A good dram of whisky is often considered a perfect after-meal drink, but changing dessert trends are seeing the drink appearing earlier in the dinner menu.

“Restaurants are moving away from super-sweet desserts and heading down a more savoury path,” says Mark Williamson, head wine and spirits buyer at Cumulus Inc.

Because chefs are using salt, smoke or char in their desserts, he explains, they’re moving away from drawing everything together with a sweet Sauternes or other dessert wine. “Whisky, with its peaty, smoky or honey notes – its general complexity – often pairs better.”

Williamson says strong, peaty whiskies pair well with bold flavours, like chocolate or Roquefort cheese. Full-bodied whiskies, especially those aged in sherry casks or European oak, such as the Singleton Spey Cascade single malt whisky, pair well with toffee, caramel and butterscotch, and autumn fruits like pears and quince.

Cumulus Inc.’s salted caramel tart is an example of the latter, balanced with prune and crème fraîche. It pairs well with “an array of whiskies”, says Williamson, because of the rich, dark toffee, fruit and salt elements in the dessert.

On the menu at Bennelong, at Sydney Opera House, a Salted Butterscotch and Spiced Apple Whisky Old Fashioned is designed to match Peter Gilmore’s crème caramel mille-feuille. Aaron Gaulke, Bennelong’s bar manager, says it’s a classic pairing.

“It’s perfectly balanced,” he says. “The toffee and caramel notes in the whisky really come through and highlight the caramel in the dessert. It then contrasts a little with the apple and spice. It all blends very harmoniously.”

Gaulke says the drink pairs just as well with a simple apple crumble: “Those baked fruits, rolled oats and buttery flavours are the perfect match.”

Apple and Butterscotch Old Fashioned
Makes one. Approximately 2 standard drinks.

Ingredients
45ml Singleton Spey Cascade Single Malt Whisky
10ml clear apple juice
15ml butterscotch schnapps*
4 drops Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Method
In a mixing glass combine all ingredients and stir for 20 seconds. Strain over a large chunk of ice into a heavy-rocks glass, and garnish with a cinnamon quill.

*For a lower alcohol drink, replace the butterscotch schnapps with 10ml butterscotch sauce.

Easy Peasey Apple Crumble to match
Serves two.

Ingredients
For the apple base:
2 apples, peeled and thickly sliced
4 tbsp brown or raw sugar
100g butter
⅛ tsp cinnamon

For the crumble:
4 Anzac biscuits, crumbled
50g butter

Method
To make the apple base, melt the butter and stir the cinnamon through. Place the apples in a small ovenproof dish, sprinkle with sugar and pour over the melted-butter mixture. For the crumble, melt the butter and mix it through the crumbled Anzac biscuits. Sprinkle over the apples and bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees. Turn the oven off and leave the crumble inside for a further five minutes. Serve with a healthy amount of ice-cream.

This article is presented in partnership with World Class.