With Halloween on the horizon, city denizens are gladly letting their skeletons out of the closets into the front yards of their neat residential brownstones in the streets of NYC. Inspired by those extravagant decorations, we decided to do something unusual this year and asked our go-to expert of anything drinkable, John deBary, to create a non-alc sips & candy pairing guide — a treasure for those who want adult drinks but could use a little break from adulting. John took a stroll down memory lane and fused his sweet childhood memories with the extensive knowledge and experience he gained as a mixologist, bartender, and creator of the non-alcoholic botanical beverage brand Proteau. Sit back and get ready to catch this Halloween spirit with John’s Halloween spirits!
Drink & Candy Pairing Guide, As Told by John deBary
Halloween is my favorite holiday. My birthday falls three days prior and as a kid I always had a Halloween-themed party where my friends and I trick-or-treated to the dubious delight of my neighbors. Halloween was also one of the few times a year where my otherwise health-conscious parents would let me overindulge in candy, and I took full advantage of that. (One year I even faked illness plausibly enough so that I could stay home and eat candy the day after.)
Even as an adult, I have not outgrown my compulsive candy consumption. And for better or worse, I have added a few more obsessions in recent decades, including a professional love of all things beverage. These days, it is not out of the ordinary for you to catch me annihilating a bag of gummy bears while sipping on a fancy drink.
When most people think of pairing drinks with food, normal things like lunch and dinner usually come to mind, and for good reason. Savory foods tend to pair well with drinks, which even when they are “dry” contain considerably more sweetness than, say a charcuterie board or spaghetti carbonara. In my last pairing guide, I went through my general pairing principles, but to recap, my two favorite ways of pairing food and drinks are “matching” and “highlighting.” Matching is when you select a drink that is harmonious with the food: matching intensity, aromatics, and textures. Highlighting is when you use a specific characteristic in one item to bring out another element from the other.
Candy poses additional challenges when pairing due to candy’s increased sweetness, acidity, and general lack of aromatic subtlety when compared to more demure savory items. But don’t let that scare you! Here are my top candy-and-drink picks to keep you going this Halloween, whether you’re terrorizing the neighborhood or staying home and watching Event Horizon for the ninth time.
Sovi Sparkline White & Haribo Peaches, or Wild Cherry Sour Sticks
The crisp acidity and perky bubbles in the wine are a perfect accompaniment to the confectionary notes in any fruity gummies. I like Haribo peaches, but if I want a bit more zing, the Brooklyn-based (but originally Hungarian) Paskesz’s Wild Cherry Sour Sticks are coated in a sugar-acid dusting that’s sure to revive even a zombie’s necrotic palate.
Everleaf Forest & Candy Corn
I know candy corn can be polarizing, but I love it. The soft chewy texture and nebulous vanilla-and-caramel notes bring me back to the good old days of having so much candy from trick-or-treating that I had to take off my Beavis mask and use it as an extra bag. I love the spellbinding way that candy corn picks up Everleaf Forest’s saffron and vanilla notes.
Athletic Brewing All Out Stout & Kit-Kats, or Cashew Caramel Turtles
This beer’s semi-sweet malty notes and slight bitterness are a perfect counterpoint to Kit-Kat’s crunchy chocolatey wafers. If you want to class it up a bit, the slight saltiness in a cashew caramel turtle is a great way to showcase how salt can counterbalance bitterness in a drink. Either way, this pairing is to die for.
Domaine Dupont - Jus De Pomme Pétillant & Werther’s Original
This pairing is just two legends maximizing their joint slay. Domaine Dupont has been making sparkling apple cider for over three centuries and it is actually illegal to not give out Werther’s originals to trick-or-treaters. This pairing is a bit obvious: hello caramel apple! But what it lacks in originality it makes up for in visceral deliciousness.
Casamara Club Mellow Ginger & Strawberry (or Pineapple) Wrapped Bon Bons
I’ve been an admirer of Casamara Club’s leisure sodas for years, and have been delighted to follow along as they add more flavors to their portfolio. The Mellow Ginger is great for people who think ginger ale is too sweet and ginger beer is too intense. The low sugar content also makes it great when trying to avoid sugar overload, especially when paired with these hard candies, which are the sweetest of the sweet. Most people know and love the iconic strawberry version, but the under-the-radar pineapple variant might actually be even more delicious.
Proteau Ludlow Red & Mexican Tamarind or Chamoy Candy
When I developed Ludlow Red, I incorporated the licorice root as a way to give the drink a subtle sweetness as a way to balance spicy notes in food. For those of you who have not been introduced to Mexican spicy candies like Pulparindo or these Taki-themed lollipops, you have been missing out. Added bonus if you live in cooler climates during Halloween season: Ludlow Red is wonderful warmed up as a hot toddy.
Avec Spiced Mango and Passionfruit & Chocolate (M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses, etc)
It might not sound like it, but passionfruit and chocolate are a classic pairing. The creamy acidity from the fruit offers a splendid parallel to the buttery-chocolate sweetness that you’ll find in classic individually-wrapped milk chocolate candies like Hershey’s Kisses or fun-size M&M packets.