Fruit Flavor Pairing in Drinks

Fruit pairings for cocktail recipes: banana, strawberry, lemon, pomegranate, orange, and apple

The Spruce / Catherine Song

Many fruits have natural flavor companions, like apple and cinnamon, strawberry and banana, or cherry and vanilla. These are well-known pairings that are commonly used in food and drinks. But discovering new flavor combinations is half the fun of mixing drinks. Whether you're a cocktail connoisseur, a professional bartender, or a budding drink mixer, this examination of flavor pairings is a valuable resource to keep at hand as it offers information and ideas for when you're looking for that key ingredient to perfect your new drink or food recipe.

A Mixologist's Lessons

The foundation of these pairings comes from Humberto Marques, mixologist and owner of Curfew in Copenhagen, Denmark. Not only has Marques been delighting drinkers with genuine flavor experiences and intriguing cocktails like his eucalyptus martini, but he has also spent years investigating the finer points of flavor.

Certain fruit flavors work better with others, and many of these recommendations are surprising. For instance, did you think that pomegranate and cucumber could be mixed into a single drink? Has the combination of banana and hazelnut crossed your mind?

In his study, Marques has gone beyond common fruits like apple, orange, or berries, sharing his thoughts on less-known fruits like feijoa, persimmon, and tomatillo. These are particularly challenging ingredients, especially if you have little experience with them.

How to Use the Pairing Recommendations

The cocktail world is filled with experimentation, and flavors play off one another in very unusual ways. With countless ingredients and combinations to choose from, this guide is not limited to cocktails and mixed drinks, but is also applicable to food recipes and when pairing food with drinks. Some of the pairing suggestions have been supplemented with recommendations from "The Flavor Bible," written by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. It is a fantastic resource with endless pairings for all sorts of ingredients you might use in your culinary escapades.

Common Fruit Flavor Pairings

Apples, berries, citrus fruits, and other common fruits make a steady appearance in drinks. Explore beyond the most obvious pairings and allow yourself to be surprised by our suggestions.

  • Apple: Pairs well with almonds, apricots, caramel, cardamom, chestnut, cinnamon, citrus, cranberry, currant, ginger, hazelnut, lychee, mango, maple, orange, rosemary, and walnuts. It mixes particularly well with brandy, kirsch, Madeira, rum, and vermouth. There are many great apple cocktails to offer inspiration.

  • Apricot: Pairs well with almonds, anise, apple, black pepper, caramel, cardamom, cinnamon, coconut, cranberry, ginger, hazelnut, honey, lemon, nutmeg, orange, peach, pineapple, plum, rosemary, Sauternes, strawberry, and vanilla. It mixes especially well with amaretto, brandy, kirsch, orange liqueur, and sweet white wines. For inspiration, explore these tasty apricot cocktails.

  • Banana: Pairs well with blueberry, caramel, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, coffee, ginger, guava, hazelnut, honey, lemon, lime, mango, molasses, orange, papaya, pineapple, vanilla, and walnuts. It mixes best with brandy, Calvados, Madeira wine, and rum. Though it's not the most common fruit in mixed drinks, there are a few banana cocktails that can spark new ideas.

  • Blackberry: Pairs well with almond, apple, apricot, black pepper, blueberry, cinnamon, citrus, clove, ginger, hazelnut, lemon, mango, mint, peach, plum, orange, raspberry, strawberry, and vanilla. It mixes very well with berry liqueurs, brandy, Champagne, orange liqueurs, port wine, and red wines like merlot. You can also explore the flavor combinations in a few blackberry drink recipes.

  • Blueberry: Pairs well with other berries, cardamom, cinnamon, citrus, fig, ginger, hazelnut, honey, lavender, lemon, lemon verbena, mango, mint, nutmeg, peach, vanilla, and watermelon. Accent blueberries with berry and orange liqueurs. It's a fun flavor to mix with, and blueberry cocktails are quite diverse.

  • Cherry: Pairs well with almond, apricot, black pepper, caramel, chocolate, cinnamon, citrus (especially lemon), nectarine, peach, plum, sage, and vanilla. It will do especially well in drinks with amaretto, bourbon, brandy, crème de cassis, Grand Marnier, kirsch, rum, sweet vermouth, and vodka. Also, try mixing maraschino liqueur or Cherry Heering with a variety of wines, particularly dry reds, port, and sparkling wines.

