We Asked Bartenders For The Best Spirits To Pair With Fruitcake

Because it’s officially the holidays, it’s finally time to talk about fruitcake once again. Many of us have never even tried this extremely dense, hard-to-swallow Christmas “cake” — full of various dried fruits practically designed to get stuck in between your teeth, uncomfortably large chunks of mystery nuts, and overpowering seasonal spices. If you have tried it, we’re incredibly sorry for your hardship. Hopefully you got the version that’s drenched in hard alcohol.

That’s how Cole Newton, bartender and owner of Twelve Mile Limit in New Orleans, takes hist. He believes that, in order to actually enjoy this seasonal monstrosity, it needs to doused with a very specific spirit.

“As a broad category, I don’t think eau de vie, or clear fruit brandy, gets enough love,” he says. “It’s the ultimate example of a spirit that’s fruity but not sweet, and that’s exactly what you need when politely trying to choke down some fruitcake.”

Regardless of our thoughts on the subject, many people clearly enjoy the appearance of fruitcake each and every holiday season. Probably because they, like us, prefer their foods drenched in booze. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the spirits they like to pair (or pour over) their holiday fruitcake.

Old Forester Statesman Bourbon

Jose Medina Camacho, lead bartender at Automatic Seafood & Oysters in Birmingham, Alabama

Old Forester Statesman Bourbon, to me this bourbon drinks like a cognac — the baking spices you get on the nose and the citrus + fruitiness you get mid-palette would complement the fruitcake.

Gran Duque de Alba Brandy

Taylor Scoma, manager of Stacked in Portland, Oregon

I would go with the Spanish aged grape brandy Gran Duque de Alba. I really love sipping on a good brandy after dinner to warm me up on a cold night and in this case, it is even more appropriate. The sherry notes that come from this brandy and its leathery finish pair perfectly with a sweet, boozy dessert like a fruitcake.

Captain Morgan Spiced Rum

Jay Oakley, bartender at B & O Brasserie in Baltimore

If I’m enjoying fruitcake, I’m going to want a rum. Captain Morgan pairs well because it is spiced. I’m also a big fan of the pineapple rum by Plantation. The pineapple flavor pairs well with fruitcake and may even make it taste like a rum cake.

Redbreast 15 Irish Whiskey

Slayde Martin, bar operations manager at Pescado in Rosemary Beach, Florida

I would probably pair something lighter with the fruitcake. I think something like Redbreast 15 would be very nice. There tends to be some light fruit notes in my favorite Irish Whiskeys and Redbreast is probably my favorite of those.

Argiolas Tremontis Mirto Liqueur

Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC

Argiolas Tremontis Mirto Liqueur would pair great with fruitcake. Its dark berry and herbal undertones have a nice richness without being overly sweet.

Clear Creek Kirschwasser

Cole Newton, bartender and owner at Twelve Mile Limit in New Orleans

My favorite spirit to pair with fruitcake is Kirsch, or Kirschwasser, a dry, clear brandy made from cherries that is also a key ingredient of such classic European delicacies as Swiss Fondue and Black Forest Cake. While it’s a traditional European spirit, my favorite comes from Clear Creek Distillery in Oregon.

Catoctin Creek Short Hill Mountain Peach Brandy

Michelle Hamo, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia

Catoctin Creek’s Short Hill Mountain Peach Brandy is rich, almost viscous, and made from local fruit. I enjoy sipping this alongside fruitcake while reflecting on the year past. Having a glass of peach brandy, for example, can remind me of the humid summer evenings in Virginia when I came home with a bag of ripe and juicy fresh peaches.

Licor 43

Erick Arce Martín, bartender at Bosque Bar at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa in Costa Rica

If I must choose, I prefer a red win like Zinfandel. I think that one of my favorite bottles is One Thousand Stories, because it is aged in oak barrels that we used to age Bourbon prior. A good pairing as a liquor could be Licor 43 on the rocks. It is Spain’s famous liquor and is made up of 43 different botanicals and citrus’. Would go great with a Christmas fruitcake.

Aberlour A’Bunadh Scotch Whisky

Jim Wrigley, beverage director at Kimpton Seafire in the Cayman Islands

Sherry casked single malt Scotch all the way. The high tannin levels of European oak, and the complex fruit flavors of the previous occupant, whether oloroso or the sweeter Pedro Ximenez (PX), to cut through the crumbs, pulling out the stewed fruit flavors of fruitcake and adding an extra dimension with each sip / bite.

The best Scotch for the job? Aberlour A’Bunadh. Speyside malts are often pigeon-holed as soft sippers, but this is a roller-coaster ride of a dram. Each edition is different, but always straight from the cask, non-chill filtered and around the 60% / 120 proof mark. It’s also comparatively reasonably priced for such a popular, high ABV whisky. Which helps, as it’s not just my secret for a good pairing with fruitcake, but also my secret ingredient in my fruitcake mix.

Bacardi White Rum

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#bacardiwhiterum Special White Rum… In Your Place…

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Luis Lanz, bartender at Cantina Rooftop in New York City

When it comes to pairing alcohol with (or pouring over) fruitcake, look to further than rum. My rum of choice is Bacardi. Specifically Bacardi White Rum because the rum always brings out the flavors in almost any fruit.


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Benjamin Rouse, head bartender at Henley in Nashville

I have never eaten fruitcake, but I would assume, based on its ingredients, that one would drink something like Drambuie or Amaretto. I’m on a new mission now to find the perfect pairing for fruitcake!

Pusser’s Naval Strength Rum

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Rebecca Edwards, bar manager at Tavola in Charlottesville, Virginia

If you’re truly going to enjoy fruitcake, you need to douse it in high proof rum and light it on fire. For this, I turn to Pusser’s Naval Strength. It should do the job beautifully.

Wahaka Ensamble Mezcal

Will Lee, beverage director at Grey Ghost in Detroit

Mezcal, specifically Wahaka Ensamble. It’s one of those mezcals that has more subtle smoky notes balanced by fruit and acid tones; this is due to its blend of agave that is used to produce it.