Cocktails and crabs: The best drinks to accompany shellfish

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When eating any kind of seafood dish, it’s important to pair it with the right drink as the beverage you decide on could make or break your meal. It’s a good idea to avoid drinks that overpower the taste of seafood as you would be missing out on the delicious taste of the fish. The aim is to choose a drink with specific flavours which can either complement or contrast with the seafood, and bring out the best of your chosen dish.

Crab has a delicate, sweet taste and needs specific drinks and ingredients to complement it well. Crab is generally in season from April to November and is widely available at many fishing ports across the country, including at Plymouth Fisheries. As with most seafood, crab offers a huge variety of health benefits. Crabmeat is high in phosphorous, a mineral that helps the growth of bones and teeth, omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin B2.

So, which drinks pair well with crab? Here are a few suggestions:

Cocktails

The list of possibilities with cocktails is endless. With popular drinks like a Cosmopolitan and Pina Colada available in most restaurants and new concoctions being invented every day, it’s important to know which ingredients will pair well with crab and which could clash.

The best cocktails to accompany crab are drinks which are light, refreshing and citrusy, as they complement rather than overpower the meat, but it can sometimes depend on the flavours you are looking to enjoy. Cocktails with high levels of sugar will bring out the sweetness of the crab while dry drinks, such as a gin and tonic, will enhance the salty flavour. When making your own cocktails at home, remember to keep an eye of the amount of sugar you put in the drink, as too much will start to compete with the sweetness of crab, rather than complement it.

Ingredients can also depend on how the crab is prepared and what type of meal you are eating. Heavy dark liquors, such as rum and bourbon, could overpower and drown out the flavour of the crabmeat. However, they could work well with crab cakes or a surf ‘n’ turf dish.

When delving into a crab salad, fruity cocktails are the best pairing as they contrast the earthy flavours of the dish.

If your salad includes white onions, then a dry cocktail would be better. A salad containing fruit would work well with a sweet or crisp cocktail.

Wine

A glass (or two) of wine is always a good choice when eating a seafood dish. Generally, white wine pairs better with most shellfish, including crab, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try out a rose or red.

A simple Chardonnay is a great choice and works well with fresh crab as you are pairing a full-bodied wine with a full-bodied dish, or so they say. A Pinot Gris is another recommended white wine option and is especially complementary for crab when it’s served cold.

If you prefer red over white, then a Pinot Noir wouldn’t go amiss. The light, fruity favour of the wine balances the sweetness of the crab but doesn’t overwhelm the taste.

Champagne is also a classic choice and pairs well with most types of fish.

Non-alcoholic

Of course, you don’t have to drink alcohol when eating seafood. Although a simple water may work and a fizzy drink could be your go-to when eating out, why not try a ginger tea?

This beverage is traditionally consumed after eating a crab dish in the Far East, as crab is classified as a ‘cooling food’, so the hot and spicy flavour of the tea accentuates the natural flavour of crab. It’s believed the contrast of the two fits with the yin and yang philosophy of dining.

Ultimately whatever your drink of choice, you should think about the level of acidity. Drinks with higher acidity tend to enhance the natural freshness of crab and bring out its delicious taste.

Looking to buy crab?

Crab is available to buy from our merchant units at Plymouth Fisheries. The Cracking Crab Company supplies local, hand-picked crabmeat and has recently up-scaled the business to keep up with high demand. For more information, click here.

Nick Eggar, Manager of Plymouth Fisheries, and Claire Tapper, owner of The Cracking Crab Company.

Nick Eggar, Manager of Plymouth Fisheries, and Claire Tapper, owner of The Cracking Crab Company.


When choosing crab, a good rule of thumb is to ensure crabs feel heavy for their size with no liquid sloshing around inside.

For more information on buying seafood from Plymouth Fisheries, visit our website page here.