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What drink goes well with jerk chicken?

Jerk chicken is a popular Caribbean dish that is known for its robust and spicy flavor profile. It gets its heat from a wet marinade or dry rub that contains Scotch bonnet peppers and aromatic spices like allspice, cloves, cinnamon, thyme, and more. With such a bold and complex taste, it can be tricky finding the right beverage to pair jerk chicken with to complement (rather than overpower) the flavors. In the opening paragraphs, we’ll quickly go over some of the best drink options that go well with jerk chicken.

Some quick answers for what to drink with jerk chicken include:

– Light, crisp lagers or pilsners that can cut through the heat. Red Stripe is a classic choice.

– Fruity ciders that provide sweetness and acidity to balance the spices.

– Tropical rum cocktails like a Dark ‘n Stormy that match the Caribbean vibe.

– Tart white wines like Sauvignon Blanc that won’t get lost behind all the seasonings.

– Pale ales or IPAs with citrusy hops to contrast the warmth.

– Bright and grassy ginger beer that doubles down on the gingery notes.

– Fresh juices like pineapple, mango or orange to provide natural sweetness.

– Tangy and bubbly Jamaican ginger beer for an authentic match.

Factors to Consider in Pairing Drinks with Jerk Chicken

When considering what beverages work best with jerk chicken, there are a few key factors that come into play:


The intensity of heat and spice from Scotch bonnet peppers can vary greatly between jerk chicken recipes or restaurants. Milder jerk chicken marinades tend to emphasize more of the allspice, thyme and onion flavors, while spicier variations really pack the punch from the peppers. For mildly spiced jerk, you have more flexibility in beverage choices. But for spicy hot jerk chicken, you’ll want drinks that can put out the fire or add sweetness. Light, acidic and fruity drinks are ideal.

Sweet vs Savory Flavors

Jerk chicken has a sweet and savory flavor profile. The wet marinade often contains brown sugar, while spices like cinnamon and allspice add sweet notes. You want a beverage pairing that complements, rather than clashes with, these taste sensations. Off-dry wines, ciders and tropical drinks tend to work better than bone-dry wines.

Side Dishes

Consider what sides you are serving with the jerk chicken, as these can impact your choice of drink pairing too. Classic sides like rice and peas, plantains, slaw or mashed sweet potatoes call for a different beverage than simply serving jerk chicken solo. Iced tea, rum cocktails and ginger beer complement the traditional sides nicely.

Meal Courses

Is the jerk chicken an appetizer, main course or part of a multi-course meal? Lighter drinks may be ideal for appetizers, while more substantial drinks pair better with a jerk chicken entrée. If part of a larger meal, consider drinks you can enjoy throughout the various courses.

Best Drinks to Pair with Jerk Chicken

Taking the key factors above into consideration, here are some of the top beverages that pair especially well with jerk chicken:

Light, Crisp Lagers

Beverage Taste Notes
Red Stripe Classic Jamaican lager with light maltiness. Clean taste helps offset spice.
Heineken Mild flavored pale lager that won’t compete with jerk flavors.
Corona Extra Crisp and dry lager with subtle citrus notes.

The light and refreshing qualities of lagers make them an easy go-to pairing for jerk chicken. Red Stripe is probably the most iconic, as it is made in Jamaica. But any lighter-bodied lager or pilsner will work well. The subtle maltiness and crisp carbonation help cleanse the palate from the heat and spices.

Fruity Ciders

Beverage Taste Notes
Strongbow Bright, apple-flavored hard cider with touch of sweetness.
Angry Orchard Tart green apple flavors with crisp carbonation.
Woodchuck Amber Smooth cider with rich caramel apple notes.

The natural fruit sweetness of ciders balances beautifully with spicy jerk chicken. Dry ciders tend to work better to counter the warmth, while still having enough sweetness. The tangy apple, citrus or berry flavors also help complement the spices.

Ginger Beer

Beverage Taste Notes
Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer Intense gingery bite with strong carbonation.
Fever Tree Premium Ginger Beer Aromatic with candied ginger flavors, less spice.
DIY Ginger Beer Tailor the ginger spice level and sweetness as desired.

The bright, concentrated ginger flavor of ginger beer makes it one of the best pairings for jerk chicken. The gingery heat complements the chicken’s warmth, while the sweetness balances the spices. Authentic Jamaican ginger beers like Cock ‘n Bull work especially well. But the Fever Tree brand or even D-I-Y ginger beer can also hit the spot.

Tropical Rum Cocktails

Beverage Taste Notes
Dark ‘n Stormy Ginger beer and dark rum create the perfect spicy-sweet balance.
Mai Tai Citrus and rum flavors with almond and tropical fruit notes.
Hurricane Fruity rum punch cocktail garnished with a cherry and orange.

