The Best Drinks To Pair With Barbecue, According To Pitmaster Rodney Scott

Barbecue season is coming soon and if you are already planning Sundays at the grill, or Friday nights at your favorite local BBQ joint, you probably envision plates piled high with all the smoked meat and tangy sauce you can handle. You might also be planning the best drink to have with your favorite dish. For many people, that's an ice-cold beer — but different types of barbecue flavors and styles could call for different types of drinks.

When it comes to styles or culinary traditions of barbecue in the U.S., there are heavy-hitter categories based upon region, hailing from places like Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina, Kansas City, and Memphis. Each one is different, and each one may pair best with a different drink, but pitmaster Rodney Scott, who first gained prominence for his mastery of South Carolina BBQ in the 2020 Netflix docuseries "Chef's Table: BBQ" has his own ideas of what drinks pair best with all styles of barbecue.

Rodney Scott recommends two different drink pairings with BBQ

In an interview with LifeHacker, Rodney Scott shared that he usually has a light beer or some bourbon with his barbecue meals. His penchant for pairing beer and BBQ isn't really that unusual for the chef, though, as Scott went on to say that he often has "a light beer with all of my meals."

As for coupling bourbon with barbecue? There's a reason for that specific to the flavor profile of Scott's own creations. The lauded pitmaster's culinary feats, all a product of the culinary stylings of South Carolina barbecue, are known for their flavor of vinegar and hot spices. Aside from those two staples, there's a secret ingredient the chef recommends that people add to their own BBQ sauces: lemon. That citrusy after-taste pairs wonderfully with dark liquors, and it adds a bit of tanginess to the meat.

But what if you don't want to drink alcohol with your BBQ brisket or pulled pork? Well, Scott has a drink solution for that, too. In another interview with Charleston Magazine, Scott said one of the most popular items at his South Carolina-based restaurant is sweet tea. The restaurant, Rodney Scott's BBQ, has to make a lot of batches of sweet tea to keep up with demand every day. Scott also has a particular preference for this beverage of choice: "it is very sweet tea — it is how I like it." 

Smoked cocktails and more

There's a reason Rodney Scott's suggestions to go for beer or bourbon work well when paired with barbecue. Dark liquors, like whiskey or bourbon, complement the smokiness of BBQ dishes in particular. But what if you're not into beer or straight-up bourbon? If you don't want to drink just dark liquor or beer with your meals, cocktails can be your friend here. You can mix whiskey or bourbon with pineapple or lemonade to cut down on the smokiness of the alcohol and meat combination. You can also combine beer and lemonade by mixing equal parts beer with equal parts of lemonade to make a refreshing and less tart lemon drink that compliments any type of BBQ.

If the smokiness of barbecue is something you really go for, it can be easily enhanced when you choose the right drink — like, for instance, a smoked cocktail. This particular mixed drink, when prepared properly, can give off a subtle BBQ flavor all its own by way of being exposed to components to smoke by way of a glass cloche or a cocktail smoking gun.