Game & Whiskey Pairings

As the ‘Omnivore’ in the name should suggest, I tend to have pretty varied interests. Of course, video games are the primary subject of this blog, I do occasionally talk about things like music, movies or coffee as well. Today, I’m trying something a little different…

In the last 5-7 years, I’ve gotten into different kinds of whiskies – scotch, bourbon, ryes, Irish whiskey, single malt, mixed, etc. There’s an incredible range when it comes to tasting notes, aging/distillation process, country of origin, and of course…price. One of my favorite ways to unwind after work or on the weekends is to pour up a glass of whiskey and then, kick back and savor while playing some games. You’ve probably come across different articles that recommend a specific wine to go along with a particular meal? Well, some time ago, for whatever reason, I started to match up specific games to a particular whiskey. I’ve selected five of my favorite games of the past few years and five of my favorite whiskies that I like to have in my regular rotation, to go with it.

…and with that, here’s the first batch of game & whiskey pairings that have been aged to imperfection in my drafts folder.

Red Dead Redemption 2/George Dickel No. 8

Genre: Open-world/sandbox, adventure

Tasting notes: “A mellow, approachable Tennessee whisky, selected for it’s smooth-sipping character. A balanced whisky with aromas of light caramel and wood. A warm vanilla finish with hints of maple and buttered corn.”

Let’s start with Red Dead Redemption 2. A rugged, Old West game like this lends itself to being matched up with a good whiskey and is the easiest to start with. George Dickel No. 8 felt like a natural pairing with RDR2 – a Tennessee whiskey that’s maybe a little rougher around the edges than some other straight bourbons, but it possesses plenty of character. The charcoal-filtering process(what defines a Tennessee whiskey) gives it an ever-so-slight “campfire” taste that, when combined with the buttery notes from the corn used in making bourbon, gives the taste of grilled corn on the cob. A nice whiskey to have next to you at the campfire or the saloon table.

….Lenny!!

God of War/Buffalo Trace

Genre: Third-person action-adventure, Hack ‘n slash

Tasting notes: “This deep amber whiskey has a complex aroma of vanilla, mint and molasses. Pleasantly sweet to the taste with notes of brown sugar and spice that give way to oak, toffee, dark fruit and anise. This whiskey finishes long and smooth with serious depth.”

God of War has been one of my favorite game series’ going all the way back to 2005. Any hesitation I had about the 2018 sequel/soft-reboot quickly subsided once I finally played the game. The story and worlds are larger-than-life,yet, nuanced with characteristically silky-smooth gameplay. Buffalo Trace straight bourbon is my pick for God of War – it’s buttery sweetness is the foundation to the subtle layers of oak and spice underneath. It’s my favorite all-around bourbon to accompany my pick for best all-around game of 2018.

Super Mario Odyssey/Jameson

Genre: Adventure/platformer , Golf, Kart Racing, RPG, Tennis, Puzzle, Fighting, Baseball, Party/mini-game(s)…

Tasting notes: “The perfect balance of spicy, nutty and vanilla notes with hints of sweet sherry and exceptional smoothness.”

Mario is as iconic of a video game character as you’ll find, so it made sense(to me, at least) that I’d pair it with a whiskey like Jameson. Over the years, we’ve seen Mario cross over into a variety of different genres – sports, kart racing, fighting, all while retaining the essence of what made Mario games so universally enjoyable . Similarly, Jameson has a level of versatility as it can be served neat, on the rocks, or in a number of cocktails(Irish Mules being a personal favorite). A classic for a classic.

Elden Ring/Ardbeg 10

Genre: Open-world RPG, Souls-like

Tasting notes:An explosion of crackling peat sets off millions of flavour explosions: peat effervesces with tangy lemon and lime juice, black pepper pops with sizzling cinnamon-spiced toffee. Then comes a wave of brine infused with smooth buttermilk, ripe bananas and currants. Smoke gradually wells up on the palate bringing a mouthful of warm creamy cappuccino and toasted marshmallows. As the taste lengthens and deepens, dry espresso, liquorice root and tarry smoke develop coating the palate with chewy peat oils.”

