Gummy Bears and Bourbon

Gummy bears and bourbon are two of life’s greatest pleasures, though combining them is a dangerous game.

The art of pairing is about complementing strengths and compensating for weaknesses. The prominence of the former and lack of the latter make pairing exceptional products fairly challenging. It’s fair to say that gummy bears are far from exceptional, which to me is an invitation to make up for some weaknesses!

Gummy bears are sweet and fruity but that’s about it. Most lack any kind of sour/bitter balance and no traditional versions exhibit notes in any primary aroma group — defined along the aroma wheel — outside of fruit and maybe some chemicals. It occurred to me that 1) we need to balance them with elements opposite and adjacent their swath on the aroma wheel, and 2) I can’t think of a better way to pair fruity notes while complementing sweet flavors than with something earthy, woody, and caramelized. Hence, bourbon.

Below are five surprisingly awesome pairings to enjoy, probably alone and away from the scrutinizing gaze of your fellow drinking buddies.

1. WL Weller Special Reserve (45 percent ABV) and Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears

The sweet round wheat complements these slightly less intense organic gummies. It’s like when you get gummy bear toppings on your ice cream.

2. Henry McKenna SiB BiB 10 year (50 percent ABV) and Haribo Gold Bears

McKenna 10 is really classic bourbon with all of the expected flavors. It’s rich and warming and, like a buttery pie crust, is begging for the company of fruit. The Gold Bears provide a slightly more bitter complement.

3. High West American Prairie (46 percent ABV) and Brach’s Gummy Bears…

While American Prairie is not my favorite High West offering, its candy corn/caramel apple thing makes candy pairings a treat. Brach’s makes a classic soft bear and the blend of flavors is a bit heavier on the citrus, making this a nicely balanced duo.

4. Knob Creek Bourbon (50 percent ABV) and Surf Sweet Organic Fruity Bears…

Knob Creek tends to have a fairly long and rich finish for its price category, which makes it nice to pair with the sour patch kids-like texture of the Surf Sweet bears. The nuttiness accentuates the fruit puree character of these gummies.

5. Wild Turkey 101 (50.5 percent ABV) and Market Pantry Gummi Bears…

Target generics, but for candy! These are some of my favorite gummies; their texture and flavors are classic and artificial in a good way. Bordering on medicinal, these bears will catch you off guard with how well they complement that Turkey funk.


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