DULUTH—Melissa Rainville did not take the Peeps pairing lightly. The head brewer from Hoops Brewing smelled the popular bunny-shaped, sugar-coated marshmallow, Easter basket candy. She gave it a nibble. She had a bartender pull three samples from the taps.
Smell. Sip. Nibble. Frown. Repeat.
When she found it, she knew immediately.
"Porter's the right move," she said, referring to the brewery's English Porter, No. 91.
We recently approached Duluth drink-makers with a basket filled with chocolate, marshmallow, jelly beans and cream-oozing Easter candy and asked them to do a blind draw and create a drink to pair with the piece they pulled.
Here's what they recommend to drink when you raid the family loot.
Hershey's milk chocolate eggs
Drawn by: Stephanie Weller
Where: Chester Creek Cafe bar
The pick: Espresso Martini
Weller's first impulse was a different kind of martini — white Russian raspberry. Instead, she doubled back to a coffee flavored drink to serve alongside a small, dense dose of milk chocolate. She used Cafe Frieda, a Minnesota-made liqueur with a super strong roasted coffee smell and taste, a shot of espresso, simple syrup and vodka. She decorated the tan foam top with three espresso beans.
Hershey's milk chocolate eggs
Drawn by: Rio Daugherty
Where: Burrito Union
The pick: Irish Butterfly
Not to be mistaken for the Iron Butterfly — this drink swaps out vodka in favor of whiskey, alongside Kahlua and Irish cream. It's among Daugherty's favorite drinks, and the first thing he thought of when he drew the milk chocolate egg.
"I prefer this because I'm Irish," said the drummer, who is also in the local band Alamode. For an added level of festivity, add Rumchata, he recommended.
Drawn by: Melissa Rainville
Where: Hoops Brewing
The pick: English Porter, No. 91
Rainville's candy draw was a yellow bunny Peep, perhaps the signature flavor of the modern-day Easter basket. They are marshmallow-y with a grainy sugar coating. She picked the porter because of its subtle trace of bitter chocolate "that augments the sweetness of the marshmallow and — I don't know what you'd call the sugar on the outside of the Peep," she said.
"The sugar spray-tan," offered coworker Aaron Molina.
Red jelly beans
Drawn by: LeeAnn Smith
Where: Bellisio's Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
The pick: Brocini
Smith knew exactly what to pair with the strawberry-flavored sugar-bomb: a Brocini. She uncorked a bottle of Luccio Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, and used it to top strawberry puree. The result: a red ombre drink, the Brocini, which is a play on the mimosa and a regular special on the restaurant's lunch menu.
"I'm going to guess it has a very similar flavor profile," Smith said. "With a jelly bean, once you get through the first bite, it mellows out. You get that with Prosecco, too."
White pastel marshmallow egg
Drawn by: Mike LeFaive
Where: The Ripple Bar on Lake Superior
The pick: Cream Puff
This Russell Stover-brand egg-shaped marshmallow is dipped in sweet-sweet white chocolate. The Ripple Bar might have been open for only a day, but bartender Mike LeFaive knew right where to look: the specialties cocktail menu. The drink mixes vodka, coconut rum, cream and pineapple juice to make a light, fluffy drink.
"It probably would have worked with a Peep, too," he predicted.
It didn't — at least not like the English Porter.