Elden Ring, or really any From Software game is not for everyone. Some may be put off by the punishing gameplay, the cryptic obscurity in which the worlds and story unfold, or the developer’s, uh…passionate fanbase. In a similar vein, Ardbeg 10 likely isn’t to everyone’s taste, but those that can get past it’s seemingly impenetrable wall(mist veil?) of smoke are treated to a satisfyingly complex array of tastes and aromas that linger with you afterwards. It’s about the only substance on Earth I know of that can use “tarry rope” as a positive description…and I love it.

Death Stranding/Laphroaig 10

Genre: Action-adventure, Open-world, Stranding

Tasting notes: “Huge smoke, seaweedy, ‘medicinal’. Surprising sweetness with hints of salt and layers of peatiness.”

Death Stranding is a polarizing game. It can be an emotional masterpiece to one person, but a boring, pretentious AAA title to another. While I completely understand where those in the latter category are coming from, I absolutely loved Death Stranding and Hideo Kojima’s idiosyncratic blend of over-the-top cinematic style AND utter weirdness. Enter Laphroaig, another Islay scotch that is famous(infamous?) for it’s distinctive taste and aroma. As with Death Stranding, I understand why it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but personally love the way all the different notes and flavors are intertwined, making something so almost-indescribably weird. “Like drinking a glass of sea water while next to a campfire on the beach” may be my favorite description of my favorite whisk(e)y…weirdly enough. Both Laphroaig and Death Stranding are a perfect pairing…as well as prime examples of taste being completely subjective.

If you enjoyed this, I also recommend checking out McKenna Talks About Games’ series of blog posts pairing a different wine with each Zelda game. Do you have any particular beverages, distilled or not, that you like to have on hand while gaming? Cheers! and thanks for reading!

My Not-Quite Epic RPG Journey

I’ve typically considered myself to have a fairly broad taste across my range of interests – music, food, etc. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, this blog being named Gaming OMNIVORE and all, that video games are no different; there’s no genre of game that I refuse to play…an enormous backlog serves as testament to this. However, my childhood years were spent playing primarily action/platformers and the broadening of my gaming tastes occurred in my later teens/early twenties. RPGs, as a genre, were something I had very limited knowledge about and even less experience with – my best definition of an RPG growing up would have been “I dunno…like a Zelda game?” I have since come to really appreciate the memorable characters, worlds, and stories of games like Chrono Trigger or Tales of Symphonia. Lately, I’ve found myself playing more RPGs; there’s been something strangely…comforting(?) in diving headfirst into some epic quest in distant land, if only for a short time. I’ve been on a bit of a Dragon Quest kick as of late, so there’s been plenty of level grinding as well.

For today’s post, I’ve mapped out some of my most significant stops along my RPG questline. These are games that have meant quite a lot to me over the years and are largely responsible for growing my appreciation of role-playing (video)games. First up, a game that due to its packaging and slight variation in approach to the genre, I didn’t even realize shared nearly every established trait of an RPG when I played it…

Pokémon Red

Pokémon. The game that traded the settings of “Chosen One and accompanying party battles forces of darkness” to “child catches every cute monster in sight on the way to become the greatest trainer.” This was THE stepping stone to RPGs as a genre for myself, along with many, many others. Whether you consider the games a legit RPG or not, Pokémon is responsible for introducing millions upon millions of kids to RPG gameplay staples like level progression, elemental weakness/resistance, and turn-based battles. I had always thought the concept of turn-based combat – politely waiting your turn to whack your enemy, sounded rather…dull. It wasn’t until after I’d spent countless hours playing Pokémon Red that it dawned on me that I had in fact, been playing a game incorporating turn-based combat.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

