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What alcohol do you drink with dessert?

Dessert and alcohol pairings can be tricky, but with some general guidelines, you can easily find the right drink to complement your sweet treat. The key factors to consider are the dessert’s ingredients, textures, and flavors. Lighter, fruit-based desserts pair well with bubbly wines or sweet wines. Rich chocolate or caramel desserts need a bolder red or sweet wine that can stand up to the intensity. Tart citrus desserts require a contrasting sweet wine. And creative desserts like savory cheeses need contrast from a potent spirit. Read on for tips on pairing categories of desserts with the ideal types of alcohol.

Light and Fruity Desserts

Fruit-based desserts like fruit tarts, panna cotta, or fruit crisps have a delicate, fresh flavor that calls for an equally light, fruit-forward alcohol pairing. Here are good options:

Sparkling Wines

Effervescent bubbles and bright acidity cleanse the palate between bites of fruity desserts. For example:

Dessert Sparkling Wine Pairing
Lemon tart Prosecco
Mixed berry cobbler Sparkling rosé
Peach panna cotta Moscato d’Asti

Sweet White Wines

The residual sugar in dessert wines matches the natural sweetness of fruit desserts. Examples include:

Dessert Sweet White Wine Pairing
Strawberry shortcake Late harvest Riesling
Blueberry crumble Sauternes
Baked apples Ice wine

Fruit Liqueurs

For the simplest pairing, match the fruit in the dessert with a like-flavored liqueur. Such as:

Dessert Fruit Liqueur Pairing
Blackberry pie Blackberry liqueur
Banana pudding Banana liqueur
Cherry cobbler Cherry liqueur

Rich and Intense Desserts

Dense chocolate, caramel, or nuts call for an alcohol with enough bold flavor to balance the dessert’s intensity. Consider these options:


The sweetness and concentrated fruit flavor of port wine is perfect for intense chocolate or nut-based desserts like:

Dessert Port Pairing
Chocolate torte Ruby port
Chocolate-dipped strawberries Tawny port
Tiramisu Vintage port


The nutty, caramelized flavor of oloroso or cream sherry complements caramel or nut desserts such as:

Dessert Sherry Pairing
Pecan pie Oloroso sherry
Caramel flan Cream sherry
Turtle brownies Pedro Ximenez sherry

Sweet Red Wine

The concentrated berry flavors and residual sugar in dessert wines like Brachetto d’Acqui or sweet Lambrusco balance chocolate intensity:

Dessert Sweet Red Wine Pairing
Chocolate lava cake Lambrusco
Chocolate-covered strawberries Brachetto d’Acqui
Chocolate mousse Banyuls

Citrus or Tart Desserts

The brightness of citrus or the tartness of cheesecake, lemon tart, or cranberry cobbler needs a sweet contrast. Opt for these pairings:

Sweet Sparkling Wines

The effervescence and sweetness balances tart citrus flavors in:

Dessert Sparkling Wine Pairing
Lemon meringue pie Moscato d’Asti
Key lime pie Brachetto d’Acqui
Cranberry apple crisp Sweet sparkling rosé

Dessert Wines

The intense sweetness of Sauternes, Tokaji, or ice wines provides the perfect contrast to tart desserts:

Dessert Dessert Wine Pairing
Cheesecake Sauternes
Lemon tart Tokaji Aszu
Rhubarb pie Canadian ice wine

Orange Liqueurs

The sweetness of orange liqueurs complements citrus desserts like:

Dessert Orange Liqueur Pairing
Lemon pound cake Triple sec
Orange creamsicle pie Grand Marnier
Key lime pie Cointreau

Savory Desserts

Sometimes desserts take a savory turn with ingredients like cheese, nuts, or herbs. These unique desserts require spirits that can provide contrast. Consider pairing:

Creamy Cheese Desserts

Dessert Spirit Pairing
Cheesecake Amaretto
Tiramisu Dark rum
Creamy goat cheese pie Cognac

Nutty or Herbal Desserts

Dessert Spirit Pairing
Basil panna cotta Gin
Lavender crème brûlée Vodka
Pistachio cake Kahlua

Spiced Desserts

Dessert Spirit Pairing
Pumpkin pie Dark rum
Gingerbread cake Bourbon
Cinnamon churros Irish whiskey

Tips for Pairing Desserts and Alcohol

Use these tips for foolproof dessert and alcohol pairings:

  • Match light desserts with light, fruity alcohols. Pair intense desserts with bolder, sweeter alcohols.
  • Complement tart desserts with a sweet contrasting alcohol.
  • Look for complementary flavors between the dessert ingredients and alcohol.
  • Consider the dessert’s textures and match silky desserts with creamy liqueurs or spirits.
  • Be open to contrasting flavor pairings for fun and surprising combinations.

With the right dessert and alcohol pairing, you can enhance the flavors of both and create a perfect end to a meal. Taste different options and discover your favorite combinations.


Pairing alcohol with dessert may seem difficult, but simple guidelines help you easily identify complementary flavors and textures. Match light desserts with sparkling wines, sweet wines, or fruit liqueurs. Pair richer chocolate or caramel desserts with bold options like port, sherry, or sweet red wines. Tart citrus desserts need sweet contrast from wines like Sauternes or fruit liqueurs. And creative savory desserts require spirits that provide an interesting contrast. With the tips above, you can confidently select the perfect drink to accompany any dessert.