Monday, November 10, 2014

The Most Comprehensive List of Halloween Candy & Alcohol Pairings Ever Written

Shortly before Halloween, a Facebook friend posted a link to an article titled “7 WinesTo Pair With Your Favorite Halloween Candy”.  My thought at first glance was “OH HELL YES” because while the consumption of sugar and alcohol may for some be an enjoyable pastime, for women in their forties it is an invaluable survival technique that can never be too refined.

Sadly, I quickly noticed a lot of things very wrong with this article.

First, the proclamation, in all caps no less, NO CANDY CORN.  Because, you know, it’s only been around since the late 1800’s and you can absolutely denigrate its standing as a Halloween tradition without anyone telling you to just go ahead and fuck right the hell off now okay bye.

*ahem*

Second, all of her pairings were flavors with like flavors.  Which is not only unimaginative but, as a food professional, she really ought to know better than to create an entire list of nothing but one-note desserts.  Watch any episode of Chopped and see how fast they call you out on that crap.  One-note food is not food anyone wants to keep eating.

Third, the headline claimed it had matches for “your favorite Halloween candy” which is, frankly, unmitigated bullshittery given the number of trick-or-treat classics that were not on the list.  Snickers, for example, was not on the list.  Snickers is the fucking gold standard of Halloween candy, barely edging out Milky Way and Twix, which were also not on the list.  So this article got major points off for incomplete work.

Finally, I get that the woman doing the matching is a master sommelier, but not everyone drinks wine with everything.  Not just this article but so many others like it limit their alcohol imaginations to wine, and there are a lot of other adult beverages out there that deserve representation in this type of research.

So, in the spirit of pairings, I paired up with my very best friend in the whole wide world, Jerry from Muddled Ramblings & Half-Baked Ideas, to compile a truly complete, thoroughly researched, genuinely useful list of the tastiest ways to get hammered while plowing through your kid’s Halloween loot or all those bags you picked up half price on November 3.

Sometimes we started with the candy and worked backward to the drink, sometimes the other way around.  But rest assured each one of these combinations has been personally tasted by us and verified to be pretty frikkin’ awesome.

You’re welcome.

It all starts with a well-equipped research facility


PEEPS & ABSINTHE


This pairing was so obvious in retrospect that we were literally angry at ourselves for not immediately realizing how perfect it was and trying other things with absinthe first.  It’s alcohol you’re specifically supposed to add sugar to before you drink it.  Peeps don’t pretend to be anything other than pure sugar.  Add your preferred amount of water to your absinthe sans sugar, and dunk your Peeps.  This is everything good about childhood and adulthood all in one sitting.


CANDY CORN & GRAND MARNIER


The “NO CANDY CORN” haters can seriously just suck it.  This combination tastes like orange pound cake with the added advantage of taking longer to chew and consequently staying in your mouth and on your taste buds longer than cake does, and they’re missing out on all of that.  They don’t deserve to have this.


CHARLESTON CHEW & ZOMBIE ZIN ZINFANDEL


Much as I tend to shy aware from novelty bottles, this was reviewed well enough that I had to grab one for this particular research project.  I’m very glad I did.  Not only was it totally thematically relevant to the task at hand, it’s one of the tastiest bottles you’re likely to find in its price range.  The website promises flavors of cinnamon, cola, and black pepper, all of which are present and perfectly compliment milk chocolate and vanilla nougat while mitigating the potentially cloying experience that Charleston Chew can be if not handled properly.


BUTTERFINGER & SAILOR JERRY SPICED RUM


Butterfinger is one of those things that can very quickly become overwhelming in its own awesomeness, and you want something to alleviate that without taking over completely.  Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum is ballsy enough in its own right to stand next to Butterfinger in a t-shirt that reads “Yeah, I’m Sailor Jerry” without the two coming to blows.  Its 92-proofness cuts easily through BF’s dense chocolaty buttery nutty morass, leaving behind a strong hint of cinnamon that is not at all ashamed to step up and say “You know what would go great with me?  Another Butterfinger.”  It’s basically the Trick-or-Treat circle of life.


