Dinner Etiquette: What Hot Drinks pair Best with Different Desserts

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The details really matter when you think of dining as an experience, and that includes the type of drinks you recommend or serve alongside your restaurant’s desserts. An effective drink pairing can complement the flavor profiles of your after-dinner indulgences and cultivate a memorable experience that will earn your patrons’ trust, and their repeat business.  

Coffee 

Coffee is much more than a tasty jolt of energy in the morning. It is also a prime candidate for a versatile array of dessert pairings. For example, you could go with a classic molten chocolate cake combined with an Irish coffee, as recommended by Sweet Street. Another intriguing albeit more audacious pairing, courtesy of Sift, is a triple espresso martini on the side of a white chocolate mousse-filled cake, topped with cream cheese cookies n cream frosting. If you are more a purist, there is a classic type of coffee to pair with nearly every baked good under the sun – cappuccino with ice cream, a latte with cookies, espresso with French macarons, or a fresh-brewed cup of black coffee with shortbread or flan.  You may want to use an electric coffee grinder to create the smoothest and richest tasting coffee that you can make yourself. 

Tea 

Compared to coffee, tea is somewhat of a newcomer on the dessert scene, but it has proliferated. From green tea flavored Kit Kats and ice cream to chai coffee cake, there is no shortage of creative applications of tea in the desert. When it comes to pairings, teas are surprisingly versatile. A hot and creamy chai tea might go well with a dessert crepe or scones. Earl Gray’s bergamot flavor makes it the perfect complement for citrus desserts such as lemon cake and tarts. Black teas pair nicely with richer dishes such as cheesecake or devil’s food cake. You can also turn to some types of fruit desserts, as fruit tends to be light and isn’t intensely sweet. Peaches can be a great place to start. You could even just try having slices of fresh peach along with your white tea. Honestly, it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. 

A fruit galette is another easy choice. This is a type of tart that tends to have a thin crust that is not too sweet. There’s little risk of overpowering your tea here, especially if you stick to subtle types of fruit rather than those with intense flavors. 

Hot Chocolate 

Sweet foods can be paired with hot chocolate in moderation. Generally, the best sweet food pairings for hot chocolate are sweets with a pronounced flavor, such as mint—anything with peppermint, such as mints, chocolates, candy canes, etc., are a great choice. Try angel food cake drizzled with caramel sauce, crème de menthe liqueur, or limoncello. Caramel candy, dulce de leche, or caramel and sea salt frozen yogurt is also a real treat. Tart, candied fruits, such as candied lemons with the peel make an interesting match; try tart cherries or dried cranberries or mix dried fruit and roasted nuts to add some crunch. 

An important thing to keep in mind with any drink and food pairing is that the aim is to complement—not match—the foods being paired. While it is tempting to dig into a scrumptious chocolate bar alongside a hot chocolate, this is often too much chocolate for the palate to take and enjoy. Instead, look for complementary and contrasting flavors. Chocolate is fantastic with lightly salted foods as well as those that are gently spiced. It is also a delight with a great variety of fruits, particularly the tangy ones like oranges and tart apples. 

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