WHAT TO DRINK WITH DESSERT
COFFEE - To accompany dessert you’ll want a more distinctive brew than the cup you make as a morning wake-up. Coffees produced in the world’s major coffee-growing regions have different characteristics, so they pair best with different desserts.
East Africa and Arabian Peninsula (Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe): Coffees from this area generally have a sparkling acidity and medium to full body. Flavors are rich and vary from fruity or winy to spicy. Offer these coffees with fruit desserts or those flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon.
Indonesia and the Pacific (Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra): This area produces coffees that are full-bodied, smooth, and earthly in flavor, with a low acidity and occasionally herbal flavor notes. Serve them with dense, rich desserts such as cheesecake and those flavored with caramel.
Latin America (Columbia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, plus the Kona region of Hawaii): These coffees are clean-tasting and lively, with light to medium body. They pair well with fruit flavors, including apple, citrus, and other tart fruits, and nutty desserts, such as those rich with almonds or pecans.
Generally darker-roasted coffee beans have stronger flavors, which are preferred with desserts.
French and Italian roasts: Heavy-roasted beans almost black in color; strong flavor.
American roast: Medium-roasted beans; medium flavor.
European roast: Two-thirds heavy-roasted beans combined with one-third medium-roasted beans; slightly strong flavor.
Viennese roast: One-third heavy-roasted beans combined with two-thirds medium-roasted beans; medium-heavy flavor.
RULES OF THE BREW
Use fresh beans. To assure freshness, buy in amounts you can use within a week and store the beans in an airtight comtainer in a cool, dry place. Do not store them in the refrigerator where they may absorb moisture.
Grind beans just before brewing, using the grind intended for your brewing method. Too fine a grind makes a bitter, unpleasant brew. Too coarse a grind makes a coffee that is weak and without distiguishing characteristics.
Use clean, fresh water. Water just off the boil (195* F. to 205* F.) does the best job of extracting the full flavor.
Use the right proportions: 2 tablespoons of freshly ground coffee per 6 ounces of water. If that’s too strong for your taste, brew with these amounts, then dilute the brewed coffee with hot water.
Much sweeter that dinner wines, dessert wines can be red or white. The rule of thumb in choosing a dessert wine is that it should be at least as sweet as the dessert you serve with it.
Shop for a dessert wine at a well-stocked wine store with a knowledgeable staff, and don’t be reluctant to ask for advice. The wine merchant can guide you in choosing a good “starter” dessert wine or help you move on to the next level.
Because they’re served in smaller amounts that dinner wines, many dessert wines are sold in 375-milliliter as well as 750-milliliter bottles. But you’ll probably pay more for even a small bottle of dessert wine that you usually pay for a full-size bottle of dinner wine.
Less pricey American versions provide a chance to experiment with different dessert wine types and develop your palate. Labels to look for include St. Supery, Quady, and Bonny Doon. Each of these wineries produces several pleasing dessert wines.
Champagne is a smart choice with almost any dessert. Buy one labeled sec or demi-sec, the sweeter end of the taste range. There are excellent American-made sparkling wines ate reasonable prices.
Serve dessert wines quite cool to the touch but not ice cold - about 55* F. is ideal. Because of their high sugar content, dessert wines keep well, and a partially used bottle can be re-corked and stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.
DESSERT WINE TYPES
FORTIFIED WINES: Brandy is added to the fermenting grape, so these wines are not only sweet, but also higher in alcohol content. Examples include Madiera, Malaga, Marsala, Muscate, port and sherry. They’re best with dense desserts, such as fruitcake, and are an option with dark chocolate desserts.
LATE-HARVEST WINES: These wines include late-harvest Riesling; Sauternes and Barsac from France; Vin Santo from Italy; and, from Germany, Beerenauslese, which is sweet, and Trockenbeerenauslese, which is sweeter yet. Try these wines with fruit desserts.
Sweet and intensely flavored, liqueurs are often enjoyed after dessert rather than with it. If you want to serve a liqueur with dessert, here are some pairings to try:
Cheesecake - try a plain cheesecake with Kahlua or a nut-falvored liqueur, such as Frangelico. If the cheesecake is served with a sauce, repeat the flavor used in the sauce, such as Chambord with a raspberry sauce.
Ice cream - Chambord, Southern Comfort, or amaretto.
Coffee-flavored desserts - Irish Cream.
GUIDE TO LIQUEUR FLAVORS
For smooth after-dinner sipping with dessert or on their own, keep some of these popular liqueurs on hand:
AMARETTO - Sweet and almond-flavored; first made in Saronno, Italy
BRANDY - Distilled from wine; available plain or flavored
CHAMBORD - Mainly raspberry in flavor with hints of citrus, herbs and spices
COINTREAU - A clear, colorless orange-flavor liqueur from France
GRAND MARNIER - Dark gold, brandy-based French liqueur flavored with orange peels
IRISH CREAM - Based on Irish whiskey with the plus of rich cream
KAHLUA - A coffee liqueur imported with Mexico
MIDORI - Light green and honeydew-melon-flavored; originally from Japan
SAMBUCA - From Italy, fragrant with licorice; two or three dark-roasted coffee beans are often added to each serving
SOUTHERN COMFORT - A genuine American, based on bourbon and flavored with peaches