Chasing the Dogs: What to Drink with a Hot Dog
"What does a White Sox fan consider a seven course meal? A Chicago Hot Dog and a six pack of beer." Anonymous Yankees fan
The whole concept of matching food and drink is to select a beverage that will wash down the solids, clean your teeth of seeds, and enhance the flavors. The idea is to make the flavors enhance each other, to make one plus one equal three.
Sommeliers who make a living by matching foods with drinks have a technique: Find the dominant essence of the food, and find something to drink that compliments or complements it. That is to say, they look for something that is similar or something that is opposite. For example, you can wear a pale blue blouse to compliment a navy skirt or a yellow blouse to complement it since yellow is the complementary, or the opposite, contrasting color on the color wheel.
So what are the dominant flavors of a hot dog? In the frank itself, salt, garlic, spices, and beef are strong. Chili dogs can be heavily spiced, usually with Greek flavors such as cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. In the condiments, the sharpness of the onion and mustard are factors. So are the acidity of the kraut, pickle, peppers. Relish and slaw are sweet. French fries are fatty and salty.
Nothing balances saltiness like beer. Among beers, I prefer ales because they tend to be richer than lagers and a little sweet. The local brews are always my first choices.
The carbs of the bun and fries do a good job of absorbing the sharpness of mustard, so I look for sweetness to further tame things. Lemonade is a winner, countering the salt and spice nicely.
Carbonation also cuts the richness and salt well. Among soft drinks, I lean toward ginger ale, root beer, and cream soda. There are so many locally made root beers around the nation, tasting them is as much fun as tasting the hot dogs.
Among wines, I favor the pink wines, sometimes called rosé, blush, or blanc de noir wines. They usually have a hint of sweetness, and often a slight fizziness. Gewurztaminer, which is spicy like the frank, is also a nice accompaniment.
The famous actress Marlene Dietrich is reputed to have said that hot dogs with Champagne was her favorite meal. Although I have personal rule that the beverage should not cost more than the food, I make an exception for hot dogs. I favor those labeled Extra Dry because they actually have a hint more sweetness than those labeled Brut (space does not permit me to attempt to decipher the inane label jargon of Champagne and sparkling wines). Alas, to get Champagne with your pups at the ball park, you need to be in a skybox.