Quintessential English drinks and their best pairings

Marry these drinks with your dining to fully enjoy the summer sun and al fresco evenings.

Quintessential English drinks

English Wine Week will take place this year from the 18th June, so there’s never been a better time to consider some quintessential English drinks and their best pairings for your summer dining. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with choice when considering what drinks to serve with food, so here the drinks experts Bottled and Boxed have laid out which classic British beverages work best with different dishes, so that you can create the perfect summer spread.

In the spirit of English Wine Week, they will also show you what dishes will really bring out the best in English wines — particularly the sparkling summery wines that are the standout among the variety of English winemaking.

Wine - quintessential English drinksWine - quintessential English drinks
Southern England is home to some fantastic vineyards.

English wine

You might associate wine with other countries like Italy, France, and Spain, but there is actually a rich and vibrant tradition of winemaking right here in the UK. The quintessential English wine is probably the sparkling wine, and by chance this is also a perfect drink for summer, so what better way to celebrate British wine week?

Sparkling wine can be enjoyed with some summery snacks such as fruit, bruschetta, and salad, thanks to its subtle buttery sweetness or you can pair it with seafood, salami, or creamy foods such as mascarpone cheese. There are so many ways to enjoy English sparkling wine that you’re sure to find the perfect one for you.

Pimm's - quintessential English drinks
Quintessential English drinks – few drinks say summer better sweet, refreshing Pimm’s.


Of course, no English summer would be complete without Pimm’s. This is the most iconic of summer beverages and is present at most gatherings while the weather is good. The gin-based liqueur infused with citrus is mixed with lemonade traditionally, and then garnished with sprigs of mint, along with slices of cucumber, apple, orange, lemon, strawberry, or whatever you desire.

Pimm’s goes best with lighter summer dishes, such as cucumber sandwiches, lobster, oysters, and pastry tartlets — either savoury or sweet. It can pair surprisingly well with a classic crispy fish and chips however, and if you are including it in an afternoon gathering some fruit will suffice.

Cider - quintessential English drinks.
There are so many excellent varieties of English cider.


Another classic English beverage is cider. In Britain, we drink more cider than the rest of the world combined. Made from fermented apples, cider can range in terms of how alcoholic it is, and can also range a lot in terms of flavour, so it’s well worth trying different formulations to see which one is your favourite. There’s also the question of flavouring: you could go for an original cider, or you might experiment with berry, rhubarb, or lime flavoured ciders.

There are lots of foods that work with cider, but the best duo is probably a nice, crisp glass of original cider with a creamy or cider-based sauce. However, there are lots of summer dishes that work with cider too, such as quiche Lorraine or leek quiche, risottos, ham or other cold cuts, and salads (particularly those based around ham or cheese). So, utilise the refreshing, versatile qualities of cider to bring your summer dining experiences to life.

gin and tonic - quintessential english drinks
Quintessential English drinks – gin and tonic.

Gin and tonic

You also can’t get through an English summer without having an iconic gin and tonic. This was the most popular mixed drink in the UK in 2020, with 38% of adults surveyed saying that they had drunk one in the last six months — a lot higher than the next popular mixed drink, which was vodka and coke at 24% (Savanta). While it was overtaken in 2021 by the espresso martini, the gin and tonic remains one of the quintessential English drinks. Gin is also present throughout the history of the UK, making it a truly British tipple.

Many people prefer their gin and tonic as an after-dinner or evening drink, paired with an extra glass of iced water to stay hydrated. However, the brightness of the cocktail really goes well with many seafood dishes, and brings out the freshness in them. Other great options include curry (which also pairs well with the refreshing cocktail), strong cheese, or berries.

Craft beers - quintessential English drinks
British craft beers are enjoying a renaissance.


Of course, an English summer wouldn’t be the same without a good selection of beer. British beer can come in many styles, from bitter to pale ale, but the main thing is to find that one that you enjoy and then pair it with some classic food combinations. The ploughman’s lunch with its cheese and ham pairing is ideal, and perfect for a summery pub lunch. Another great pairing is a roast dinner, or a BBQ with a good beer — eaten outside, these are the essence of summer.

You can also try tailoring your food choice to your beer — ale goes well with burgers, buffalo wings and spicy food, while fruitier beers pair excellently with chicken, lighter dishes, and creamy cheeses. Lager tends to really make seafood shine, and stout goes excellently with roasted foods and grilled dishes. Experiment with your pairings and find your favourite combinations of the right beer and the right dishes this summer.

“The right food and drink pairing can really bring the finishing touch to any summer gathering, and what better way to celebrate the good weather than with quintessential English drinks? English wine is really picking up in popularity and reputation currently, and it’s a great time to add it to your collection. If you don’t enjoy sparkling wines as much, try a crisp and refreshing white wine instead.

“Remember that in the hot weather it’s important to refrigerate your alcoholic drinks or keep them in a cooler part of the house as necessary. Beer will need to be kept in the fridge, and white wines and sparkling wines both work best when chilled for a while before you drink them, to really bring out their lighter flavour. When mixing your gin and tonic, you can also add some ice to ensure that the drink remains cool while you drink it in the sunshine.”

If you enjoyed reading Quintessential English drinks and their best pairings, you’ll find more ideas for summer drinks on our Food and Drink channel.

Tags: , , , , Last modified: June 20, 2022

Written by 10:07 am Food & Drink

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