We’re still trying to determine if love is blind, but one thing’s for sure, it’s not flavorless. If the way to the heart is through the stomach, there’s no better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with indulgent cocktails or wine, paired with candy. Alcohol is usually sipped with savory food and while serving it with sweets is a slightly unusual combo, in this case, opposites really do attract.
But just like love, to work well, the chemistry must be right. That means that every type of wine and liquor has its candy counterpart soulmate which is determined based on balance and its inherent qualities. While one pairing can form a perfect union on the tongue, another can leave a bad taste in your mouth for a long time.
Whether you’re celebrating the love you have for a partner, your family, or yourself, these alcohol and candy pairings will create an unforgettable and delicious memory. We’ve enlisted wine and spirits experts to spill their pairing secrets and ensure that this Valentine’s Day love is in the air, in the glass, and on a plate.
Elizabeth McCall, Master Distiller at Woodford Reserve recommends pairing a decadent chocolate treat with bourbon because the “flavors are rich and similar to the taste of dark chocolate,” she explains. McCall teamed up with Compartés chocolatier Jonathan Grahm to create a limited-edition bundle featuring Woodford Reserve Double Oaked with exclusive Compartés chocolates that feature flavors of butterscotch, pear nutmeg, oak smoked salt caramel, and maple pecan, because the flavors enhance each other. She points out that because each bourbon will have its own distinct flavor characteristics so, “When pairing chocolate with bourbon in general, I recommend you experiment with different profiles and find the pairing that works for you.”
The nectar of the Gods is an obvious choice for celebrating love Dana Spaulding, founder + CEO of Wander + Ivy shares some intricacies for making the perfect match. “Pairing chocolate with wine often involves finding complementary flavors, such as matching dark chocolate with red wine for rich and robust combinations,” she says.
But when it comes to sugar candies, Spaulding shares they pair best with white or rosé wine because their crispness and fruitiness “can help balance the sweetness levels and enhance the overall tasting experience.” Another tip, “opt for lighter candies with fruit or floral notes to pair with the delicate flavors of white and rosé wines,” she explains. She highlights that citrus-flavored candies in particular work well with white and rosé wines.
Paul Sloan the owner and vigneron of Small Vines Wines agrees with Spaulding’s assessment and offers an alternate method. “You can either match like characteristics with like, or go Yin and Yang, like tart with sweet wine, or a sweet candy with a high acid wine,” he says.
Smokey Mezcal might not be the first spirit that comes to mind for a Valentine’s Day pairing treat but Sydney Block, co-founder of Catedral Mezcal shares, “artisanal mezcal pairs best with chocolate because the complex and unique flavors… cuts through the sugary notes in chocolate and highlights the deep flavors of artisanal chocolate.” She also points out that, “Both artisanal mezcal and artisanal chocolate have terroir — which means their flavors are influenced by the earth, how the plants are grown, how they’re harvested and fermented to make the final product.”
For mezcals that have a bright citrus profile, she suggests pairing it with a blueberry or raspberry-flavored chocolate. “Our Mexicano mezcal has a bright citrus profile that is the perfect complement to the notes of fruity chocolate and its lightly smoked taste enhances the deep berry flavors of dark chocolate and awakens the palette in a delightful way,” she says.
It’s impossible to celebrate Valentine’s Day without a bottle of bubbly and Pauline Lhote, director of winemaking at Chandon California, has some words of wisdom to keep the night full of romance. “The basic rule for pairing sparkling wine with candy or sweets is the same as pairing wine with savory food: the wine should complement and enhance the flavors,” she shares. Non-oenophiles can keep it simple by focusing on the sparkling wine style. “Brut bubbles pair best with mild sweetness or more creamy, buttery flavors - think Valentine’s Day desserts like cheesecake, apple tarts, or creme brûlée,” she says. “Pink or rosé bubbles can often hold up to chocolate (especially dark chocolate candies or sweets) as well as red berry desserts.”
Wine & Spirits Candy Pairings Rules Of Thumb
The last thing anyone wants to do on Valentine’s Day is stress over picking the right items, so our experts have a few tips before you head to the store to pick out your tasty treats. Because wine labels don't share much info on the flavor profiles, Spaulding advises asking an expert at the store to share the key flavors of the wine you’re considering purchasing. “Once you identify some of those flavors (e.g. fruity with hints of peaches and strawberry), then turn to our suggested pairings,” she says.
Lastly, she has a word of caution, saying that even on Valentine’s Day there can be too much of a good thing. She doesn’t recommend serving super sugary treats and sweet dessert wine like Moscato together. “The sugar can be overbearing,” she warns.
In Sloan’s opinion, it’s best to splurge for Valentine’s Day. “Fine wines deserve fine candy — and so does your Valentine. Candy with shorter ingredient lists and more natural flavors will go better with wines made with the same integrity.
When it comes to bourbon, there’s one sweet treat McCall doesn’t think makes a perfect union. “I would avoid anything too spicy, something like a cinnamon red hot will burn up your taste buds and take away from the bourbon,” she says.
Ahead, expert-approved wine and spirits candy pairings to make your day sweeter (and boozier), whether you’re traveling down the tunnel of love with a partner or celebrating the love in your life solo.
Double Oaked Bourbon & Compartés Chocolate Collection Bundle
McCall recommends this as a Valentine’s Day gift to loved ones, or yourself. “The flavors are such a treat and really are a little luxury in every bite. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is an elevated step up from your everyday bourbon and Compartés is the ultimate luxury chocolate, making them a desirable treat to celebrate with,” she says.
Wander + Ivy Rosé + Dylan's Candy Bar Sour Pucker Lips
Spaulding calls the dry rosé and sour gummies a “delicious and playful pairing.” She’s also fond of how the notes of raspberry, strawberry, and apples in the rosé complement the fruitiness of the candy.
Catedral Mezcal + Ben B Coco Bon Bons
If you’re looking to get in the mood with food (and liquor), Block says this pairing of two artisanal delicacies is the perfect union that offers amazing smoky and sweet flavors to surprise and stimulate your palette (and libido). “Catedral Mezcal is made to be sipped and savored… Ben B Coco Bon Bons are beautifully hand painted and filled with blasting aromas and flavors such as passion fruit caramel and tonka beans and in-house roasted nuts,” she says.
Small Vines TBH Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019 + Farm Chocolate
According to Sloan, you can’t go wrong pairing the bold and delicious red wine with any of these Farm Chocolates to cap off your Valentine’s Day. “The wine is so complex it has notes of all of the components found in the chocolate,” he shares.
Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio + Sweet & Sour Candies
Pinot Grigio and sweet and sour candies are a match made in heaven for Valentine’s Day. The fresh fruit flavor and crispness of pinot grigio pair well with light, fresh, flavors and balances the sweetness and tartness of the candy. Cupid would definitely point his arrow towards these two.
Chandon Etoile Rosé + Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
Lhote calls this bottle “a true star” because it combines the very best of each vintage’s highest quality blocks from Chandon’s Carneros estate vineyard with the incredible versatility of sparkling rosé. “Its opulent flavors of cocoa powder and red berries make it absolutely delicious with chocolate-covered strawberries,” she says.