Tricky Pairings for Halloween

booze and candy
booze and candy

Photos by Emma Criswell,  

I adore Halloween. Having an October birthday causes me to be even more excited about the holiday. As a child, my costume planning for trick-or-treat began right around Easter, for college I chose Ohio University (aka the school with one of the largest Halloween parties in the U.S.), and once alcohol became involved, candy pairing seemed a natural step.

Halloween candy and wine pairings aren’t a new thing; I went to my first soirée back in 2009. Dressed as Medusa, I remember enjoying a Brachetto and Snickers pairing, the classic combination of buttery chardonnay with candy corn, and/or candy pumpkins, and of course, California cabernet sauvignon with Bottle Caps.

There is a reason these pairings work, and they work by applying the same pairing knowledge that sommeliers use to match your appetizers and entrées to your drink of choice. For example, that buttery chardonnay plays really well with the creamy vanilla of candy corn; the prominent cola notes in California cabernet brighten and enliven the cola notes in Bottle Caps. This is why I love Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit’s annual Wine, Spirits & Candy Tasting. They understand the thought and finesse that goes into each flavor profile. The owner, Tom Geniesse, believes a candy pairing is just as important as one with filet mignon. “We brainstorm classic candy and pairing ideas until we have a winner.  I like the humor baked into the event, but I really love seeing people's reactions to the flavor play. Chef's and sommeliers spend hours working on ideal pairings for their recipes. Mixologists experiment endlessly to find the perfect flavor blend for a spirit. Bottlerocket thinks candy deserves some respect too.“

This year, the 10th anniversary of the tasting will be held on Friday, October 30th, at 5:00pm. Below are three of my favorites (and most hilarious names) from the tasting.

The G-Spot: Ebner-Ebenauer Grüner Veltliner & Gummy Fingers

candy for booze pairing
candy for booze pairing

Clean and fruity is the name of the game here. If you’ve never tasted Grüner, it’s clean, crisp, fruity and bracingly acidic. The darling of Austrian winemaking loves the clean, fruitiness of gummy fingers, especially the green apple and lemon varieties, though my favorite is always orange. The candy picks up and exemplifies the fruitiness, rather than the acid of gruner.

The Jersey Housewife: Angelo Nero d’Avola & Ferraro Rocher

This pairing is as much about terroir as taste. Ferrero Rocher hazelnuts come from Alba, Italy; part of the Piemonte wine region. While Nero d’Avola hails from a much warmer climate in Sicily, the Ferraro already knows how to pair with wine. The sweet, creamy, nuttiness of the chocolate and hazelnut play up the beautiful, plummy, earthy notes of the wine; while the fat in the chocolate calms down the sometimes tongue tying tannin of Nero d’Avola.

Rocky Mountain High: Breckenridge Bourbon & Cow Tales

“You haven't lived until you've had a sip of bourbon with a caramel” says Tom, and he’s right, this pairing is fantastic.

Breckenridge,  is blended with bourbon from Colorado, Tennessee, and Kentucky which lends traditional flavors from all three states to the profile of the bourbon; most notably, the sugary fat content of the Cow Tale caramel smoothes the bourbon without the use of water, or ice. After you’ve noticed that, you’ll notice how the toasty caramel notes from the casks where the bourbon was aged mingle with the sweet caramel notes of the Cow Tale. Heavenly.

Have some other candy and booze pairing ideas? We'd love to hear about them!