Gin and Ginepro
When I was a kid, my parents used to drink gin and tonics on hot nights in the Midwest, so it’s no surprise that I’ve become a gin drinker. I love the smell of pines, the taste of botanicals — it’s like winter and summer in one. When I got into cheese, I held the misguided belief that all cheese paired best with red wine, and it took me a long time to figure out that, lo, many cheeses actually pair beautifully with gin.
Take gin and Pecorino Ginepro. The combo is a no-brainer. After all, Ginepro is a sheep cheese packed in juniper berries (and marinated in balsamic). It sounds ultra robusto, but it’s actually fairly subtle — there’s a twinge of juniper along the rind which infuses the paste of the cheese, but it’s light. Like perfectly applied cologne. Pair it with gin and tonics or a gin martini, and you might as well be in rural Maine, dwarfed by operatic pines.
I took this very pairing to Maine last week, and it still stands out as the quintessential woodland combination. If you’re having people over for Labor Day, consider serving a hunk of Ginepro alongside gin cocktails. My friend Andrew Oleson, a cheese fiend and chemist, developed a special drink he calls The Shin Pond. It’s a gin and tonic with a Fernet Branca float.
Oh, lord. Just when I thought it was impossible to improve my favorite summer cocktail.
Fernet Branca is a liqueur from Italy with deep botanical flavor — think herbs in stereo, especially mint. It’s the Altoid of the Amaro genus, a group of spirits commonly known as “bitters.” Your grandmother probably drank them to calm her stomach, and now you will, too. It’s the next dream in Drinkland.
Witness: Alla Spina, Mark Vetri’s new Philadelphia restaurant, carries Fernet Branca on tap. Go tell it on the mountain, right?
For a revelatory appetizer, serve a round of Shin Ponds (recipe below) with a hunk of Ginepro and some wildflower honey. I promise: you’ll be seeing visions of Bambi romping through the forest.
The Shin Pond
Named after a wee body of water in rural Maine (up, up, beyond Bangor), this cocktail marries juniper with a bracingly bitter aperitif to create the ultimate lake-side refresher. The drink’s inventor, Andrew Oleson, favors Bombay Dry Gin.
3 to 5 ice cubes
2 ounces gin (1 shot)
5 ounces tonic water
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon Fernet Branca
1 lime wedge
1. Fill a tumbler with ice. Make sure it’s a pretty one.
2. Add the gin, tonic water, and lime juice. Stir.
3. Float the Fernet Branca on top.
4. Set the ol’ lime wedge astride the glass.
5. Grin moonishly.
For an awesome post about the chemistry involved in making gin’n tonics, visit ScienceGeist.