PAYDAY & BÄRENJÄGER


Remember that one time you said “gee, I sure wish peanut butter & honey sandwiches were 60 proof candy bars, if only that could be”?  Well, achievement unlocked.  Congratulations.




My partner-in-research crime is not as crazy about this combination as I am, but that has more to do with him not liking the Sweet Tea vodka than any issues with the pairing itself.  Because the pairing itself tastes like chai, if chai were chewy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside and 60 proof.  I think soothing beverages would be far more soothing if they were all like that.




Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  I opened this article calling out someone for being boring and pairing flavors with like flavors.  But I’m only doing it this one time, because soda-flavored candy and soda-flavored alcohol is basically just a crunchy soda.  That will get you drunk.  And mixing the non-root beer-flavored Bottle Caps with root beer-flavored booze is charmingly reminiscent of being a kid and mixing a little of each different kind of soda from the fountain like we all used to do.  With the addition of getting you drunk.  The vodka is not quite as sugary and considerably more potent, but the hard root beer replicates the soda-drinking experience better, so pick your priority and drink accordingly.


PEANUT BUTTER KISSES & GUINNESS


Like candy corn, the peanut butter kiss is another Halloween classic that is sadly far too often denigrated or overlooked.  Which makes no sense to me because these things are awesome.  But the combined powers of peanut butter and taffy really need something to mitigate them, and Guinness is the right tool for the job.  First, the malty, earthy flavor creates a perfect backdrop for a salty-sweet candy without calling too much attention to itself.  Second, it’s cold, bubbly and, for all its dark stoutness (and not at all in a bad way), somewhat watery, thereby creating the illusion of quenching thirst.  Third, it’s only 126 calories a bottle, so you can eat the whole bag of kisses in a single sitting without guilt.  Which, you know, I’ve heard some people do that.


PLAIN M & M’S & UV BLUE RASPBERRY VODKA


Everybody knows that chocolate and raspberries go together like raspberries and chocolate.  What needed to be kept in mind here is that while a candy shell doesn’t add much as a flavor component, it does add another level of pure sugar.  Vodka, while also not adding much as a flavor component, does add burn.  So candy shell and vodka burn mysteriously elevate each other while simultaneously cancelling each other out, and chocolate and raspberry live happily ever after as they’ve been doing pretty much since the dawn of time.




Let me just state for the record that I am fully aware this combination has absolutely no fucking right to work.  None.  Seriously.  It is an abomination in the eyes of all that is sacred for milk chocolate-covered sweet fruit and a beverage that describes itself as “dessert in a bottle” to even be able to coexist in my house without random instances of spontaneous furniture combustion.   But it does.  Raisinets have an underlying tartness that you don’t always notice while you’re eating them but is what makes it so easy to finish the entire box before you even realize you have.  The same goes for this bottle.  So the sweetness of the chocolate hits the tartness of the wine as the sweetness of the wine hits the tartness of the raisins and on it goes until they’re both gone and you have no idea what just happened but it was really really really good.




If Cinnabon were alcohol, it would be this.  Just make sure you get the Hot Damn 100 Proof, otherwise it’s like if Cinnabon were alcohol but the trainee at the counter put on 6 times more icing than they were supposed to.  But if you get the stronger stuff, it has the perfect amount of spice and burn to bring out all the sweet buttery best in the Sugar Babies.


YORK PEPPERMINT PATTIE / JUNIOR MINTS & PINNACLE WHIPPED CREAM VODKA


Mint is tricky, primarily due to its attitude being “because fuck you, I’m mint” when put in the same space as any other flavors.  Chocolate is basically the denim of candy, it goes with any and everything without fuss, perfectly content in the knowledge of its indispensability.  But try to add anything else to the mix, and mint gets its back up and comes out swinging.  Mint is seriously a little bitch like that.  Pinnacle Whipped Vodka works perfectly by adding a flavor that’s actually less of a flavor than a creamy backdrop to mint’s diva-esque insistence on hogging the limelight.




