Pairing the right drinks with pizza is key as it boosts the flavor of both the food and the drink. My personal favorite is a glass of red wine with pizza – two of my favorite things! While researching for this article, it was interesting to find that Italians mostly drink beer in the pizzerias. So preference for drinks with pizza is definitely subjective – but what are some of the best?
Medium-bodied red wines with high acidity (like a Sangiovese) or crisp, refreshing lager (like Peroni Nastro Azzurro) or a Negroni cocktail are perfect drink options with pizza.
My go-to is a bottle of Chianti which is made with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. It’s dry, acidic, and has some earthy qualities which I think go very well with pizza. It’s readily available pretty much everywhere for various budgets and a classic pizza night pairing.
For an extra special treat, try the more expensive Brunello di Montalcino which is 100% Sangiovese and packs a bit more of a punch. With bold fruits, high acidity, and tannins.
This article covers a bit more detail on the best wines, beer, and cocktails for pizza.
Best Wines With Pizza
Picking a wine for pizza is like any other food; we want balance and complementary flavors. A good rule is to start delicate with delicate toppings and move up in boldness with stronger toppings.
It should firstly consider the key base ingredients – the starchy crust, the acidity of tomatoes, and the richness of the cheese. Tomato sauce is acidic so we want a wine that is also high in acidity to stand out, and nothing too bold to overpower the cheese.
Next, you have to think of the other toppings which have an impact. Toppings bring saltiness, richness, or spice from things like meat, vegetables, or anchovies. More toppings usually mean you need a bolder, full-bodied wine.
If you’re looking for a quick answer for the best wine pairings, then the rule of “what grows together, goes together” applies well here. Most inexpensive Italian reds are widely regarded as great choices, such as Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Nero d’Avola to name a few.
These wines give you high acidity to pair with the tomato sauce and cut through the cheese. They vary in body so pick one that matches your pizza toppings the best.
Key things when choosing a wine for pizza:
- A wine must match the acidity of the tomato sauce otherwise it will taste bland.
- The boldness of the wine should match the richness of the pizza otherwise the flavors will be lost.
- Match a wine with the quality of the pizza. An expensive Barolo will be lost on a budget pizza.
- Avoid bold tannins unless paired with meat toppings. The acidity in the tomato can cause a metallic taste.
Wine With Different Pizza Toppings
Best Wines For Margherita Pizza
Margherita is a refined classic that has delicate flavors of tangy tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and aromatic basil. That means you don’t want a wine that overpowers it and distracts from its perfect balance.
Aim for a wine that has high acidity to match the tomatoes, but isn’t heavy or overly tannic. Lighter wines work really well at this simple end of the topping scale, but I also really enjoy medium-bodied Montepulciano and Sangiovese as some of my favorite go-to pizza wines.
Try lighter reds like Gamay, Garnacha, or dry Rose
Best Wines For Pepperoni Pizza
Pepperoni is the most popular pizza in the world. It has strong flavors of beef, pork, and spices and is high in fat so you need a stronger wine to match. Wines with a little more tannin with pair well with the fat, but anything too tannic may clash with the acidic tomato sauce.
I think medium-bodied Italian wines are great here – and there are lots to choose from!
Try Chianti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Barbera or Nero d’Avola
Best Wines For Meat Pizzas
Meat pizzas have strong meaty flavors, seasoning like fennel or chili, and naturally more fattiness which needs to be matched. These strong flavors naturally call for more bold, fuller wines. More tannins will help cut through fattier dishes, and also become less noticeable on the palate when meat is present.
It’s no wonder steak and Cabernet Sauvignon have long been a classic pairing – and it won’t let you down here. If you prefer something less dry then try a Zinfandel (Primitivo).
Try Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Syrah
Where To Buy Wine
In an age where anything can be bought online for the best price, backed by reviews, and with endless options, it’s no wonder buying wine online is one of the best ways to do so.
You can shop around quickly and compare the lowest prices between retailers, as well as find wines that are harder to find locally. Just be wary of delivery costs which can vary but at least will be upfront when you buy.
Here are some picks on where to buy wine online:
Vivino is the largest online wine marketplace so has a huge inventory and ships far and wide across America, Europe, and Australia. It also boasts the most downloaded wine app where users rate wines, so you really get a sense of what you are buying.
Wine.com is another great choice but restricted to US shipment. It has ratings that website users can leave and also scores from wine experts like James Suckling. They have a great selection of Italian wines mentioned in this article and for different budgets.
Beer With Pizza
Lager is the choice of drink with pizza in Italy. In fact, drinking wine with pizza is seen as unusual and “something for the tourists”.
This might be down to culture – pizzerias are separate from normal restaurants and it’s often a late-night meal with friends so pizza and beer have stuck. Sometimes that just happens in food culture.
