Dessert Pairings: Some Wine or Beer With Your Dessert?

Dessert Pairings: Some Wine or Beer With Your Dessert?

Marlo Scott, owner of Sweet Revenge in New York, likes to pair a peanut-butter cupcake with San Huberto Malbec wine.

Don鈥檛 assume that dessert has to be paired with a dessert wine. Restaurateur Marlo Scott likes to enhance sweet dishes鈥 flavor with a wine or beer鈥攆or instance, apple cake with a zesty Sauvignon Blanc or red-velvet cupcakes with a creamy golden ale.


鈥淧eople are surprised to have beer with a cupcake and that it鈥檚 going to work,鈥 says Ms. Scott, owner of Sweet Revenge, a restaurant in New York鈥檚 West Village that offers such pairings.


A sweet dessert may need to be balanced out with a drink that is spicy, crisp or mellow.


鈥淚 don鈥檛 want to do death by sweetness,鈥 she says. 鈥淵ou don鈥檛 want to double down and be overwhelmed by an overpowering sweet dessert with an overly sweet dessert wine.鈥


When looking for a pairing, Ms. Scott follows no hard rules. She keeps an open mind and takes many different sips and bites to see which combinations work. She first considers the flavor profile of the dessert and then searches for notes in the drink that can emphasize those flavors without going overboard.


鈥淭o me, it doesn鈥檛 matter whether I鈥檓 tasting a beer or I鈥檓 tasting a wine,鈥 she says. 鈥淚鈥檓 looking for notes that are going to work well with the dessert.鈥 She may accentuate a spice, a fruit or a nut flavor. 鈥淚鈥檓 looking in the pairing to create something more complex and more interesting by having the bite and the sip together,鈥 she says.


If Ms. Scott has a dessert heavy on fruit flavors, she looks to complement it with spice, cream, nuts or even another fruit. She pairs almond cake and strawberry walnut cream cheese frosting with Fr眉li, a dry strawberry beer from Belgium.


鈥淲e are amplifying the strawberry notes while cutting the sweetness鈥 of the cake, she says.


For a party at home with dessert-and-drinks pairings such as a dessert party or a shower with lots of sweets, she recommends that people first decide whether they want to base the menu around the dessert or the drinks. If you have a favorite dessert, buy some different wines and beers, and take bites and sips until you see what pairing works. If you want to have champagne, then create a dessert around that.


Marlo Scott at Sweet Revenge in New York.

In beer pairings, Ms. Scott looks for unusual flavor combinations. She pairs a Kopparberg pear cider from Sweden and a Valrhona chocolate cake with dark-chocolate truffle. Pear and dark chocolate work well together, she says. The cider 鈥渃ounterbalances the bitterness of the chocolate, provides a little bit of sweetness and makes it a slightly more refreshing experience,鈥 Ms. Scott says.


She pairs her raspberry red-velvet cupcakes with Belhaven, a Scottish ale. In this case, the pairing works because Belhaven鈥檚 creamy nature goes well with the cupcake鈥檚 cream-cheese frosting.


鈥淚 can鈥檛 say with every red-velvet cupcake that you should have a golden ale,鈥 she notes.


Alternatively, people who prefer bubbly drinks can have a cupcake like this with a raspberry Bellini.


An apple cake can be paired with a glass of Simply Naked Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or a glass of Palma Louca, a lager from Brazil. Both the wine and the beer have citrus notes, and that really 鈥渕akes the apple pop,鈥 Ms. Scott says.


Her favorite pairing is a glass of San Huberto Malbec wine from Argentina with a peanut-butter cake that has a ganache filling and peanut butter fudge frosting. Not every Malbec works with this cake, Ms. Scott says.

  • 鈥淚f there are too many tannins, if it it鈥檚 too dry, if it鈥檚 blackberry-noted fruit as opposed to jammier, slightly sweeter berries in the wine, it won鈥檛 work,鈥 she says. But 鈥渢his is a really velvety, very mellow, jammy red from Argentina. That, with the peanut butter, is the ultimate peanut butter and jelly for adults.鈥
  • Write to Polya Lesova at polya.lesova@wsj.com
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