Everything you love about Rocky Road, with the added benefit of being 60 proof!




As a child of the 70’s, I have a deep abiding fondness for and loyalty to the desserts of my youth.  One of those desserts is the Bavarian Jello Mold.  It was everything both right and wrong with that decade; loaded with sugar, in colors and textures that nature never intended food to be, and very very wiggly.  Skittles and Marshmallow Vodka recreate that experience beautifully, with the advantage of a new fruit flavor with every bite, instead of every 4 to 6 hours or overnight for best results.


BABY RUTH & JIM BEAM HONEY


Similar to the Payday-Bärenjäger pairing, this duo brings out all the very best that peanuts and honey together can be.  The Jim Beam Honey, however, has more kick and bite to it than the Bärenjäger, making it a more suitable companion for a milk chocolate-covered bar.  Baby Ruth is much like Butterfinger in that regard, it needs a drink that isn’t just going to sit there and let it take over.


PEANUT M & M’S & UNRULY CHARDONNAY


No alcohol & candy-pairing research project could commence without a bottle handy that says “Unruly” right on the label.  It helped that it was on sale and got really good reviews, but it had to be included just for the name.  Fortunately, since even we wouldn’t waste your candy-eating time on just a cool name, it’s amazing with peanut M & M’s.  The website promises “tropical fruit with a hint of spice, massive flavors of pineapple, vanilla cream and Meyer lemon”.  The spice and vanilla aren’t as discernible as the Unruly marketing department would have you believe, but they are not kidding about the pineapple and Meyer lemon, and that’s what works here, all that pineapply citrusy goodness holding hands with the peanuts while the dryness of the chard keeps the chocolate and candy shell sweetness in check.


HEATH BARS & NEIGE APPLE ICE WINE


Neige Apple Ice Wine is my new favorite thing.  It’s a big bold beautiful blast of appley goodness, crisp and sharp and sweet in that just-ripe-fruit-that’s-not-too-sugary way.  So all on its own, it’s the majority of what’s right with the world, and unfairly awesome as so many things Canadian are.  Paired with Heath Bars, it’s the rest of what’s right with the world.  These flavors compliment each other so perfectly it’s almost scary.  It’s like apple crumble with chocolate sauce.  Which is like silk-lined footie pajamas for your taste buds.  So basically I can die now.




You’ve got your fruitiness paired up with the sweetness of the coconut, and your spiciness paired up with the bitterness of the dark chocolate, and your whiskiness chaperoning the whole little dance to make sure no one flavor starts to think it’s running the show.  The end result is very very comfortable.  Which is all Martin Wilkes Heron ever wanted for you.




When we started this project, we cautioned ourselves against the dangers of assuming that, just because two candies seemed almost identical on the surface, they would pair well with the same drink.  Rolo & Maker’s works for two reasons.  First, because bourbon’s inherent spiciness goes well with the relative neutrality of milk chocolate and caramel.  Second, because, much as Maker’s devotees will argue otherwise, it is not the smoothest bottle out there, and that slight harshness is actually necessary to cut the sugariness of Rolo caramel, which is definitely more sugary than buttery.

Right about now you might be thinking “well, if it goes with Rolo, it must go with Milk Duds!”  Which is precisely what we thought but, in the interest of thorough sciencing, we had to test that hypothesis before including it in our final report.  And it proved not true.  What proved true was




Milk Duds are far less sugary and far more buttery than Rolo, and all of that was drowned out by Maker’s Mark.  Milk Duds wanted something considerably smoother.  Milk Duds wanted to be wooed by the 80 proof equivalent of a rakish smile and a white linen suit.  They wanted a little vanilla, a little ginger, they wanted romance.  And that is precisely what they got from Bacardi.