I’ll be honest, Knights of the Old Republic wasn’t going to be a hard sell for me, even with my limited experience with RPGs in 2003 – a Star Wars game in which you travel to different worlds across the galaxy, along with customizing your own lightsaber and recruiting a homicidal droid named HK-47. How could that NOT sound awesome? KOTOR is an example of a game where I found myself more engaged in the story, characters, and worlds than the gameplay, which was still enjoyable and nicely complemented the game’s other strengths. Knights of the Old Republic also introduced me to BioWare, whose writing and characters I would fall in love with all over again in 2007. I have a hard time not immediately blurting out “KOTOR!” when asked my favorite Star Wars game, let alone my favorite RPG…

Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls

As a kid in the 90’s, I was aware enough of Final Fantasy as a series. This was especially true reading gaming magazines counting down the release of Final Fantasy VII, which I knew was an anticipated release, but didn’t fully understand the extent of it. It wasn’t until my later teens that I bought Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls – a compilation of Final Fantasy 1 & 2, shortly after release that the series finally started to click for me. Something about the combination of FF1’s approachable, but not shallow game mechanics, story, music and 16-bit charm resonated with me and I became completely hooked. I had just begun taking a few college classes prior to the game’s release and distinctly remember much of my time between classes being spent sitting playing Final Fantasy…when I probably should have been studying(sounds surprising, right?). This is where my appreciation for 16-bit JRPGs officially began…

Mass Effect 2

Knights of the Old Republic was my introduction to BioWare, but it was the Mass Effect games(Dragon Age: Origins, too) that propelled them to one of my favorite developers. Mass Effect 2 took everything that I loved about the previous game and managed to improve it. I didn’t get around to playing ME2 until about a year or so later, but once I started, I couldn’t put it down. The game still feels as close to a perfect action-RPG as I’ve ever played, balancing the traditional role-playing elements of ME1 and the more action-oriented set pieces of ME3. Similar to KOTOR, Mass Effect 2 is another game I’d immediately nominate for all-time favorite RPG, thanks BioWare.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

My first exposure to Fire Emblem comes from the exact same place as nearly everyone else outside of Japan – Super Smash Bros. Melee. I remember having to look up which games sword fighters(naturally) Marth and Roy were from and having absolutely no idea what Fire Emblem was. I eventually played a little bit of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance on the GameCube, and later FE: Awakening on the Nintendo 3DS. I found the games intriguing, but just like Final Fantasy, or any JRPGs really, I felt like I didn’t completely “get it”. Fast forward to the summer of 2019, Fire Emblem: Three Houses was set to be released and I was a little tentative, but eager to try another Fire Emblem game. I had been keeping an eye on the game and Three Houses gave every indication of being the most accessible FE game yet. I don’t know what it was that finally clicked – understanding of FE’s weapon triangle? Academic dating sim? My boy, Dimitri? Either way, I loved every minute of Three Houses and it went on to become one of my favorite Switch games. It even gave me the…confidence(?) to try seek out and try a few other SRPGs(my weakest genre) such as Shining Force or Advance Wars.

Backlog RPGs

For every RPG that I actually finish, it seems like there’s 5-10 more that I’d like to play; just Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games alone would keep me busy for quite some time. There’s also Persona 5, a game that I loved for the few hours I’ve played and has turned into a bit of a running backlog joke -“I’m actually gonna finish Persona 5 this year”. Here’s just a few of the many RPGs I have in my backlog that I’d like to finish up or begin playing in the near future.

  • Persona 5 Royal
  • Final Fantasy X
  • Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
  • Shining Force 2
  • Chrono Cross

In closing, I’ll also use this post to segue into a shoutout for The Great JRPG Showdown. Fellow blogger and RPG/Anime expert – Pix, from Shoot The Rookie has once again put on an elimination-style tournament à la Mortal Kombat and it’s cool to see the different games nominated by everyone. I strongly encourage any JRPG fans out there to check it out if not already doing so. That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!