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Cooking with Classic Cocktails: How to Make an Alcohol Marinade for Your Meat

alcohol marinade
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Sipping a well-craft cocktail is a beautiful experience, but there are other uses for these beverages. Booze can often find its way into the kitchen — often as a cook imbibes —but with the right techniques, a creative chef can marinate with cocktails.

There are some natural flavor match-ups for meats and cocktails, but of course experimentation is always encouraged. Be aware that alcohol has a tendency to cook the outside of meat, meaning the flavor won’t necessarily penetrate the rest of the cut. To work around this, cook the alcohol out of a cocktail by allowing it to simmer for approximately two hours, which will help solidify the flavors within the mixture. It’s generally recommended that alcohol marinades be used for less than four hours, especially with light fish and shellfish.

Now, without further ado, here are some classical cocktails that also make great marinades.


Margarita Shrimp alcohol marinade
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A quick five to 10 minute stop in a margarita bath should be all some skewered shrimp need before heading to the grill. Tequila-lime shrimp is a menu staple at many bars, and a margarita mixture delivers a little extra sweetness and char with sugar.

You can upgrade with other fruits or spice it up with jalapeno. Here are some essential tequila cocktails you need to know, including a classic margarita recipe.

Vodka Tonic

Vodka Tonic Chicken alcohol marinade
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Vodka is already a staple in some pasta sauces, but a simple vodka tonic can be used to marinade a piece of chicken, preferably for a short duration — say 30 minutes. Lime would be the major contributing flavor factor, unless a flavored vodka is substituted in, but don’t underestimate the role of good tonic water. Gin lovers could also test the botanical spirit with a similar gin and tonic — just make sure to use the best gin.

Old Fashioned

old fashioned steak alcohol marinade
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For a cheap steak — who would marinade a nice steak? — an Old Fashioned offers a way to cut through the toughness with a variety of strong tastes. Bourbon and sugar bring vanilla and oak flavors to the meat (sounds tasty for a chili), but the fruits of an orange or cherry also accompany a steak excellently. These are our favorite whiskeys for Old Fashioneds.

Dark and Stormy

dark and stormy ribs
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This classic rum recipe is a great choice for many meats, but ribs or pork tenderloin would be an ideal choice. The marinade can also end up making a great barbecue sauce. A quality rum will make all the difference.

Pat Evans
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Pat Evans is a writer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, focusing on food and beer, spirits, business, and sports. His full…
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