At this point, my lab partner said “you know, Bacardi hasn’t made any promises, Bacardi isn’t committed here, Bacardi is just having fun and there’s no reason why Bacardi can’t change partners for the next dance.”  The next dance was


ALMOND JOY & BACARDI CARTA BLANCA


There is a lot to be said for this combination, most of which rhymes with “reminiscent of piña coladas with bonus points for chocolate”.  This was Jerry’s preferred pairing, and it was really really good.  I would endorse it unconditionally had I not discovered just a few moments earlier the almond joys of


ALMOND JOY & PATRÓN AÑEJO


With Almond Joy & Bacardi, the spotlight is on the coconut, which is not a bad thing at all, but there is more to an Almond Joy than coconut.  Specifically, there is almond.  While there is enough citrus in the Patrón to enhance the sweetness of the coconut without making it any sweeter than it already is, what really works here is the smokiness of the tequila bringing out all the very best of everything we know and love about almonds and bringing them to the forefront of this candy-eating experience where their name insists they have every right to be.


NERDS & GIN & TONIC


Another paring that was so obvious in retrospect that we kicked ourselves a little before settling down to just enjoy it for the crisp, bubbly, fruity delight that it is.  Make your G&T sans citrus.  The Nerds are your citrus.  It’s genius.  Gin genius.  Ginius.  Yes.  That.


HERHSEY’S SPECIAL DARK & BLACK RUSSIAN


We thought this one would be easy.  We thought “pfffffffffft, no problem, everybody knows dark chocolate & red wine, we can match this in our sleep.”  Then Hershey’s Special Dark giggled its evil little Village of the Damned giggle and proceeded to elude us at every turn.  Which is not to say it was bad with the few wines we tried it with, but the combinations were always just a bit too tangy or too acidic or too sweet in the wrong way or or or or or to make us really say “WOW, yes, this, THIS is what you do with Hershey’s Special Dark.”  Then I said to myself, “You need to forget this dedication to drunken debauchery for a moment, and think about your relationship with dark chocolate and what makes it work.  Specifically, think about your jaw-droppingly amazing dark chocolate cupcakes.  What makes them as special as they are?”  Then the fog lifted and the clouds parted as I said “The answer is espresso.”  And the answer to Hershey’s Special Dark is coffee liqueur, with enough vodka to tame the sugar and allow the bitterness of both the chocolate and the coffee to shine.  Even Jerry, the dedicated tea drinker who doesn’t even like coffee, was in complete agreement on this one.

But all was not lost in our attempts to pair Special Dark with red wine because we just happened to have a bottle open when this happened.




Shiloh Road Cab always gets very mixed reviews, for whatever reason it’s just one of those things that people either love or hate.  I’ve always liked it, and when I saw it on sale during the pre-research alcohol purchasing binge, I grabbed a couple of extra bottles just to have, even if it didn’t ultimately become part of the document you’re now reading.  But then it did because Halloween is all about being a kid again, and the combination of this cab’s slight jamminess and even slighter chocolatiness with the maltiness of the Whoppers makes it like the 21-and-over equivalent of a PB&J and a glass of Ovaltine.


TWIX & DISARONNO


Twix is very close to being nature’s most perfect food.  The things that keep it from claiming that title are the milk chocolate being just a smidge too sweet, and the cookie center not being almond shortbread.  Then in walks Disaronno like the Botticelli of liqueurs, and Twix, from a sea of sugary chocolate and somewhat bland crunch, emerges as the goddess of balanced sweetness and almondy beauty we always knew it could be.




Chewy gummy candy wants something sharp and bubbly to keep your mouth from just giving up and folding in on itself from the chewy gumminess of it all.  Our first thought was, of course, champagne, but that didn’t work here as well as we’d anticipated.  Gummi Bears of all flavors have two things in common; they are all insanely sweet, and they all taste vaguely like pineapple and citrus.  The sharpness of the apple in this cider cuts through the sweetness and stickiness of the bears, with the ginger standing by to enhance their pineapple-and-citrusness.

And speaking of ginger standing by to enhance things,


REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS & CRABBIE’S GINGER BEER


Holy mother of tits this is amazing.  It’s like if you went trick-or-treating and all your neighbors were handing out chocolate-covered Thai food.  Since peanut butter and ginger are two of the best things that ever happened to having taste buds, and cold beer is one of the best things that ever happened to being thirsty, all of these things combine to become several of the best things that ever happened to being a grown-up at Halloween.

