A Flavor Guide to Pairing Fruits in Drinks

A Mixologist's Study of Cocktail Flavor Pairings

Illustration depicting fruit pairings for cocktail recipes
Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018 

Many fruits have natural flavor companions: apple and cinnamon, strawberry and banana, cherry and vanilla. We know and love these pairings because they are familiar and we use them all the time in our food and drinks. But there's more out there and 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 study of flavor pairings is a valuable resource. It was created by European mixologist, Humberto Marques who has been developing creative cocktails with unique tastes for many years.

Marques' Eucalyptus Martini is a showstopper and his Cranberry Peanut Buttered Hot Rum recipe is a winter delight. Yes, eucalyptus, and peanut butter... if that doesn't get you thinking, I'm unsure what will.

A Mixologist's Study of Flavor Pairings

Not only has Marques been delighting drinkers with genuine flavor experiences at bars like his own Curfew in Copenhagen, he has investigated the finer points of flavor. His study of flavor pairings is one of the most extensive from any individual and unquestionably noteworthy.

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 extensive study, Marques has gone beyond the common fruits like apple, orange, and berries. He also shares with us his thoughts on more exotic fruits like feijoa, persimmon, and tomatillo. These are especially challenging ingredients, especially if you have little experience with them. Where do you begin?

How to Use the Pairing Recommendations

The cocktail world is filled with experimentation. We have thousands of ingredients to choose from and that leads to even more possibilities as they are combined in our drinks. If you're curious about where to begin with a new fruit or how to liven up one that's very familiar, use Marques' study to guide you in a certain direction.

Flavors play off one another in very unusual ways and Marques has done much of the hard work for us. Inspiration abounds in this list, so explore it and try some of the pairings while developing your own cocktail recipes. You will be surprised at many of the results.

This guide is not limited to cocktails and mixed drinks. It can also be used with food recipes and when pairing food with drinks. The point is that the combinations work well together and what you decide to do with them is fair game. Have fun and enjoy the adventure!

Favorite Fruit Flavor Pairings

We will begin our study of flavor combinations with some of the most common fruits. These are the fruits that make an appearance in our drinks most often. While we think we know what to expect, there's often a surprise waiting. 

Apple pairs well with: caramel, cardamom, chestnut, cinnamon, citrus, cranberry, currant, ginger, hazelnut, mango, maple, rosemary, walnut

Apricot pairs well with: almond, black pepper, caramel, cardamom, ginger, hazelnut, honey, orange, peach, vanilla, plum, Sauternes, wine

Banana pairs well with: brandy, caramel, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, dark rum, ginger, hazelnut, honey, Madeira wine, mango, molasses, papaya

  • Explore the Banana Cocktail Collection

Blackberry pairs well with: apricot, black pepper, champagne, cinnamon, citrus, hazelnut, lemon, other berries, peach, plum, Port wine

Blueberry pairs well with: lemon verbena, other berries, cardamom, mango, lemon, hazelnut, ginger, fig, lavender, other citrus

Cherry pairs well with: apricot, black pepper, chocolate, citrus, nectarine, peach, plum, Port wine, vanilla

Coconut pairs well with: banana, Brazil nut, caramel, chocolate, citrus, Kaffir leaf, lemongrass, pineapple, other tropical fruits

Cranberry pairs well with: apple, chocolate, cinnamon, citrus, mango, mint, pear

Grape pairs well with: brandy, chocolate, citrus, ginger, raisin

Grapefruit pairs well with: basil, black pepper, caramel, citrus, mint, rosemary, thyme, tropical fruit, vanilla

Lemon pairs well with: apricot, berries, black pepper, cardamom, cherry, citrus, ginger, nectarine, peach, plum, prickly pear, tropical fruit

Lime pairs well with: apple, berries, cherry, ginger, papaya, plum, strawberry, tropical fruit

Melon pairs well with: berries, champagne, citrus, lemongrass, lemon verbena

Orange pairs well with: almonds, basil, berries, brandy, cherry, chocolate, cilantro, cinnamon, coffee, cranberry, fig, ginger, grape, hazelnut, mint, nutmeg, persimmon, pineapple, vanilla

Pear pairs well with: almond, apple, caramel, chestnut, chocolate, cinnamon, citrus, ginger, hazelnut, Port wine, vanilla, walnut

Pineapple pairs well with: basil, caramel, cilantro, coconut, macadamia, rosemary, rum, tropical fruit