Italians claim that carbonated drinks, like beer, help out digestion – and I think there is some scientific evidence for that. But it seems an odd rule to keep when many other tomato and cheese-based dishes like lasagne or ragu are served with wine all the time.
Italy has many food rules which are followed rigorously and will raise some eyebrows if broken. These include no milky cappuccinos after 11 am, no cheese with seafood, and espressos after dinner. A lot of these come down to things thought to help digestion – in my opinion, do what you like to do!
Best Beers To Pair With Pizza
I do think beer goes great with pizza and does fit the casual setting to enjoy with friends.
Refreshing beers like a lager or pale ale taste great with most pizzas as they combat the saltiness and cleanse the palette. With more toppings, beers with more complexity like malty brown ales or hoppy ales pair best.
Italian lagers such as Peroni, Nastro Azzurro, and Moretti are the choice in Italy and are some of my favorite lagers too. They are light and crisp, perfect for hot evenings eating pizza on the cobbled streets of Naples.
Here are a few topping combinations that work well with different beers. Think of your pizza like any other food and match the toppings with a beer that will complement them both.
Margherita/cheese pizza – crisp larger or lightly hopped beer will cleanse the palette. As the pizza is delicate in flavor, the subtle maltiness and bitterness work well.
Pepperoni – hoppy pale ale or IPA which pairs well with spices. The added pepperoni needs a slightly heavier beer to pair well. IPA usually has more hoppy, fruity flavors and can range in bitterness – all work well with a pizza with more grease and spice.
Meat lovers – darker beer such as a brown ale. Another heavier beer but this time with more malt instead of hops. Flavors such as caramel, chocolate, and varying ranges of sweetness and strength go well with lots of protein. Lower strength beers might be lost with strong-flavored toppings so try something punchy.
Anchovy – citrus pale ales to refresh the mouth. Anchovy is obviously very salty and oily so something that quenches the thirst ready for the next bite is good.
Hawaiian pizza – tropical-tasting pale ales for a tropical pizza. The pineapple naturally pairs well with tropical fruit flavors of passionfruit or grapefruit and balances the saltiness of ham or bacon.
Avoid Getting Bloated Drinking Beer While Eating
Sometimes drinking lots of gassy beer with food can leave you feeling bloated, especially when it’s carbs like pizza crust as it fizzes when it hits your stomach. Maybe the Italians just don’t drink too much of it.
I’ve got a trick you can use to avoid this. Try pouring your beer into a glass and pouring it a little higher above the glass than you usually would. This leaves you with a beer that has a bigger foam head and gets rid of the excess gas. It still has enough fizz but doesn’t leave you with an unpleasant feeling.
Where To Buy Beer
Buying beer online is popular now and can give you a great selection that you might not find in your local beer shop. Monthly subscriptions to beer companies can give you the best of their selections, and you often get free beer for signing up. Here are some top picks for you:
In the US – Craft Beer Club
In the UK – Beer52
Best Cocktails With Pizza
I think that wine and beer go better with pizza at the time of eating as they are more savory than cocktails. That’s not to say you can’t as they are still delicious. Great to have one on the go while your pizzas are in the oven.
Here are some of my favorite cocktails to drink with pizza. Some have flavors that warm up your palette for pizza and some are just plain Italian.
Gin Basil Smash
This is one of my favorite all-time cocktails. It is basically a gin sour with smashed-up basil. The basil works really well as a fragrant addition to the lemon and sugar and is a perfect segway into a basil-covered Margherita.
2 Parts Gin
1 Part Lemon Juice
1/2 Part Sugar Syrup
10 Basil Leaves
How: Muddle the basil leaves in the bottom of a shaker to break up and release flavor. Add all the ingredients and some ice and shake. Strain into a glass with some ice and garnish with basil leaves.
This bitter-sweet palette cleanser from Italy is a great way to start a meal. But be warned, it packs a punch and slides down very easily. It’s so easy to make that anyone can make this one and you don’t need any fancy equipment.
1 Part Gin
1 Part Campari
1 Part Sweet Vermouth
Orange for garnish
How: Simply mix the ingredients together in a glass with some large ice cubes and garnish with some orange peel or slice. Best served in an Old Fashioned or Rocks glass.
Best Non Alcoholic Drink With Pizza
It’s got to be Coca-Cola!
It’s fizzy, tasty, and just a pure winning combo to go with a pizza. The fizz aids digestion just like beer does so it will help your food go down. After a bit of research, I can see it’s a popular choice in pizzerias in Italy, the USA, and beyond, when alcohol is being avoided.
So there is my round-up of the best alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks that go well with pizza. On pizza night I usually mix up a simple Negroni as an aperitif before the main event. My dinner-time drink is usually a bottle of affordable weeknight Italian red such as a Chianti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, or Nero d’Avola.
Beer is another great option and there are so many craft beers to choose from these days. With both beer and wine, remember to think of your toppings so as to select a drink that has a complimentary body, acidity, and flavor.