Who doesn’t love a good cocktail? They can range from refreshing, strong, sour, sweet or bitter – and with plenty of complexity in flavor.
And there’s an extra bonus for cheese lovers – as cocktails and cheese are a perfect match. With the wide variety of cocktails, you have an accompaniment that can be tailored perfectly to match your cheese board.
Like cheese, cocktails vary greatly, and not all cocktails suit all types of cheese. It is therefore a good idea to test different cheeses with the cocktails you want to serve. This will help to plan which cheeses to pair with each cocktail.
CONSIDER YOUR BASE SPIRITS
The most important element of any cocktail is the spirit that forms its base. Whether a cocktail is based on vodka, gin, rum or whiskey, each will influence the taste of the cocktail in its own way, just like they each influence the taste of the cheese.
Different spirits go well with different types of cheeses, where they bring out certain flavors. For example:
- Gin is distilled with many herbs and berries, and a good gin has a fresh taste with herbal and floral notes. These floral notes are what make gin pair so well with cheese – from mild white mold cheeses to stronger cheeses, like a lightly smoked cheese, an aged Havarti or even a blue cheese.
- Rum is sweet and distilled with sugar, so rum (and good tequila, too) works well with sweeter cheeses and cheeses that are typically served with sweet condiments. This includes hard, aged cheeses, like Havarti and blue cheese.
- Whiskey and cognac also tend to have sweet and burnt notes, which are perfectly suited to flavorful, slightly sweet cheeses. However, mild cheeses also pair nicely with both whiskey and cognac.
- Vodka doesn’t have much flavor, so it is often what the vodka is mixed with that determines the type of cheese to pair it with.
- Taste your base spirit first before deciding what cheese to pair. For instance, the various types of gin all taste very different – some are dry, while others are sweet and floral.
SWEET, SOUR OR BITTER – HEAVY OR LIGHT?
While the base spirit has a strong influence on your cocktail, another important factor is how it’s mixed. Sweet cocktails bring out certain qualities in cheese, while sour or bitter cocktails bring out others.
The consistency of the cocktail also has a strong influence on how the cheese is experienced, as cheeses vary greatly in consistency. Some are soft and creamy, others hard and crystallized, while some practically crumble in your mouth.
The same applies to cocktails, which can be thin, creamy or frothy, just as they can be refreshing or very intense.
You can successfully use these contrasts to your advantage. A creamy cheese can be accompanied by a less creamy cocktail, while a firm and crumbling cheese goes well with a frothy drink, like one containing egg whites.
SOME EXAMPLES OF GREAT WAYS TO PAIR CHEESE AND COCKTAILS
The world of cocktails is as diverse as the world of cheese. And there are thousands of combinations just waiting to be tested. To help you get started, here a few suggestions for good pairings.
GIN & TONIC
This British-Indian classic comes in countless variations, with different types of gin and tonic. A G&T generally goes well with soft and creamy cheeses, like Brie and other white mold cheeses like Double Crème White, where the gin brings out the floral notes in the cheeses and the bitterness of the tonic rinses the palate. However, blue cheeses, like Traditional Danish Blue, also take on lovely floral notes when paired with a G&T.
A gin version of the classic sour, where lemon juice adds acidity and egg whites add froth to the cocktail, making it perfect for serving with both a mild Brie and Aged Havarti. The caramelized notes in Havarti, in particular, contrast nicely with the acidity and floral taste of the gin.
With tomato juice, hot sauce and a celery stick, a savory Bloody Mary is a natural choice for serving with cheese, especially those traditionally served with tomatoes, like dry, aged cheeses such as Aged Havarti or Extra Mature Cheddar.
Strong and sweet with an old-fashioned masculinity, the Old Fashioned combines aged notes from bourbon with orange notes from orange rind and Angostura bitters. An Old Fashioned makes an excellent accompaniment to a wide range of cheeses, where its sweetness and caramel notes go well with everything from mild white mold cheeses, like Double Crème White, to firm, aged cheeses, like Aged Havarti, to blue cheese, like Traditional Danish Blue.
Sweet bourbon cocktail with a bitter kick, the Manhattan gets its unique flavor from Vermouth. Like an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan is also a perfect match for a wide array of cheeses. It makes particularly good company for the somewhat sweeter, mature cheeses, like Extra Mature Cheddar, but it also goes well with blue cheeses, as the sharp taste of the mold becomes somewhat muted, which suits some people’s tastes.