Tricks for a Treat: Local Drink-Makers Craft Custom Beverages to Pair with Halloween Candy

By Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
Video & Photos by Michelle Truax

What do you drink with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? Frangelico, obviously. It’s an old bit of coffee shop wisdom that has stuck with Heiko Edwardson as he’s shifted from barista to bartender at the Red Herring Lounge. Frangelico is a hazelnut liqueur and hazelnut makes everything better.

Including a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

The News Tribune and Duluth.com asked local bartenders and baristas for a trick inspired by a treat. Each one blindly — for the most part — drew a mystery traditional Halloween candy from an orange pumpkin then found a drink to complement the pick.

The rules were loose: stick to the bar’s menu or go off-roading, hot or cold, booze or no booze.

Here were the results.

HERSHEY BAR: COOKIES & CREAM

Where: Duluth Coffee Co.

Drink: Cappuccino with Kringle syrup

Barista: Charlie Comnick, roaster

“This is going to be really easy,” Comnick said. He ground the mini candy bar and used it to coat the rim of a snifter, added two shots of espresso and the house-made syrup — maple and seasonal spices like anise and clove — then topped it with steamed milk. The drink had the shop’s signature bold flavor.

JOLLY RANCHER SUCKER: GREEN APPLE

Where: Lake Avenue Restaurant and Bar

Drink: The Fun Thing

Bartender: Katherine Lafleur

Honestly, Lafleur came up with this drink last week but hadn’t yet really tested it on customers. There is a general bartender peeve involved with the recipe — but one that she doesn’t mind at all. “There’s a 5 minute steep time for the tea,” she said. Lafleur opted to match the mood of a green apple sucker with a warm, fall-toned drink. Wild Sweet Orange Tazo Tea was the base, then she added Amaro, a bitter Italian liqueur, thyme simple syrup and ginger simple syrup served in a mug. Best consumed at a cabin alongside a cribbage board.

JOLLY RANCHER SUCKER: PINK LEMONADE

Where: Vikre Distillery

Drink: Strawboory Lemonade

Bartender: Ellen Vaagen

Vaagen went hue-for-hue with the sucker, crafting a drink that looked like pink lemonade. The difference: strawberry-infused gin, made with Vikre’s Boreal Juniper Gin, mixed with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and house-made orange liqueur and served over ice. It was an elevated icee, definitely an easy-does-it deck drink.

The harder part: coming up with a name. The local distillery loves a pun, so Vaagen opted for a Halloween theme. “Straw-boo-ry Lemonade,” she said. The instant winner.

KIT KAT BAR

Where: Red Herring Lounge

Drink: Untitled

Bartender: Heiko Edwardson

Full disclosure, Edwardson tossed back his first candy pick, seemingly uninspired by Strawberry Twizzlers. His next pick, a Kit Kat Bar. “Game on,” he said. Edwardson lined potential ingredients on the counter and considered his options. A busy bartender doesn’t need to measure, he said, chucking the shot glass aside. He dang-near cheered when he found heavy whipping cream in the refrigerator.

Edwardson mixed ¼ shot of Frangelico, ¼ shot of Creme de Cacao, 1 ounce vodka, heavy whipping cream, 1 ounce of Duluth Coffee Company’s cold press espresso — straight from the tap — and shook. He swirled Hershey’s chocolate syrup around the inside of the glass and served up a foamy, smooth drink that he was proud to acknowledge was Starbucks-ian.

REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUP

Where: Pizza Luce

Drink: Coffee Truffletini

Spokesperson: Nathan Holte, server

The crew at Pizza Luce opted for the martini family with this chocolate-on-chocolate drink, with the essence of coffee. Think chocolate milkshake. The recipe: Equal parts Three Olives’ espresso-flavored vodka — this is a dark-hued booze, Godiva chocolate liqueur, Godiva white chocolate liqueur, a few squirts of Hersey’s chocolate inside the martini glass. Toss in a couple filberts for a touch of nut.

“Tame and delicious,” said server Nathan Holte.

Where: Zeitgeist Arts Cafe

Drink: Edmund Fitz

Candy: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

Bartender: Alexandra Duncan

Duncan briefly hemmed and hawed, but the answer was clear. Chocolate and peanut butter would mix well with bourbon, and: “We do an Old Fashioned really well,” she said.

True story, the classic cocktail is one of the restaurant’s signature drinks. Duncan used 2.5 ounces of bourbon, ½ ounce of simple syrup, and a dash or two of orange bitters and stirred it with ice before pouring it into a glass. She used flame from a lighter to extract oils from the orange peel and added a skewer with a plump maroon cherry.

STRAWBERRY TWIZZLERS

Where: Blacklist Artisan Ales

Drink: Nitro Dark

Candy: Strawberry Twizzlers

Bartender: Mackenzie Hopkins

Beer and candy — seemingly not an easy mix. But when Hopkins drew Strawberry Twizzlers, she didn’t hesitate with the pour. “She lobbed you a softball,” one of the taproom patrons commented. Hopkin’s choice: Nitro Dark. It has a smooth, laid-back, dessert-like quality and could have been a nice cocoa base to offset any of the candy picks — ranging from chocolate-peanut butter to artificially-flavored sweets.

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