These days, it almost seems as if dessert has become a lost art. Far more than just a sweet treat after a meal, we think that dessert should be an experience, one to awaken the senses and leave you with that perfect, contented feeling of fullness.
Of course, if you want a truly magical experience, you’ll need more than fine-dining desserts. Add the perfect drink pairing, and you’ll truly have something special. The right drink pairing will serve to enhance the flavors that are already present in the dessert while adding a few great flavors of its own. Below, we’ve listed seven of our favorite fine-dining desserts and their after-dinner drink soulmates.
1. Wild Turkey and Vanilla Creme Brûlée
In many ways, creme brûlée is the perfect dessert because it’s both rich and nuanced. With just the right amount of sweetness and the perfect ratio of creaminess to crunchiness, creme brûlée is perfect with a hint of vanilla. If you want to upgrade this classic dessert, try it with a glass of Wild Turkey. The sweetness of the bourbon, along with the high proof, will complement the custard in the creme brûlée perfectly.
Wild Turkey can be sipped neat, or you can opt to have it in a mixed drink. However, when pairing it with a dessert like creme brûlée, it doesn’t really need to be combined with anything.
2. Jefferson’s Rum Cask and Bananas Foster
Bananas Foster is a traditional dessert from New Orleans, made by caramelizing brown sugar through igniting rum on bananas and ice cream. The bananas provide the primary flavor, with a nice kick offered by the rum flambé. This is a dessert often offered at more upscale dining establishments, and it needs an equally upscale drink pairing to go along with it. Rum would be an obvious choice, but if you want to kick it up a notch, how about trying Jefferson’s Rum Cask bourbon on the side? Because it’s aged in rum casks, Jefferson’s has the flavor of a fine rum or even a dessert wine, as opposed to a whiskey. Notes of marshmallow and caramelized sugar will be right at home alongside a fine-dining dessert like Bananas Foster.
3. Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye and a Slice of Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a particularly rich dessert, and because of this, it can easily overpower more delicate drinks. Finding something to pair with it can be more of a challenge than one might think, but a high-rye whiskey like Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye might just be up to the challenge. That rye taste will serve to enhance the rich custard flavor of the cheesecake without overpowering it or being overpowered in turn. Cheesecake also works wonderfully with a little bit of fruit. Try it with some blueberry jam to really maximize the flavor combination while you enjoy your dessert.
4. Knob Creek Bourbon with an Apple Crumble
Like many of the desserts on this list, apple crumble brings spices like cinnamon to the forefront and makes for a rich and delicious end to your meal. The apples in an apple crumble bring a different flavor of their very own to the table. Apples are common in desserts because they happen to do incredibly well with various spices. They can also handle a powerful bourbon like Knob Creek. With a high proof and some real zest, Knob Creek has a rich, caramel flavor with notes of maple, notes that just so happen to be excellent with the taste of a perfect apple crumble.
5. Angel’s Envy with Glazed Doughnut Bread Pudding
Bread pudding is commonly made with bourbon sauce, which also makes it a perfect pairing to serve with a glass of some type of bourbon. Like other desserts on this list, it utilizes cinnamon and other slightly warm spices to earn its distinct flavor. Notes of vanilla make it a perfect match for Angel’s Envy, which also has hints of baking spices. The slightly oaky finish of Angel’s Envy also perfectly complements the slight fattiness of the pudding. If you head to a fine dining establishment like Bourbon & Bones, they offer a delicious Glazed Doughnut Bread Pudding, which ups the flavor profile even further, with candied pecans, vanilla ice cream, and an oh-so-exquisite brandy icing.
6. Bone Snapper Rye with a Bourbon Butter Cake
Most of the pairings on this list are complementary—that is, drink flavors that match the desserts they’re paired with—but don’t underestimate a good contrast either. When you attempt to contrast your drink with your dessert, care must be taken, especially when trying to pair with the bold flavors of a rye drink or a rich pound cake. Bourbon Butter Cake is a good, rich, heavy dessert that cries out for a pairing with something equally bold. What about a rye whiskey like Bone Snapper Rye? Wonderfully bold and spicy in its own right, Bone Snapper Rye can be enjoyed neat alongside the deep-fried ice cream and maple pecans that Bourbon & Bones offer on its Bourbon Butter Cake.
7. Bulleit Rye Whiskey and a Scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream
Most of the fine-dining desserts on this list are bold, spicy, and extremely flavorful. In most cases, that’s how dessert should be and how a good bourbon pairing works. A good dessert and drink pairing doesn’t have to make use of spices or fruits or anything else other than something tasty and sweet, however. A simple scoop of ice cream is plenty to enjoy a great pairing. Note, however, that the coldness of the ice cream will mute the flavor of the bourbon somewhat. For this reason, you shouldn’t opt for the most expensive bourbon available, but something smooth and easy to sip will be perfect. We recommend Bulleit Rye Whiskey, but you can pair almost anything here.