Pair savory sweets with your favorite tipple

The Yomiuri Shimbun

No-bake cheesecake topped with raw ham and sliced onions

By Sachio Tanaka / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterWhether it is a glass of wine or some sake with Japanese or Western confectionery, enjoying an alcoholic drink with a sweet dish is gaining attention.

Topping sweets with salty ingredients to make them into snacks to go with alcohol or an attempt to pair traditional Japanese confections with wine or whisky are among the trends that use the delicate juxtaposition of flavors to create irresistible treats.

Since 2015, Tokyo-based Western confectionery maker Monteur Co. has been offering recipes using its products for sweets that can work well as snacks to accompany alcohol. Currently, 14 recipes are on Monteur’s recipe page (

The “small cream puff topped with tuna and mayonnaise” offers a rich flavor from the custard filling and the mayonnaise, while the “cheesecake topped with raw ham” blends the saltiness of the ham with the slightly pungent flavor of raw sliced onions to harmonize with the tartness of the no-bake cheesecake. The “small cream puff topped with sweet pickled ginger” features the sweet and sour taste of the pickled root accented by the flavor of sansho Japanese pepper.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Small cream puff topped with tuna and mayonnaise

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Small cream puff topped with sweet pickled ginger and sansho Japanese pepper

“All these recipes are the best combinations we came up with through trial and error,” said company spokeswoman Hitomi Nobuta. “When consumers make them at home, the amount of toppings should be adjusted according to their tastes. Using confectionery that isn’t too sweet lowers the chance of choosing noncomplementary toppings.”

Traditional Japanese confectionery maker Toraya Confectionery Co. has been promoting the combination of Japanese sweets with alcohol.

At a gallery in its outlet in the Tokyo Midtown commercial complex in Minato Ward, Toraya is displaying suggestions for the types of alcohol that would complement its products. The “Tipsy on Wagashi” exhibit runs through March 15.

“While many people think that the tastes of Japanese confections and alcohol are in opposition and incompatible, there are examples of enjoyable combinations such as saka-manju,” said a person in charge at Toraya, referring to a steamed bun made using sake-infused flour.

For the exhibition, Toraya devised new yokan (a bar of sweetened, jellied bean paste) using sake from a brewery in Toyama Prefecture.

The exhibition introduces various ways to enjoy Toraya’s confections with wine, whisky, sake and other alcoholic drinks as recommended by experts such as sommeliers and sake brewery representatives. The sweets include yokan and monaka (bean jam sandwiched in thin wafers). During “Tipsy on Wagashi,” Toraya’s cafe space is offering special sets of its Japanese confections and the sake or wines that go well with them.

Behind the greater presence of sweets as snacks with alcohol is the increasing popularity of drinking at home. In the familiar setting of home, it is easy to eat confections while drinking alcohol, adding whatever salty flavors one wants to the sweets.

Akiko Kinoshita, who has sommelier qualifications and teaches wine seminars at the Tokyo-based training company Caplan Corp., also recommends the combination of sweets and raw ham.

“The sweet taste of confectionery with the salty flavor of raw ham harmonizes well with the acidity of wine, expanding the flavor,” she said. “These salty-sweet snacks can serve as hors d’oeuvres or desserts.”

Some types of alcohol go better with sweets than others. Kinoshita, who is also a sake expert as a qualified kikisake-shi, introduced her recommended combinations.

Wines with a refreshing flavor go particularly well with sweets, so such sparkling wines match no-bake cheesecakes while such white wines go well with cream puffs, Kinoshita said.

If blue cheese is used in cheesecake, its strong flavor matches well with a red wine, she said.

Sweets using cheese or yogurt also go well with sake, Kinoshita said. Since honjozo sake has a mild flavor, it goes well with many sweets, while aromatic ginjo sake tends to work with sweets with cheese, similar to white wines.

“Wines at the ¥1,000-level tend to be light, so they will easily go with sweets,” Kinoshita said.

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