Adding wine or alcohol to meat makes the dish tastes better?

Recently learned that adding wine or some alcohol to meat makes the gravy taste better. I have never tried it, is it true? Any suggestions for chicken curry.

Hyper subjective question, so I’ll just say I like pan sauce (particularly with cognac) here and there.

In chili and beef stew. And probably lots of other dishes.

Certainly adding wine to a gravy improves the flavour. But only within a cuisine that generally uses wine. So, if I was cooking a classic British roast leg of lamb, I would always add wine to the gravy, as well as stock.

But, I feel it would just be odd to add it a chicken curry that I was cooking at home.

That said, if you recall from a few days ago, I gave you a link to a favourite Indian restaurant of mine (which I’ll give again below). They have a lovely starter they call “sharabi chicken” which includes white wine. I don’t know if this a particular Mumbai dish or just something the chef has created.

There are certain flavor compounds in some foods that are alcohol-soluble ONLY, meaning that if you never add alcohol to the dish you will never unlock that flavor. Tomatoes are one such food. However, wine adds a flavor of its own that you may not want in your dish. If you want to expose alcohol-soluble flavors without adding the flavor of wine (or beer, etc.), try a splash of vodka, which brings nothing to the table but alcohol.


Agree with what other posters have said; when appropriate, I’ll deglaze a pan with wine or brandy. Or reduce a wine for a special sauce.

Funnily, a friend’s friend, has an all purpose marinade she uses on everything. It’s orange juice and vodka. Really! This woman is a RD though, and NOT a cook. Sheesh, if I want OJ and vodka, I’ll have a screwdriver. My friend does tell me RD’s food is NOT good, sadly.

I could see rice wine or rice wine vinegar in a curry sauce.

Ask me if I’m surprised to learn that.


It depends too on the palate of the diner. Husband doesn’t tolerate red wine and can tell whenever I use it in cooking. I’ve learned to sub white wine and appropriate aromatics and/or broth.

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It all depends on the type of meat and the type of alcohol.

Many people brine their turkey for example in an alcoholic beverage and or prepare their duckling with Calavados or Grand Marnier or Cointreau.

All depends on the recipe and the combining factors.

I prepare my Risottos for example, prepared with white wine as they do in Italia.

There are also desserts which are flambéed …

I flambée my large grilled prawns (langostinos) … They are scrumptuous …

So it is a huge blackboard of options …


Which reminds me, we make green walnut wine (vin de noix vertes), which is a lovely addition to roast duck.


Canard a la orange is the classic French dish. The traditional Sauce Bigarade doesnt use alcohol but I think the addition of one of the orange liquers could add another element. A sharp apple sauce is traditional in the UK to accompany roast duck - Calvados might be a similar addition as for the orange sauce.

I’m assuming a reference to sauces is on-topic for the OP’s reference to gravy. I’m aware the OP is from India and that “gravy” covers a wide range of sauces there.

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OP talks about curry, I try to read more on wine in Indian cooking. This old thread in egullet may be of interest.

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I tend to look for vinegar substitutions for wine in recipes, on the theory you get more taste bang out of that, you’re not cooking off alcohol you’ve perversely just paid significant excise duty of, and because I’d generally rather put the booze directly into the cook! :smiley:

Apparently there’s a south-asian coconut vinegar if you want an ‘authentic’ ingredient in that vein. Or if you don’t want to needlessly multiply vinegar entities, I think cider vinegar might be a good fit in some curry recipes?

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I tried the coconut vinegar a few years ago. I THINK I got it online from Walmart or Amazon. It had way too much chili pepper for my palate. To provide a basis for comparison, I am okay with a typical takeout red curry in an Indian restaurant innthe USA. The coconut vinegar was vindaloo level hot.

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I did not know that! I’d presumed – rashly on the basis of my google-grade research – that it was a ‘flavour note’ on acetic. Not a weapons-grade delivery system for thermonuclear amounts of chili.


There are many nut based liqueurs in the Mediterranean triangle (Spain, Italy and France) however, it is not common except in Goa.

They do mention CASHEW LIQUEUR.

As a chemist I am now curious which parts of tomatoes are ONLY alcohol-soluble but in no way water or fat soluble

LOL, you are far more qualified to dig into the scientific aspects of this than I am (and perhaps soluble is not the correct term). I first heard about this on America’s Test Kitchen (I think), but here’s what Harold McGee has to say on the subject (via Serious Eats): But the question posed is a good one. Does the vodka really add much to the sauce? Doesn’t the alcohol all simmer off? Is it all just a ploy by the vodka manufacturers to get us to buy more of their hooch?

Harold McGee has a bit to say on the subject in his On Food and Cooking (get it NOW if you don’t already own it). Check this out:

“The alcohol molecule bears some resemblance to a sugar molecule, and indeed it has a slightly sweet taste. At high concentrations, those typical of distilled spirits and even some strong wines, alcohol is irritating, and produces a pungent, “hot” sensation in the mouth, as well as in the nose. Its chemical compatibility with other aroma compounds means that concentrated alcohol tends to bind aromas in foods and drinks and inhibit their release into the air.”

Huh. I stopped reading when I got to that part and started scratching my head, because I know from past experience that adding alcohol to stews will increase their aroma. I tested it out in my Best Chili Ever recipe. What’s he on about, inhibiting aromas?

But he quickly clears it all up:

“But at very low concentrations, around 1% or less, alcohol actually enhances the release of fruity esters and other aroma molecules into the air.”

A-ha! Now it makes sense: concentration is an important factor when it comes to its effectiveness as a flavor enhancer. This jibes with my past experience. Adding a bit of alcohol at the end of cooking is a good idea for stews and chilies, but too much and the booziness can become overpowering, leaving you smelling nothing but the alcohol instead of the better aromas its supposed to be carrying. Whiskey drinkers can tell you that diluting a dram from 40% ABV (Alcohol % by Volume) down to 30% or 20% ABV will also bring out aromatics that are otherwise hidden.

Adding a half-measure or full measure of water would be “drowning it” according to most whisky drinkers. Often it’s literally drops that get added – which as a dilution is trivial compared to the variation in ABV between different brands and bottling…