How to pair Halloween candy with cocktails and beer
The kids have come in from an evening of trick-or-treating and have rifled through their bags of loot and plunder to scarf down gobs of sweet goodies and are, finally, trying to sleep off sugar-boosted excitement.
Now, it's your turn. There's the candy corn, those cinnamon things, the candy kisses, the peanut butter cups, the sour worms and the gummy bears, all divided up into neat piles. But how do you pair the sweets with a beverage such as beer, wine or a mixed drink? There are some possibilities if you are brave enough to try, so here are a few suggestions to make a Halloween evening with candy and drinks a bit more pleasant.
Chocolate and red wine
The chocolate-and-red-wine combination has long been a popular – and often delicious – one. While I think that wine and chocolate are each best enjoyed individually, the match-up of a deep, dark chocolate and a wine such as a cabernet sauvignon, or any vino with tastes of cherry, plums or berries, can go very well together (though a dark and slightly bitter chocolate might be hard to find amongst the haul from the festive evening). Remember too that sweeter, fortified wines such as ports go well with dark chocolate.
While fruity and fairly intense and full-bodied red wines can partner with sour candy, dark sherries and Madeiras can go hand-in-hand with something like a caramel and its nutty and vanilla qualities.
What about spirits (and I don't mean the ghostly kinds)? Is it possible to whip up some classic cocktails and sip them with the sugary candy? Jason Ernst of Wildcraft Grill | Bar in Waterloo thinks so. He was undaunted by the beverage-candy challenges I gave him, the first of which was the question of drinking a cocktail with gummy bears.
Rum and gummy bears
"Dark rum, believe it or not. They go perfectly together," says Ernst, suggesting an Old Fashioned, a cocktail that can be traced to 1880s Chicago. "They are normally made with whiskey, but you can make them with any kind of spirit. Add a sugar cube and a little bit of bitters."
Ernst includes the Maraschino cherry but stops short of adding the orange garnish, explaining that it might be too acidic for the bears.
Peanut butter cups and Nutty Buddy Coffee
He also puts peanut butter cups alongside some nuts and coffee. I mean, who knew? "You're talking chocolate and peanut butter. We're talking nut and chocolate and coffee," Ernst says. "Try a Nutty Buddy Coffee with equal parts Frangelico, Kahlua and Bailey's. Add some coffee to a sugar-rimmed cup and top it with a bit of whipped cream."
I'm not sure I see that working, but let's try matching some candy that has some cinnamon. Ernst heads back to the classic cocktails for a Brandy Alexander as the pairing partner; however, he gives the drink, which may or may not have been named for Russian Czar Alexander II, a twist introducing some Calvados, a cider spirit, along with some white Creme de Cacao and cream. Give it a shake and strain it into a brandy snifter.
Now, we should move into the realm of beer and candy too. It seems a sacrilege, but it might just be possible to eke out a pairing of the two. When you think about something like a saison, a Belgian farmhouse ale, that has hints of citrus, ginger and some sweet yeastiness that might make you think about bubble gum (yes, bubble gum), it might just work.
Brian Maher, one of the crew at Block Three Brewing Company in St. Jacobs, suggests a sort of binary relationship, a diametric opposition of tastes, when thinking of pairing principles.
"Pairing anything with beer, you want to look at something that has similar flavours but something that also works against it, so you can get complements from each of the things that you are pairing, whether it's beer or whether it's the actual candy itself," Maher says.
Sour candy and Belgian-style beer
Sour in a candy is a tough one, he adds, so if you're about to dig into a small pile of Sour Patch Kids, you need to call in something like a Belgian-style beer because it has some sourness built in. That means a Belgian "single," a saison or a Belgian amber ale that can handle the sour quality.
Caramels and IPAs
Munching on a caramel? Well, that is going to require a beer that has a bit of bitterness to counteract that sweetness and the creamy, vanilla undertones in the candy, according to Maher. "With a maltier IPA," he says, "you'll get a little bit more of the caramel touch from the malt base of the IPA, but the bitterness will actually cut the sweetness of the caramel."
Are these pairings going to work on every palate? No; likely not. But we all know that the kids really shouldn't eat all that candy, and it's a sacrifice we are willing to make.