But getting back to what champagne goes with,


DOTS & CHAMPAGNE


Dots manage to best even Gummi Bears in the arena of gummy sticky sweetness, but I’ve always had and likely always will have a fondness for them.  Part of it is because I remember them being sold in the vending machine at the bowling alley where I went as a kid, and what candy-and-booze-paring article would be complete in its sheer classiness without at least one reference to a bowling alley?  As with GB’s pineapple-and-ginger-ness, Dots of all flavors also have one flavor in common, what culinary pros refer to as oh-dear-God-so-much-sugar-ness.  Champagne is the right answer here, but clearly you do not want to waste the good stuff on a Halloween candy binge.  My go-to when I want chuggable-without-regard-for-expense bubbly is Mumm Napa Brut Prestige because it’s really dry and I like really dry.  But in the interests of staying as classy as we’re trying to be here, I’ll let you in on something I discovered last year; for the price, Kirkland champagne is reeeeally fucking good.




This combination works for many of the same reasons the peanut M & M’s/Unruly chard pairing does.  Peanuts and citrus play very well together and, Hershey’s miniatures landing as they do at the very sugary end of the spectrum, the acidity of the grapefruit works wonders to balance the borderline-overpowering sweetness of the chocolate, with the yeastiness of the beer adding a sort of peanut butter sandwichy note to the whole thing.


HERSHEY’S MILK CHOCOLATE MINIATURES & LINDEMAN’S FRAMBOISE LAMBIC


Yes, again with the chocolate & raspberry pairing, but there’s a reason it’s been around since the Earth first cooled.  BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME.  However, different chocolate calls for different applications of raspberry and, while the Hersey’s Milk Chocolate Mini is indeed a trick-or-treat staple, there is no denying it is not the greatest chocolate ever made, and its sugariness and waxiness need to be addressed and compensated for.  The slight sourness and acidity of raspberry lambic handles the first problem, and the carbonated coldness makes quick work of the second.




In our Halloween-candy-purchasing binge, all signs pointed to Hi-Chew having usurped the position formerly held by Starburst as the go-to for fruit chew candies, so it’s what we grabbed for this project.  Hi-Chew was developed as an alternative to gum for people who don’t want to be stuck with gum when they don’t want to chew it anymore, and all the flavors do have a distinct chewing gum taste even though the individual fruit flavors are clearly discernible.  Hakutsuru draft sake, light clean simple beverage that it is, worked really well with all four Hi-Chew flavors, sitting peacefully in the background and letting its floralness wash gently over their different fruitinesses.  The whole thing is pretty Zen.




The thing about Snickers is that there are a lot of things about Snickers, and they’re all happening at the same time.  You’ve got the sweetness of the chocolate, the maltiness of the nougat, the saltiness of the peanuts, and the butteriness of the caramel, all vying for your attention and triple-dog-daring you to try to add another flavor to the mix without bringing the whole thing crashing down on your head.  Vanilla approaches each of the existing flavor components as the beautiful individual that it is and says “let me compliment you” while the vodka addresses the crowd as a whole and says “I will kick all of your asses if you don’t find a way to get along”  with just the right amount of its gloriously all-inclusive burn.




This is like a caramel apple without all the pesky health benefits of eating fruit.  Woodchuck Granny Smith is super tart, which is so perfect with the sweetness of all that milk chocolate and caramel, and the crispy rice mimics the apple-eating experience so well that, if you close your eyes and really focus, you can almost convince yourself you actually are eating fruit.  If, you know, that’s what you’re in to.


