As Halloween approaches, adults everywhere are faced with the usual questions: How sexy is too sexy when it comes to costumes? How much candy can you confiscate from your children before you become a monster? And, most importantly, can you pair alcohol with that stolen candy—and if so, how does one do that with the best results?
That last bit is crucial, because as anyone who has eaten a Butterfinger and then swallowed some tannic cabernet knows, sometimes candy makes booze taste like ass. That’s often due to the fact that most candy—especially the stuff you’ll find in a kid’s typical pumpkin-shaped Halloween receptacle—is pretty much all sugar, unlike more structured desserts. But don’t despair—you can absolutely pair alcohol with candy. All it takes is adherence to two simple rules:
- Match or contrast. When pairing candy and alcohol, you can match the candy’s taste profile, or you can try to contrast it. In general, you’ll have a lot more luck matching than contrasting because of all that sugar—there’s just not a lot of complexity in most candy to play off of.
- Go as sweet or sweeter. With some exceptions, you’ll want to match candy with booze that’s as sweet or sweeter. Anything dry will taste really bitter and gross if you’re snacking on something super sweet between sips: that means wines that can be described as light and fruity, or flavored whiskeys.
If you’re ready to dive into your candy stash and find some booze that goes well with it, here are some great pairings to try for a more elevated candy experience.
Regular Skittles or sour Skittles and Muscat
Skittles—and sour Skittles especially—have a tangy, acidic flavor, and according to sommelier Samantha Wall, you’ll want to match that level acidity in your pairing. It may seem counterintuitive, but pairing acidic flavors makes them seem less aggressive by comparison, highlighting the sweet. She recommends an off-dry, high acidity muscat like the Nova 7 to complement these tiny morsels of tart sweetness. If you have a hard time finding that exact Nova Scotian wine, ask your local wine purveyor for an “off-dry, slightly sparkling wine with high acidity.”
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Kit Kats and tawny port
Kit Kats are super sweet, with a sugary milk chocolate over a sugary cookie wafer. Sommelier Samantha Wall points to a tawny port (i.e., a port made from red grapes aged in wooden barrels, then blended to attain a flavor profile) with a high alcohol content to complement that chocolatey sweetness. The high alcohol of this wine will transform the chocolate into a melty swirl in your mouth, while the nutty accents of a tawny port will underscore the wafer part nicely. You’ll wonder why you haven’t been sipping port with your Kit Kats your whole life.
Snickers and ruby port
A ruby port is a fortified dessert wine, which means it’s pretty high alcohol (18%-22% ABV), which makes it an ideal pairing with a Snickers bar, according to sommelier Jeff Anderson. Snickers bars are made up of chocolate, caramel, and nuts. Splashing some ruby port in your mouth with a bite of that will not only accentuate the sweetness, but also add a layer of fruitiness—specifically, cherry and berries—transforming your Snickers experience into something altogether unique.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and sherry
According to Wine Enthusiast’s Fiona Adams, another option to pair with your peanut-buttery goodness is sherry, specifically the Amontillado—for an extra spooky Halloween meta reference—or the Oloroso, which have a natural nuttiness that will enhance and be enhanced by the Peanut Butter Cup’s flavor profile while balancing the sweetness in these all-time favorite candies.
Butterfingers and tawny ports
Another peanut-butter-based favorite, Butterfingers have a slightly different mouthfeel and flavor profile than Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—less creamy and more crunchy. Sommelier Jeff Anderson says this is another win for a tawny port, which will offer toffee and caramel notes to the Butterfinger. Basically, sipping some port here will enhance the fundamental flavors of the candy.
Starbursts and riesling
With a chewy, fruity candy experience like Starburst, you’ll want an alcohol pairing that doesn’t interfere with the fruit flavors while countering the acidity. Sommelier Samantha Wall pairs Starbursts with a spätlese riesling, with its lower alcohol and high acidity, will bring out the sweetness of your Starbursts without adding unnecessary fruitiness to the experience. The end result will be a heightened Starburst flavor.
Candy corn and prosecco
Ah, candy corn—the most- and least-loved candy of all time. We can argue all day whether this has any other flavor aside from “sugar,” but you can’t deny how sweet this candy is. According to Wine Enthusiast’s Fiona Adams, bubbles will help here—bubbles can cleanse the sugar coating out of your mouth, sharpening the experience. A crisp, fruit-forward prosecco—think green apple notes—is a good choice.
Gummy bears and chardonnay
Gummy candies are a one-way ticket to a sugar high, and you might think they’d be impossible to pair with a wine. But according to sommelier Matthew Conway, gummy candies pair really well with a very mineral chardonnay that counteracts the sugary gumminess, like the Patchwork Chardonnay from Tissot.