Pairing Cheese and Gin
It’s no secret: I love spirits. And I love exploring how to pair spirituous flavors with cheese. Over the weekend, I teamed up with Stefanie Angstadt of Valley Milkhouse Cheese (left) and Dean Brown of Rowhouse Spirits (right) for an “After Hours in the Greenhouse” event at my local urban farm, Greensgrow. What better place to studiously (ahem) sample herbaceous notes?
Here are a few gleanings, if you want to try pairing gin and dairy at home.
Gin Likes Sheep Cheese
Generally, I find that gin works beautifully with firm sheep’s milk cheeses, like Pecorino. You need a fatty cheese to stand up to hard alcohol, and you need a cheese with herbaceous notes that will be buoyed (not destroyed) by juniper-forward gin. Pecorino Ginepro? An ideal gin bunk-mate.
Gin Cocktail? Yes, Please…with Double or Triple Cremes
Soft cheeses, like the four styles we used from Valley Milkhouse on Saturday, need a caress. A caress in the form of bitters and/or bubbly. A French 75 — made with gin, lemon, simple syrup, and Champagne — is a terrific pairing. It’s the pairing I served onThanksgiving with delicate goat cheeses from Vermont Creamery. A smashing combo.
At Saturday’s tasting, we served “pink gin” — gin and bitters — to round out the flavors so the gin didn’t overwhelm the cheese. Orange bitters and Angostura worked well. If you want to play with pink gin at home, pour gin over ice, add a few dashes of bitters and a lemon peel. Rim the glass with the oil from the peel, then drop it into your drink. As the ice melts, the flavors will blend — a little dilution is necessary, in my opinion, for gin to work with delicate dairy.
Explore a Variety of Gins, from Floral to Herbaceous
A great pairing should be balanced, so look for flavors that will accentuate your cheese. Rowhouse Gin is juniper-forward with a lingering taste of chamomile. Lovely, complex. That’s why I wanted to pair it with the soft, grassy notes of Valley Milkhouse Cheeses. Angstadt uses a combination of sheep and cow’s milk from pasture-raised animals. Perfect. Her cheeses are all named after wildflowers, a good flavor tip-off.
Add Honey as a Flavor Bridge
Honey is a great bridge for uniting dairy and spirits — especially when pairing with salty cheeses. Try herbaceous honeys, like thyme, lavender, or rosemary. You can purchase these or make your own gorgeous infusions. Add some roasted nuts, like almonds or hazelnuts tossed into a skillet with some olive oil and sea salt. Voila, you have an incredible cheese and spirits board!
Longing for some pairing play? Don’t worry. We have more Greensgrow After Hours cheese events in the works. Check the Greensgrow events page (and mine!) for updates. You can also read more about how to pair cheese in my little ol’ book (link up top). Drop me a line if you discover a glorious cheese and gin pairing. I would love to hear from you.