Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall
Food and Drinks to Wow Your Friends at BBQs and Dinner
Contributed by Jeremy Climer, Hunter, Rifle and Clay Target Shooter and Wine Connoisseur
We all know one of the best ways to recruit new hunters, or at least get people to support hunting, is through their stomachs. Sharing our harvest is a sacred duty to hunters and backyard BBQs are as big of an American tradition as hunting itself. We’re going to give you some simple tips to step up your backyard wild game BBQ this year with pre-meal cocktails as well as wine and beer pairings for three classic dishes.
Before we begin, a note about the products: I have done my best to offer widely available products that represent a value for their cost. Costs and availability vary, so do not be afraid to ask your local retailer for a similar product if something is not available in your area or does not fit your price point.
There’s nothing better on a hot summer day than a refreshing cocktail. Each of these three cocktails are easy to make with few ingredients and can be batched in large quantities if you’d like.
A twist on the Italian, gin based classic, very few spirits go better with smoked or grilled meat as mezcal. Do not be afraid of its past, unfair reputation, just think of it as tequila, but better. The smoky quality of this incredible mezcal will be well integrated with the sweet and bitter quality of the other ingredients.
1 oz. Xicaru Mezcal
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir for thirty seconds. Strain and pour into a highball glass (or over ice). Break a strip of orange peel over the glass releasing the oils in the skin and garnish with orange peel.
No cocktail says summertime quite like a Mint Julep. A cocktail that is as old as America itself, it’s been poured on hot summer days since before bourbon existed (originally it was made with cognac).
2 fresh sprigs of mint
½ oz. Simple Syrup
2 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
In the bottom of a highball glass, muddle one sprig of mint with the simple syrup. Fill with crushed ice and add bourbon. Swirl with a bar spoon until the outside of the glass frosts. Top with more ice and garnish with the remaining sprig of mint.
A take on the popular spicy mango candy from Mexico, this will be sure to please your guests that like a little kick to their drinks.
2 oz. Crater Lake Hatch Green Chile Vodka
1.5 oz. Mango Juice
Pour vodka and mango juice over ice in a Collins glass. Stir with a bar spoon until ingredients are well integrated and the glass is cold. Top with soda water. Garnish with mango slice.
The Main Course
The number of different dishes you can offer your guests at a BBQ are almost as many as those of you reading this. However, we know there are certain staples to BBQs and there are definitely common ways in which many hunters process their meat. Here are three basic options with wine and beer pairings.
Neck Roast Tacos
This is a great dish for many reasons. First off, who doesn’t love tacos? And secondly, this is a dish you can prepare in the morning or the night before thanks to the technology of a crock pot.
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
½ tsp dried oregano
2 lbs neck roast
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 chipotle in adobo, plus 1 tsp adobo sauce
½ cup Modelo Especial
- In a small bowl, mix together spices and rub over neck roast
- Heat the olive oil and brown roast on all sides
- In the crock pot, pour in beer, onion, garlic and chipotle with adobo and add the neck roast with juices from pan. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6 hours
- When the roast is cooked and tender enough to fall apart, shred it with two forks. Add shredded meat back to the crock pot. Keep warm in the crock pot.
Put meat into warm corn tortillas, garnish with chopped cilantro, thinly sliced radishes, chopped tomatoes and crumbled queso cheese, served with a wedge of lime on the side.
Wine & Beer Pairing
- Sanitas Hoppy Lager (Boulder, CO) – Bright and clean with bready malt and Citra hop aromas. At 35 IBUs and 5.5% ABV you can have more than one.
- Kung Fu Girl Riesling (WA) – Riesling goes with everything, but this slightly off dry Riesling with notes of white peach, mandarin orange and apricot from Washington State goes fantastic with spicy dishes.
- Modelo Especial (Mexico) – A fuller bodied and more flavorful option to Corona, jam a lime in it and enjoy the taste of summer
- Kaiken Ultra Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) – Argentinians know a thing or two about meat and they make wine to match. This spicy and bold red wine is soft on the palate with notes of dark fruits and dried herbs.
Bacon & Bleu Cheese Venison Burgers
Is there anything more classic for a BBQ than burgers on the grill? For this recipe, if you have not already cut in some fat with your ground venison, simply add some ground pork or beef to your mixture so that it’s 80% venison and 20% fattier meat.
2 lbs ground venison
12 slices of bacon
8 oz bleu cheese or bleu cheese crumbles
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
- Mix in finely chopped garlic to ground meat
- Make into six 1/3 lb patties sprinkling salt and ground pepper onto both sides
- Cook bacon in skillet either on grill or stove top
- Grill burgers to taste. About 1 minute before pulling off the grill, sprinkle bleu cheese on top of each burger (if desired, place buns on grill for a light toast at the same time)
- Place burger on bottom of bun, add two slices of bacon and sprinkle with chopped chives. On top half, place lettuce and tomatoe. Serve open faced.
Wine & Beer Pairing
- Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (Comstock, MI) – This easy drinking IPA comes in at 7% ABV, well balanced between the malt and 100% Centennial hops. Notes of grapefruit and pine will really match the bleu cheese on this burger to perfection.
- Charles & Charles Rosé (WA) – Rosés are great for summer and great for grilling. This Syrah based rosé from Washington State over-delivers for the price with notes of tropical fruit and citrus peel with a mouthwatering finish.
- Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA) – The classic American IPA that has been around for 30 years. Much like the Two Hearted Ale, the balance to the malt and hops make this a great pairing, however this wine is much bolder and less nuanced than the Bell’s.
- Boneshaker Zinfandel (CA) – While Zinfandel has its roots in Eastern Europe, California has really become the preeminent producer of the varietal. For years it was underappreciated and used in syrupy sweet White Zinfandel, but now it is being taken seriously for the delicious, bold and hearty red wine that it can be. This wine is jammy, spicy and will stand up to the bold burger with bleu cheese and bacon.
If you make sausage, you probably already have a favorite recipe, so I’ll skip the sausage making here. However, there are some ways to take things up a notch by toasting pretzel bread buns, grilling some chopped vegetables such as onions, bell peppers, banana peppers and sauerkraut in some aluminum foil with a bit of olive oil. Offer a selection of different mustards and fire up the grill.
Wine & Beer Pairing
- Schlafly Kolsch (St. Louis, MO) – Hard to beat a cold kolsch on a hot day with grilled sausage. Schlafly does a great job with this sessionable beer that has the fruity aroma of an ale with the clean finish of a lager. Made with 100% German Noble hops.
- Bodega Muga Reserva (Rioja, Spain) – A great example of what kinds of wines Rioja can produce. Bright cherry aromas, earthy elegance, great acidity and well balanced with supple tannins.
- Pilsner Urquell (Czech Republic) – The original pale lager, the first pilsner. Crisp, clean and palatable, a great pairing to grilled sausage.
- Gerard Bertrand Minervois (Minervois, France) – This Syrah and Carnignan based wine from southwest France has note of licorice, dark fruits and lots of minerality. Easy to drink and great with grilled meats.
BONUS TIP: If you’re serving anything fried, such as chicken friend squirrel or rabbit, or having a fish fry, nothing goes better with fried foods than bubbles. Try Ruffino Prosecco or Etoile by Domaine Chandon.