with menu items is intimidating to many people. But with the right wedding caterers who understand it the task is much easier for hosts.

Every wedding is a pairing of not just two people but two families and a mix of friends as well. So it only makes sense that a Los Angeles wedding caterer would find ways to marry craft cocktails with the reception dinner.

The business of mixing and matching cocktails, wines and beers with food is part science and part art. Which is what wedding caterers should be expert at in both regards. The science part is knowing about things such as tannins, malts, dry vs. sweet, etc. and the effects each has on the palate in combination with fats, sugary foods, and tart menu items. The art is the intuitive sense of how such things go together.

Now that craft cocktails are so popular, particularly at weddings, it’s beholden on the wedding caterer to put together this marriage of food and drink in ways that make sense. So what are the scientific and artful strategies of drink-menu pairings? A few of them include:

Things that stand in stark contrast. Say the dish is on the spicy side, perhaps during the hors d’oeuvres portion of the evening. A citrusy drink (gimlet, margarita, etc.) would provide that contrasting taste.

Things that blend. Not everything has to scream out differences. Continuity between the food and drink, such as fish tacos and a light chardonnay, can also be pleasing.

Give your mouth a “wow!” moment. Agave spirits - tequilas, basically - have a higher alcohol content and therefore a bit more bite on the palate. Don’t overdo it, but this can pair well with spicy dishes, cheeses, meats, and even pickled vegetables.

Kumbaya cocktails and nibbles. People who like gin are discovering Aquavit, the Scandinavian spirit that has a botanical bent. In a highball or fizz, it pairs well with meat appetizers, allowing both animal and vegetable foods to peacefully coexist.

Acids. Not the Timothy Leary 1960s LSD kinds, but the acidity of certain wines (sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs, for example) can offset a fried food in a single sip.

Bubbles. Whether it’s with a spritzer, champagne (or brut) or a craft beer, the magic of carbonation is how it cleanses the palate. This matters most when the food your caterers in Los Angeles are dishing up richer foods with meats and cheeses as primary ingredients.

Bitter Bettys, Tannin Shannons and Sweet Louises. The slightly bitter or astringent taste in dry wines, hoppy beers and black teas (all of which, including teas, can be cocktail ingredients also) can cut through smoky and fatty meats. Meanwhile, a sweet cocktail involving something like an Aperol Spritz are a complement to something like caramelized onions that have their own sweetness.

Important to note is that pairings in food and drink are as fluid and full of surprises as human pairings. The trick to making it work is to pay attention to the dynamics, to be open to surprises - and to celebrate the differences.

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