TWIZZLERS & NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE


Allow me to say two things before I go any further.  First, I agree that in the realm of red interpretations of licorice, Red Vines are superior to Twizzlers in flavor, texture, and overall likeability, but Twizzlers are the more common trick-or-treat offering so that’s why they were included here.  Second, yes, read that paring description again and know that I am joining you as you say slowly to yourself “what exactly the actual fuck am I being asked to believe here?”  I wouldn’t believe it either if I hadn’t tried it, but these two things work together really well, and the reason is two-fold.  First, the chewiness of Twizzlers is of the bland bready sort.  Second, behind their gummy fruity sugariness, Twizzlers have a slight saltiness to them.  It’s their secret weapon superpower, the thing that keeps you eating them when all tests of reasonableness insist you should have stopped long ago.  That bready saltiness meets up with the nuttiness of the Newcastle and creates in your subconscious a sense of beer & pretzels, even as you’re absolutely sure there are no pretzels anywhere nearby and you should cease this insanity at once.  It’s haunting and unsettling and oddly addictive.  Try it at your own risk.




Poor Kit Kat spent the majority of this research in the always-a-bridesmaid corner.  We’d try it with something and say “oh yeah, that’s good” then try that something with something else and say “yeah, sorry Kit Kat, this is waaaaaay better”.  But patience is a virtue and will be rewarded, as it eventually was for Kit Kat in a classic case of opposites attracting.  Where KK is light, the stout is heavy; where she is airy, the stout is dense; where her chocolate is sugary, the stout’s is dark and slightly bitter.  These two balance each other perfectly, and complete each other in that totally-right-not-at-all-flashy-see-you-on-your-50th-anniversary kind of way.


MILKY WAY & BRANDY


Milky Way created a very Snickers-like dilemma, a lot going on and a high risk of crash & burn if another flavor was added to the existing sweet-malty-buttery mix.  Fortunately, about a hundred years ago, a bartender in New York inadvertently helped us out by creating the Brandy Alexander, which is basically what you’re eatdrinking here.  And yeah, there’s a reason it’s been around for a century.  Go try it, we’ll wait.  Actually, no we won’t, because you’re not coming back.


3 MUSKETEERS & GLÖGG


3 Musketeers was another that we thought would be easy, and was actually the very last thing we were able to match.  We must have tried it with half a dozen things without ever finding That Certain Something.  Everything we tried with 3M worked fine with the chocolate part of it, but the nougat was sort of left in the “meh” corner, which is bad news for a bar that’s mostly nougat.  A couple of different reds were close, but it still needed something more.  That’s when I broke out the glögg mix, and magic ensued, because red wine was only the first part of the answer.  The second part was spice.  Turns out all the nougat ever wanted was cinnamon and cardamom and pepper to raise it out of its chewy slightly corky blandness, which is really not so much to ask for all that it gives in return.  What it gives in return is a truly magical cross between mulled wine and Mexican hot chocolate, and if that doesn’t sound like one of the best things you could ever hope for, then you and I probably shouldn’t be friends anymore.

~~~
NOTES

1- Skittles, particularly the yellow ones, make a really good palate cleanser between bouts of chocolate-eating.

2- Kit Kat almost made it out of the always-a-bridesmaid corner earlier in the research by being paired with Blueberry Passion Schnapps.  This is not an ideal pairing as it ends up being incredibly sweet, but it does taste a bit like chocolate blueberry pancakes, and for that reason we deemed it worthy of annotation.

3- For our glögg, I used Saturnus Glögg Mix and Bogle Merlot, and can recommend that combination quite highly, but there are a lot of good wines and glögg recipes out there, so we encourage you to experiment.

4- You may notice, in reading over this list, the omission of both Crunch and Krackle.  This was not an oversight on our part, nor was the omission deliberate.  We just could not find anything that went with either of these well enough to be included here.  So if you have any suggestions for either of these, please feel free to leave them in the comments.


6 comments:

  1. you should submit this to buzzfeed or something. seriously, this is worthy of viral attention. also, send me your leftovers plz. <4

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    Replies
    1. I was a bit late in posting to have it be relevant this year, but next year, yes, I will submit it for potential virality.

      Also, what leftovers? <4

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    2. aww, you drank all the barenjager D:

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  2. Seriously impressed! No doubt this should be more broadly published!

    ReplyDelete