  • Coconut: Pairs well with almond, banana, basil, Brazil nut, caramel, chocolate, cilantro, citrus, cucumber, guava, honey, makrut leaf, lemongrass, lime, lychee, mango, mint, passion fruit, pineapple, other tropical fruits, and vanilla. As is evident with the popular coconut rum and piña colada, it works especially well in rum cocktails. Try it in green tea drinks as well, and explore coconut cocktails for more ideas.

  • Grape: Pairs well with almond, apple, chocolate, citrus (especially lemon), ginger, hazelnut, mint, pear, pecan, raisin, raspberry, rosemary, strawberry, and walnut. The flavor is an obvious companion for brandy and wines of all varietals, though grape cocktails also do well with a rum base.

  • Grapefruit: Pairs well with banana, basil, black pepper, caramel, coconut, ginger, lemon, lime, melon, mint, papaya, pineapple, pomegranate, raspberry, rosemary, strawberry, thyme, tropical fruits, and vanilla. It's surprisingly versatile—you'll be pleased with grapefruit cocktails that feature Campari, gin, Grand Marnier, grenadine, rum, sparkling and white wines, tequila, and vodka.

  • Lemon: Pairs especially well with almond, apricot, basil, berries, black pepper, cardamom, cherry, citrus, coconut, hazelnut, ginger, mint, nectarine, peach, plum, prickly pear, rosemary, thyme, tropical fruit, and vanilla. For spirits, it mixes best with rum, vodka, and nut and orange liqueurs. It's also nice with sweet wines like Moscato. Lemon is commonly used as an accent in drinks but also offers possibilities of its own.

  • Lime: Pairs well with apple, berries, cherry, ginger, papaya, plum, strawberry, and tropical fruits, but it's usually an accent for beverages.

  • Melon: Pairs well with basil, blackberry, blueberry, cilantro, citrus, cucumber, ginger, lemongrass, lemon verbena, mint, strawberry, and vanilla. It mixes especially well with Champagne, Cointreau, Curaçao, port, sake, sweet white wines, and tequila. The melon cocktail recipes available are surprisingly diverse and always refreshing.

  • Orange: Pairs exceptionally well with almond, anise, banana, basil, berries, cherry, chocolate, cilantro, cinnamon, clove, coffee, cranberry, fig, ginger, grape, grapefruit, hazelnut, lemon, mint, nutmeg, persimmon, pineapple, pomegranate, rosemary, vanilla, and walnut. It is also a common citrus fruit that countless mixed drinks rely on. Orange mixes well with most distilled spirits as seen in the many orange juice cocktails. It is particularly nice with amaretto, brandy, grenadine, tequila, and vodka.

  • Pear: Pairs well with almond, apple, caramel, chestnut, chocolate, cinnamon, citrus, clove, ginger, hazelnut, nutmeg, pecan, raspberry, rosemary, vanilla, and walnut. It mixes best with brandy, port, crème de cassis, Grand Marnier, kirsch, rum, whiskey, and red, dry white, and sparkling wines. You will find many pear cocktails that use these pairings.

  • Pineapple: Pairs well with banana, basil, caramel, chile pepper, cilantro, cinnamon, coconut, ginger, lime, macadamia, mango, orange, pepper, raspberry, rosemary, strawberry, tamarind, and other tropical fruits. There are a variety of pineapple cocktails, and it tends to work best with brandy, orange liqueurs, and rum.

  • Pomegranate: Pairs well with apple, cardamom, cinnamon, citrus, cucumber, ginger, mint, and tropical fruit. For pomegranate cocktails, you'll find it works exceptionally well with port, tequila, vodka, and both red and white wines.

  • Raspberry: Pairs well with other berries, almond, apricot, chocolate, cinnamon, citrus, ginger, hazelnut, mint, nectarine, peach, plum, rhubarb, thyme, and vanilla. You will find many raspberry cocktails with brandy, Champagne, orange liqueurs, rum (especially the dark type), tequila, and sweeter red wines.