Pomegranate pairs well with: apple, citrus, cucumber, mint, tropical fruit

Raspberry pairs well with: apricot, cinnamon, citrus, ginger, lemon, nectarine, other berries, peach, plum, rhubarb, thyme, vanilla

Strawberry pairs well with: apple, black pepper, chocolate, citrus, coriander, mint, rhubarb, vanilla

Exotic Fruit Flavor Combos

Less common in mixed drinks, it can be difficult to know where to begin if you come across one of these fruits. They may catch your eye at the market, but how do you add them to a cocktail? You will quickly find that this is a priceless guide to mixing the more exotic and less-used fruits into your drinks.

Asian Pear pairs well with: almond, apple, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, honey, macadamia, nutmeg, raisin, vanilla

Blood Orange pairs well with: almond, cardamom, chocolate, cinnamon, clove, fig, ginger, honey, other citrus

Currants, Black and Red, pairs well with: cassis, chocolate, citrus, dark rum, Port wine, sloe gin

Elderberry pairs well with: apricot, fig, honey, lemon, mandarin, other berries, peach, plum

Feijoa pairs well with: banana, berries, cinnamon, citrus, mango, vanilla

Fig pairs well with: almond, black pepper, cinnamon, citrus, hazelnut, pear, Port wine, vanilla

Gooseberry pairs well with: citrus, hazelnut, honey, other berries, white chocolate

Guava pairs well with: citrus, coconut, huckleberry, kaffir leaf, pineapple, strawberry, tropical fruit

Kiwi pairs well with: apple, banana, berries, cherry, citrus, coconut, mango, tropical fruit

Kumquat pairs well with: berries, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, persimmon, plum

Lychee pairs well with: citrus, ginger, gooseberry, tropical fruit, vanilla

Mandarin pairs well with: cardamom, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, fig, ginger, nutmeg, tropical fruits, vanilla, star anise

Mango pairs well with: apple, banana, berries, caramel, citrus, coconut, melon, Sauternes, tropical fruits, vanilla

Papaya pairs well with: citrus, black pepper, lime, mango, tropical fruit

Persimmon pairs well with: apple, black pepper, cinnamon, citrus, kumquat, pear

Plum pairs well with: almond, cinnamon, citrus, chestnut, black pepper, hazelnut, honey, Port wine, vanilla

Prickly Pear pairs well with: citrus, lime, tomatillo, tropical fruit

Rhubarb pairs well with: apple, apricot, berries, black pepper, citrus, ginger, nectarine, peach, plum, strawberry

Tomatillo pairs well with: berries, citrus, mango, prickly pear, tropical fruit

Nut Flavor Pairings

Quite often, your pairing search begins not with a fruit, but with a nut and that often comes in the form of a liqueur, syrup, or other sweeteners. To reverse rolls, Marques has developed a few suggestions for those nutty flavors and some of these create fascinating tastes.

Almond pairs well with: apple, apricot, banana, caramel, cherry, coffee, fig, honey, orange, peach, pear, plum

Chestnut pairs well with: apple, caramel, chocolate, coffee, pear, vanilla

Hazelnut pairs well with: apple, apricot, banana, berries, caramel, cherry, chocolate, citrus, fig, mandarin, peach, pear, plum

Walnut pairs well with: apple, apricot, banana, caramel, chocolate, cinnamon, nectarine, peach, pear, plum, rum

Herbs, Spices, and More Flavor Combinations

Beyond fruits and nuts, we also use a few herbs and vegetables in our drinks. This is the short list of flavor combinations and just the beginning. To really explore adding herbs to your mixed drinks, read Marques' Herbs and Spices in Mixology. It's another excellent pairing guide filled with valuable advice.

Carrot pairs well with: anise, brandy, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, walnut

Cilantro (coriander) pairs well with: apricot, berries, cherries, citrus, nectarine, peach, plum, tropical fruit

Ginger pairs well with: almond, apple, apricot, banana, berries, Brazil nut, caramel, chocolate, citrus, coconut, grape, hazelnut, passion fruit, peach, pear, pineapple, plum, tropical fruit

Kaffir Leaf pairs well with: banana, citrus, coconut, lemongrass, tropical fruit, watermelon

Lemongrass pairs well with: cherry, berries, citrus, coconut, ginger ,guava, kaffir leaf, coconut, tropical fruit, vanilla