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Mar 29, 2012 05:56 PM

Pairing Cocktails and Cheese

I am putting together a cheese board for my mom's birthday. I've picked a triple creme brie, Rogue River Bleu and Dubliner. I intend include my homemade cranberry, rosemary, sea salt bread, sliced apple, honey, amarena cherries, hazelnuts and baguette with the cheeses.

Now, here's where things get a little harder. My mom also requested 60's cocktails for her birthday... Now, I've heard of people pairing Manhattans and brie, but I couldn't find much for bleu or the Dubliner...

I thought, perhaps, a Moscow Mule might go well with the bleu, as I have seen it paired with candied ginger and with vodka... I don't know if the lime might pose a problem, though.

Please note: My mom is very allergic to gin.

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  1. First of all, let me say that if I were ever to find out I had a gin allergy, it would be completely devastating for me. I have often wondered about this pairing subject myself, so I'm hoping others with more experience/expertise than I will weigh in, but here are my thoughts. I would think a manhattan would pair pretty well with all those cheeses. I can kind of see your concern about the lime. I find lemon fights less with cheeses, so if you are looking for a citrusy/somewhat sweet drink, you might consider a brandy crusta. The sugar around the outside of the glass is fun for a party, and brandy works well with cheeses (especially blue cheeses--my wife makes a bleu cheese tureen that has brandy in it, and it's amazing).

    2 Replies
    1. re: curseofleisure

      I'll agree with the brandy crusta, although I have very little experience with pairings. It's my personal favorite drink at the moment, and all of my guests have enjoyed it with the mini cheese board we put out at gatherings. If you do crustas, you should make sure to do the sugar rim about an hour before serving. This way, the sugar forms a crust on the glass and you get less sugar in your mouth with each sip- I personally feel that with a freshly-done rim the sugar throws off the balance of the drink.

      If you're still interested in ginger, you can definitely pair it with lemon as well. I enjoy ginger sidecars (cognac/brandy, lemon and ginger liqueur) and there are plenty of other ginger liqueur recipes on the Domaine de Canton liqueur website sorted by base spirit.

      1. re: tinnywatty

        Completely agree with the sugar-ahead-of-time tip.

    2. I was at a really great bar last night. VERY extensive cocktail list 150+, their own barrel aged cocktails, their own custom barrel of Elijah Craig, you get the drift.

      They had This item-
      Spanish blue cheese & leek fondue, rolled into phyllo cigars then pan seared; accented with sherry-raisin sauce

      At the bar only, they serve a side of St.-Germain with it and instructed us to let the food rest on the palette for a minute and then follow with the St.-Germain.
      They were excellent.
      Maybe you could do some sort of Vodka Gimlet or other Vodka drink of some sort and incorporate the St. Germain? That would give it a new twist. They would probably really love the St.-Germain. I know I do.
      It worked great with the dish though I will admit the sherry-raisin sauce was quite forward vs the Bleu Cheese...
      But the more I think about it, S-G has that sort of reminiscent of a white grape profile which would probably work VERY well with lots of cheeses.

      1 Reply
      1. re: FriendOfTheDevil

        St. Germain is a great idea! You could make a variation on a French 75 using vodka instead of gin and adding SG.

        Something tells me a Cocktail a la Louisiane or a Vieux Carré might with well with your cheese plate, too.

      2. I just ran across this one which though not a 60;s cocktail, looks very interesting...

        Queen Bee (still on the menu @ Carlyle)
        3/4 Vodka (try subbing, Gin, Rye or Bourbon they all work)
        3/4 St. Germain
        3/4 Lemon
        1/4 Clover Honey Syrup
        Shake and serve up
        Top with 1 1/2 oz Dry Champagne

        1. why not have the cocktails at the beginning of the meal, and the cheese plate after the main dish and before dessert, as is the custom in Europe?

          Cheese is very filling.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sunshine842

            My wife and I are hosting an 8-course meal tomorrow, including a cheese course before a small sweet dessert. We're doing three small cocktails early in the evening. I personally don't care for the sweet accompaniments to cheese, unless perhaps with a very hard, strong cheese.

            A creamy, lush cheese benefits for a healthy dose of acid, such as from a dry sherry (fino or a nutty-but-dry amontillado, perhaps) or from a dry cocktail. If this is served at the end of the meal, it would be perhaps too late to serve something like a Martini riff -- maybe aquavit and dry vermouth sounds nice to me. Something herbal like a Last Word sounds nice with the bleu -- you could do a Final Ward to avoid the gin. A wine-based cocktail might be nice, although it doesn't scream "60's" to me. A French 75 or St-Germain French 75 (sometimes called a French 77) -- made with cognac, rather than gin -- sounds nice too.

            One of my courses is a smoked salmon & orzo salad with cream. I'm a little scared of this pairing, but I'm going to try a duplex of dry vermouth and Bonal Gentiane Quina, with some lime for balance and bitterness. I'm must less worried about the Mehkong Daiquiri with the Vietnamese spring roll and the Old Pal with the steak "noodles" with watercress and bleu cheese. If figure if any of these flop, I can always open the wine earlier than planned. ;)

            Does your mother know what constituent of gin she is allergic to? I would be concerned about other herbal ingredients (chartreuse, amari, liqueurs in general) if the cause is unknown and the reaction severe.

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            1. re: EvergreenDan

              Dan, have you ever had a Sauternes or Monbazillac with a bleu? Pretty amazing stuff.

          2. On the side of the Dubliner in specific, I'd recommend trying to play its nutty sweetness against something with a sweet/bitter play, but nothing too crazy. Maybe a vermouth cocktail? You could probably manage something cool with a lightly played amari in general, I'd imagine.

            The obvious answer to all of this is bubbly. It's one of those overly said things, but champagne really does pair with damn near anything and thus drinks that take advantage of it in heavy quantities might be a good starting point.

            Depending on the type of bleu, I typically end up pairing a strong, tannic red wine or a sharp, citrus-y red against it. I wonder how a New York Sour would work? You'd have to choose the right whisky base though and my being at work is interfering with my ability to contemplate such matters too deeply, but I think it could be an interesting idea to pair the citrus-y component with a tannic red float against the cheese.

            Really though, with a cheese plate, I generally wouldn't suggest having too many drinks. Keep the drinks that you pair with it simple and I'd really suggest pushing the bubbly. French 75 and variations are a great starting point in my mind. Maybe go with a simple, slightly bitter aperitif, work your way into the cheese with something bubbly and refreshing and then end the whole thing with your favorite digestif...