  • Strawberry: Pairs well with other berries, almond, apple, banana, chocolate, citrus, coriander, honey, melon, mint, peach, pineapple, rhubarb, vanilla, and walnut. It mixes best with brandy, Champagne, Chartreuse, elderflower liqueur, rum, sake, and red, rosé, and sweet white wine, though strawberry cocktails are very diverse.

Tropical and Uncommon Fruit Flavor Pairings

It can be difficult to know where to begin if you come across less common mixed drink fruits like mango, papaya, and rhubarb. They may catch your eye at the market, but how do you add them to a cocktail? Learn how to treat and mix these less-used fruits into your drinks.

  • Asian pear: Pairs well with almond, apple, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, honey, macadamia, nutmeg, raisin, and vanilla.

  • Blood orange: Pairs well with almond, cardamom, chocolate, cinnamon, clove, fig, ginger, honey, and other citrus fruits.

  • Currants (black and red): Pair well with chocolate and citrus. They are excellent to mix with dark rum, port, sloe gin, and any style of wine, as seen when crème de cassis makes an appearance in the Kir cocktail, Bishop cocktail, and vermouth cassis.

  • Elderberry: Pairs well with apricot, fig, honey, lemon, mandarin, other berries, peach, and plum.

  • Feijoa: Pairs well with banana, berries, cinnamon, citrus, mango, and vanilla.

  • Fig: Pairs well with almond, black pepper, cinnamon, citrus, hazelnut, pear, and vanilla. It mixes well with whiskey, port, and sparkling wine.

  • Gooseberry: Pairs well with citrus, hazelnut, honey, other berries, and white chocolate.

  • Guava: Pairs well with citrus, coconut, huckleberry, makrut leaf, pineapple, strawberry, and tropical fruit.

  • Kiwi: Pairs well with apple, banana, berries, cherry, citrus, coconut, mango, and tropical fruit. One of its most popular cocktails is the simple kiwi martini.

  • Kumquat: Pairs well with berries, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, persimmon, and plum.

  • Lychee: Pairs well with citrus, ginger, gooseberry, tropical fruit, and vanilla. It mixes especially well with sake, tequila, and vodka to make some stunning lychee cocktails.

  • Mandarin: Pairs well with cardamom, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, fig, ginger, nutmeg, tropical fruits, vanilla, and star anise.

  • Mango: Pairs well with apple, banana, berries, caramel, citrus, coconut, melon, Sauternes, tropical fruits, and vanilla. There are many great mango cocktails that offer inspiration for this fruit.

  • Papaya: Pairs well with citrus, black pepper, lime, mango, and tropical fruit. Try it in cocktails featuring rum and tequila.

  • Persimmon: Pairs well with apple, black pepper, cinnamon, citrus, kumquat, and pear.

  • Plum: Pairs well with almond, cinnamon, citrus, chestnut, black pepper, hazelnut, honey, port, and vanilla.

  • Prickly pear: Pairs well with citrus, lime, tomatillo, and tropical fruit.

  • Rhubarb: Pairs well with apple, apricot, berries, black pepper, citrus, ginger, nectarine, peach, plum, and especially strawberry. It is not the easiest fruit to add to drinks, but there are tricks to adding rhubarb to cocktails.

  • Tomatillo: Pairs well with berries, citrus, mango, prickly pear, and tropical fruit.

Nut and Veggie Flavor Pairings

Quite often, your pairing search begins not with fruit, but with a nut, often in the form of a liqueur, syrup, or other sweetener. To reverse roles, Marques has developed a few suggestions for those nutty essences that create fascinating flavors.

  • Almond: Pairs well with apple, apricot, banana, caramel, cherry, coffee, fig, honey, orange, peach, pear, and plum. Keep this in mind when adding amaretto liqueur or orgeat syrup to your cocktails.

  • Chestnut: Pairs well with apple, caramel, chocolate, coffee, pear, and vanilla.

  • Hazelnut: Pairs well with apple, apricot, banana, berries, caramel, cherry, chocolate, citrus, fig, mandarin, peach, pear, and plum. The flavor is most often added in the form of Frangelico and other hazelnut liqueurs.

  • Walnut: Pairs well with apple, apricot, banana, caramel, chocolate, cinnamon, nectarine, peach, pear, plum, and rum. Though not common, nocino is a walnut-flavored liqueur.

Article Sources
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  1. Page K, Dornenburg A. The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company; 2008.