Last week, the 5pm Dining Blog was invited out for dinner by Seafood Scotland.
Founded in 1999, the organisation was set up by the industry for the industry to support the Scottish seafood sector.
What caught our eye about the event was that each dish of the evening was to be paired with cocktails from the Arbikie estate in the North East of Scotland.
Arbikie: farm to bottle ethos
The Stirling family have been working their Angus farm for four generations. More recently, they have turned their attentions to producing spirits at their Arbikie Highland Estate distillery.
The guiding ethos at Arbikie is that the ingredients for all their spirits are planted, sown, grown and harvested within an arms-length of the distillery.
They produce a range of vodkas and gins. They also sell whisky but, currently, it is only for sale by the cask.
Bottles of single malt will follow and there is much excitement about the imminent release of their rye whisky.
Pairing crisp white wines or sparkling wines with seafood is a classic match. Pairing seafood with cocktails is less common so we were tickled to see how it would all pan out.
We started with a trio of smoked salmon, gravlax and mackerel paté. This was accompanied by a Haar – a long drink made with Arbikie voda, apple juice and soda.
Next up was a rich lobster bisque that came with an El Diablo cocktails. Usually, Diablos are made with tequila but this one used chilli vodka, blackcurrant liqueur, lime and ginger ale.
The chilli vodka is made with habanero chillies which are grown and smoked on the Arbikie farm.
Combined with ginger ale, it added a real smoky, spicy kick to the bisque. In a sense, the cocktail acted like a take-no-prisoners palate cleanser.
Seafood Scotland recipes
For this blogger, the most successful pairing was the most unexpected: a main course of fish and chips matched with a Gibson Martini made with AK’s Gin.
As you know, a classic Martini is made with ice cold gin and a suggestion of dry vermouth. The addition of an onion garnish turns it into a Gibson.
Punchy and strong, it is a brilliant aperitif. But as an accompaniment to fish and chips?
Yes, against my expectations, it really works. The onion adds a briny side to the drink which goes very well with fish and chips.
If wanted some inspiration for cooking with Scottish fish and shells, you could browse the recipe instructions at Seafood Scotland.
They are graded for difficulty and cost. Usefully, the recipes also have a slider feature which will automatically adjust the quantities required for one to ten people.