What Drinks to Pair with Smoked Salmon (If You Don’t Drink Wine)

When it comes to smoked salmon it’s normal to reach for the champagne. That combination of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier (as well as with some other varieties) delivers a bold flavour that goes perfectly with the fattiness and flavour of salmon. But what drinks do you pair with salmon if you don’t drink wine?

In general wine and salmon are a perfect partnership.

Old world sauvignon blancs are a popular accompaniment, while a wine like gewurztraminer polarises people. Some say it’s the only wine you can have with salmon, others believe it shouldn’t even be made.

Rose is a great choice, or a lighter red such as a pinot noir. It’s too simplistic to use the old adage that it’s white wine with fish and light meat, or red wine with red meat. You could be missing out on some wonderful pairings.

If your salmon has a spice to it then a red will balance the flavours perfectly. Keep the red light though.

But what if you don’t drink wine, or like the taste of wine?

There are many other drinks that will bring out the beautiful flavours of an exquisitely smoked piece of salmon.

Soft Drinks

A simple traditional lemonade will do the trick. The acidity of lemons balances the fatty flavours of smoked salmon beautifully. If you’re not a fan of lemonade, then another citrus drink will work. If your soft drink is too sweet, however, that sweetness could overpower the fish’s delicate flavour.

A sparkling water makes a great alternative.


A chilled sherry, a single malt scotch or a crisp, chilled polish vodka… each of these work wonders with smoked salmon.

Ok, they might not be your first thought when it comes to ordering a drink to go with your salmon. And even if you do enjoy wine, try any of these for a change of pace.

Vodka lovers say that you should drink vodka at room temperature, but when pairing it with salmon others prefer to drink it well chilled. For the best results choose a polish vodka – that is one that is made using polish potatoes and rye.

The saltiness of a chilled dry sherry (make sure it’s dry) is also an amazing combination with smoked salmon.

When it comes to whisky, a strong flavour needs a strong smoke. Likewise, a lighter smoke needs a lighter whisky. For the stronger flavours choose a single malt from the Scottish islands (although the islands aren’t designated as having a separate blend, the single malt whiskies from here tend to have their own taste.


A crisp beer pairs brilliantly with smoked salmon. When you think about pairing any drink with salmon to get the best you want tart, acidic tasting drinks. When you choose a beer it’s drinks like pilsners (choose German or Czech for the best results) that deliver the right flavours. The bitterness works brilliantly. Or go for a wheat beer or white beer instead.

Final Thoughts

Wine is a traditional pairing for smoked salmon, but if it’s not your drink of choice there are others out there too. Think about it in terms of bringing out the best flavours of the food and the drink. Powerful flavours might overwhelm a lighter smoke. Light flavoured drinks might get lost with a strong smoke. Perhaps the rule should be to go for whatever drink is your favourite.

Different drinks bring out the smoked salmon’s rich flavours in a different way. And the good news is you won’t need to travel to the furthest corners of the planet to find them. They’re worth a try.

Kelly Tate