Serious Eats: Drinks
How to Pair Spirits and Halloween Candy
Maybe your cupboards are full of Halloween candy in anticipation of the big day; maybe you're throwing a Halloween bash—whatever the reason, you probably have an excess of fun-size chocolate bars on hand. And while we wouldn't necessarily recommend getting sloshed while you're manning the front door Halloween night, we must say: booze makes Halloween candy taste better.
We recently pillaged the liquor cabinet to put this theory to the test, aiming to find the perfect match between a few classic Halloween candies and the booze we had on hand. What should you drink with a Snickers, bourbon or rye? Which alcohol is best sipped with Junior Mints? We have all the answers for you here today.
Hershey's Chocolate Bars
Let's start with the basics. Hershey's bars are creamy, sweet (and ok, a little waxy.) Our first thought was to pair it with rum— and it does latch in nicely to the creamy, buttery texture of aged rum (we tasted it with Ron Abuelo Anejo.) The vanilla flavors from oak aging are just right with the vanilla flavor in the chocolate. But when we tasted the Hershey's with Cruzan Black Strap Rum, we were blown away. "I didn't know Hershey's chocolate could taste this good," said one taster. The spicy, molasses-laced flavor of the Cruzan deepened the chocolate flavors of the candy. This quickly became a favorite of the lineup, even though we usually tend to save our Hershey's bars for s'mores.
Nougat, caramel, peanuts, milk chocolate: this one is pretty friendly to most brown spirits. A lightly smoky Scotch brings out a pleasant honeyed flavor, and Flor de Cana 7-year rum is a pretty good match, too. But our favorite match was what we'll call the caramel apple—Snickers is awesome with Laird's Applejack. The combination is like biting into a sweet apple dipped in caramel and rolled in toasted nuts.
When in doubt, we reach for bourbon or aged rum—and both of those were tasty with the shortbread part of the Twix—but the best pairing for buttery cookies robed in caramel and chocolate was Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, which matches the sweetness of the Twix and adds spicy ginger to the mix (which is right at home with cookies, as everyone knows.) The combination feels festive; we'll remember this pairing as we near holiday time, too.
The sweet nougat and caramel of Milky Way is just calling out for bourbon—the vanilla flavors from oak aging are just right in this case. Both Maker's Mark and Buffalo Trace worked well, since they have a slight sweetness that complements the candy's rich, buttery filling.
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
We thought we might be able to do a peanut-butter and jelly thing by bringing together Reese's cups and Campari, but the Italian bitter was just too...bitter. It's possible that another fruity liqueur would work, though. A safer bet Much safer is rye whiskey; Jefferson's Rye offered a nice spicy bite and a toasty grain flavor that complemented the candy's creamy, nutty filling.
Ok, some might argue that this is movie theater candy more than Halloween candy, but I clearly remember savoring the mini-boxes of Junior Mints as part of my two-Halloween-candies-a-night-until-they-go-stale rule growing up.
And creamy mint-filled Junior Mints are extra-delicious when paired with white tequila. It's not a combination we dreamed up by ourselves—ever since we tasted a mint-and-tequila hot cocoa at a Brooklyn bar, we've been infatuated with the combination. The white heat of the tequila is clean and bright and minty; this pairing was one of the clear favorites of our trials. We're guessing it would work for York Peppermint Patties, too.
Sour Patch Kids
This proved the toughest one to crack: the tart-and-tangy flavor of Sour Patch Kids just isn't that booze-friendly. One piece of advice: don't try these with Campari. The bitterness really, really doesn't work here. We also attempted to match Sour Patch Kids with the new Cool Peach vodka from Van Gough, but that emphasized the boozy flavors, not the fruity ones. (And reminded us a little too much of college.) Pisco worked a bit better (we tried Kappa), with delicate fruity flavors is the spirit coming out nicely, but it wasn't quite perfect.
The best match, to our surprise, was the Buffalo Trace Bourbon, which made the candy feel sweeter and offered a little contrast, tasting more like fruit + vanilla cream than fruit + fire.
Tell Us Your Pairings!
Of course, there a lot more candy in your Halloween-night bag. What would you pair with Tootsie Rolls? What about Twizzlers? Have you ever tried booze and chocolate bars? Let us know in the comments below.