Dinner is over. Your guests have enjoyed your thoughtfully planned meal, and now it’s time for something sweet. We know you have good taste (otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this blog!), and that you’d want the whole meal – including dessert – to be accompanied by beverages that complement the flavors of the food. However, if you’re like us, you may not know where to begin, other than the simple answer of “coffee and tea.” Or, perhaps you have a particular beverage in mind, but don’t know what types of dessert would be best served (no pun intended) by its particular characteristics.

Below, we offer a few suggestions from Robert Wemischner’s book The Dessert Architect. Try some of these pairings, and you may be inspired to go beyond your standard pot of Joe on a more regular basis!

  • Champagnes and sparkling wines labeled “demi sec” are versatile, and can accompany just about any dessert with finesse. However, a sweeter sparkling wine is well paired with desserts featuring dark chocolate.
  • A dessert wine such as Sauternes or Muscat, made with fragrant, floral grapes, goes nicely with fruit-based tarts, mousses, and Bavarian creams.
  • Eiswein (also called “ice wine” or “vin de glace”) goes well with spiced desserts (think cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg), as well as fall and winter fruits, such as apples, pears, persimmons, and raisins.
  • The characteristics of Port, Madeira, and other fortified wines marry well with chocolate or poached fruit.
  • The vanilla flavors inherent in Scotch and bourbon are a natural fit for vanilla-based desserts.
  • Dying to break out the brandy? Consider serving a dessert made with tea, caramel, maple syrup or sugar, or custard. Fruits such as apple, pear, peach, and pumpkin also match nicely.
  • Believe it or not, beer can be appropriate for dessert, too — especially those made with berry or vanilla. Stouts are especially wonderful with a chocolate dessert.
  • If you happen to have a bottle of eau de vie (such as framboise, fraise de bois, or poire) in the pantry, consider serving it with a dessert made with fruit or nuts.
  • Of course, few will complain if you’re serving coffee! Do note that it is especially pleasant with desserts made with chocolate, caramel, and (of course) coffee.
  • If you opt to serve tea, consider branching out beyond orange pekoe. Green tea, Darjeeling, Indian Assam, and Oolong are among the types that are readily available at many supermarkets or specialty stores. Tea is lovely with many types of desserts, such as those made with citrus or stone fruit, pears, and apples. Chocolate desserts can stand up to the assertive flavor of a black tea. (p. 75)

Content adapted from Wemischner, Robert. 2010. The Dessert Architect. Belmont, CA: Delmar, Cengage Learning.

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