What better way to complement the exotic spices in jerk than with tropical rum cocktails? The Dark ‘n Stormy is one of the best pairings, as the ginger notes mirror the chicken’s heat. Fruity rum drinks like the Mai Tai provide pleasant sweetness to counter the savory jerk flavors. Just go easy on the rum if having jerk chicken as your main meal!

Dry, Tart White Wines

Beverage Taste Notes
Sauvignon Blanc Herbaceous with bright notes of grapefruit and lemon.
Pinot Grigio Light-bodied with citrus and green apple flavors.
Chardonnay Dry and unoaked styles to avoid overwhelming chicken.

The high acidity of tart white wines allows them to stand up to jerk chicken’s robust spices. Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect match, as its herbaceous qualities parallel the garlic, thyme and onions in jerk seasoning. Dry Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay also work well. Avoid oaky, buttery Chardonnay so it doesn’t clash with the jerk’s flavors.

Hoppy Pale Ales

Beverage Taste Notes
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Piney, citrusy hops with balanced malt backbone.
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale Bright hoppy taste with hints of grapefruit.
Lagunitas IPA Hop-forward with notes of orange, grass and pine.

The citrusy, floral hoppiness of pale ales and IPAs pairs nicely with jerk chicken’s pungent aromas. The hops help cleanse the palate while matching the herbal qualities of spices like thyme. Moderate maltiness in pale ales also balances the heat. Avoid very bitter IPAs, which may overpower the jerky.

Juices – Orange, Pineapple, Mango

Fresh-squeezed juices are a quick and easy pairing for jerk chicken. Sweet orange juice can tame warmer marinades, while the acidity cuts through the richness. Pineapple juice complement the spices with its tropical fruitiness. Mangos also pair well, echoing the sweet and savory notes in jerk seasoning. For less sugar, combine juices with seltzer water.

What Not to Drink with Jerk Chicken

While many drinks pair deliciously with jerk chicken, a few options are less compatible:

– Ice-cold milk – While the thought of dousing the spicy heat is nice, milk’s thick texture and sweetness tends to simply amplify the burn rather than soothe it.

– Strong, tannic red wines – The dryness and astringency of wines like Cabernet Sauvignon often make jerk chicken’s spices seem even more overpowering. Stick to lighter reds.

– Bitter cocktails – Boozy, spirit-forward drinks like Negronis or Manhattans clash with jerk flavors. Sweeter and more mellow cocktails are a better match.

– Oaky wines – Big, buttery Chardonnay or oaked Sauvignon Blancs run the risk of tasting heavy and cloying with jerk. Unoaked is the way to go.

– Carbonated soft drinks – The fizzy sweetness of colas and lemon-lime sodas feels out of sync with jerk’s taste profile. Still fruit juices are a better choice.

Serving Jerk Chicken as Appetizers vs. Entrees

How you serve jerk chicken can impact the drink pairings:

Jerky Appetizers

For jerk chicken wings, skewers or other appetizers:

– Keep drink choices light – salads, pale ales, ginger beer

– Lower alcohol cocktails are more refreshing

– Allow guests to switch drinks between courses

Jerk Entrees

If serving jerk chicken as main meal:

– Pick more substantial drinks – Sauvignon Blanc, Dark ‘n Stormy

– Beefier beers and full flavored spirits go well

– Stick to just 1 or 2 pairings throughout meal

Complementing Jerk Chicken Sides

Traditional jerk chicken sides, like rice and beans, plantains and slaw, also influence drink choices:

Rice and Peas

The Caribbean rice and beans pairing loves sweet, fruity drinks:

– Jamaican lagers like Red Stripe

– Mai Tais or other rum cocktails

– Easy drinking rosé or Riesling wines

Fried Plantains

The sweetness of plantains matches:

– Fruity ciders like Angry Orchard

– Citrusy sauvignon blanc or wheat beers

– Ginger beer for contrast

Pineapple Slaw

The tangy, tropical slaw calls for:

– Tart white wines like Pinot Grigio

– Gin cocktails with citrus and herbs

– Crisp pilsner style beers


Jerk chicken’s tantalizing blend of heat and spice deserves a proper drink pairing to bring out its complex flavors. Light, crisp lagers like Red Stripe are a no-brainer. For those who like some sweetness to balance the heat, try a fruity cider, refreshing rum cocktail or citrusy juice. Dry white wines, hoppy beers and ginger beer also complement jerk wonderfully. Just stay away from overly tannic red wines, acidic cocktails or sickly sweet sodas and you’ll have a delicious match. Considering the overall spice level, other sides dishes and if serving as an appetizer or entree will help narrow down your ideal beverage. With so many options, it’s fun to experiment with different combinations of jerk chicken and drinks. Skol!