Choosing the right drinks for your summer barbecue

John Wilson: The same rules apply to barbecued food as to other dishes – match the body and richness of your drinks with that of your food

As soon as the barbecue is fired up, we tend to head straight for two tried and tested drinks – a full-bodied red wine or beer. There is a logic to this. Marinades are often a mixture of sugar, vinegar and chilli, all likely to kill off the flavours in a lighter wine.

Beer is a good option, able to cope with all sorts of flavours and refresh the palate at the same time on a sunny day. Ales and amber beers probably work best with beef and lamb but, once the sun comes out, a chilled IPA seems to hit all the right notes. As well as the Kinnegar featured here, I have been enjoying Wicklow Wolf Elevation Pale Ale and Mescan Blonde, with and without food.

When it comes to wine, the same rules apply to barbecued food as to other dishes: match the body and richness of your wine with that of your food. With those smoky charred flavours, you need to dial up the flavours in your wine a little too.

A robust red, such as a malbec, shiraz or southern Rhône, will go well with full-flavoured red meats but at 14.5% abv or more, they can be overpowering on a hot sunny day. I would suggest that you go for a lighter red wine such as the Jumilla featured here, served cool. Warm red wine never tastes great, especially on a hot sunny day. Alternatively, a chilled Beaujolais is great with a variety of foods.


The modern barbecue features much more than burgers, sausages and steak. Grilled chicken, pork and fish are often on the menu as well, along with refreshing salads. I would certainly offer a white wine as well as a red. A crisp dry aromatic white will go nicely with white meats, fish ands salads too. A South African chenin blanc, a Marlborough sauvignon or a Spanish albariño or Portuguese alvarinho would all do nicely.

If you want to keep the alcohol low, you could always make your own wine spritzer. The most flexible summer barbecue wine, however, is rosé. Great with salads, fish, chicken and pork, the medium-bodied versions can work really well with spicy food and red meats. I would avoid the very pale, dry rosés and the sweet wines too. Look instead for a fruitier style.

If you intend serving a cocktail, make sure it isn’t too alcoholic. A fruit-filled punch, a mimosa, bellini, mojito or spritzer will keep your guests refreshed but upright, while they wait for the food to be served.

Remember that most barbecues are long-running affairs (and the cooking always takes so much longer than you think) so low or no alcohol drinks are essential. Session beers, such as Galway Bay Weights and Measures and the gluten free Dungarvan Comeragh Challenger are a great idea and there are plenty of really good alcohol-free beers such as Wicklow Wolf Moonlight.

In the past, finding a drinkable alcohol-free wine has been more of a challenge but the Hollow Leg range is very good, as are the Leitz Eins Zwei Zero and the Kolonne wines. I would certainly include kombucha too. There are some great Irish kombuchas, including Prokulture, Holo, Synerchi and Allaboutkombucha. Alternatively, King of Kefir offers a great range of thirst-quenching water kefirs.

This is not the occasion to serve your finest wine but neither is it the time to buy the cheapest wine or beer so treat your guests to something decent. Make sure you keep everything well chilled – cool beer, wine and soft drinks taste so much better. Make sure too that there are plenty of snacks or nibbles of some kind to hand to provide soakage while you wait for the barbecued food to cook. All we need now is the sun.

Kinnegar Scraggy Bay IPA

5.3%, €3-3.50

A very moreish IPA with citrus, a nice crisp hoppy bite and some soothing pears. Great before, during or after your barbecue. From: Widely available from multiple places and direct from

Specially Selected Costières de Nîmes Rosé 2021

12.5%, €8.99

Fresh crunchy red fruits with a crisp mineral edge. Perfect with salads, barbecued fish and chicken and one to try with grilled spicy meat dishes too. From: Aldi.

Kolonne Null Rosé 2021, France, Vegan, Alcohol Free

0%, €16

Light strawberry and raspberry fruits with good acidity. Serve chilled with fresh summery salads, goat’s cheese and grilled chicken or fish. From: Green Man, D6; Barnhill Stores, Glenageary; Brindle, D8; Ely, Maynooth.

Bodega El Cerrón Remordimiento 2020, Jumilla

14%, €19

Delicious supple dark fruits with an attractive freshness. This is light enough to go with most white meats but would make a great partner for all of those barbecued red meats too. From: 64 Wine, Glasthule; Redmond’s, D6; Blackrock Cellar; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Fine Wine & Food Athlone.