In a few weeks, the basil will be abundant. You’ll spend your day at work dreaming of fresh mozzarella, of compact goat cheeses that can be eaten in one sitting, like a petit fillet. May I present a lovely combination – a Gin Basil Smash with a gooey Cremont?
Today, I am celebrating the official release of The New Cocktail Hour, a book I spent two years writing with my brother André. We have been anticipating this day for a long time!
André lives in Wisconsin, which means we spent a lot of time on Skype — shakers in hand, notebooks open on our respective tables — in order to write this book.
The Gin Basil Smash is one of our favorite drinks. Fresh basil, muddled in the glass, gets a hit of lemon, a splash of simple syrup, and a shot or two of gin.
Summer rises from the glass.
The smell of citrus surrounds you.
Herbaceous gin leans in.
It’s a slow dance.
Over the weekend, I tested out an interactive Gin Basil Smash party with a bunch of friends.
My friend Mike Geno, who paints the most beautiful cheese portraits, hosted the event at his studio.
It was so much fun, I can’t wait to do it again.
If you are yearning for summer, may I suggest you throw your cares to the wind and host a Gin Basil Smash Party? Forget cleaning your house this weekend. Let the shoes pile up by the door. Don’t scrub the tub. Let the dishes sit in the sink, as long as you have a few clean cups.
Grab some lemons, some basil, and a bottle of gin. Pick up a few spring goat cheeses and a baguette or two. Then, make a little simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water), and let the smashin’ begin.
It’s quite cathartic. And your house will smell like freshness itself.
The Gin Basil Smash is just one of the drinks in The New Cocktail Hour.
If you’d like a book plate signed by my brother André and me (shown below), just drop me a line. I’d love to send you one in the mail. Just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a retailer interested in carrying this book, please email: katie.gallagher@perseusbooks.
Want to join me for a cocktail? Check out my Book Events Page. Big tasting this weekend!
Huge thanks to those who donated cheese and drink to Saturday’s smash: to Dean Brown at Rowhouse Spirits, to Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm, to Betsy at Vermont Creamery, and to Mike Geno who spiffed up his studio and invited me in to get his floors sticky!
I’ve been meaning to tell you about my new favorite way to eat stinky cheese. With endive. Each leaf is a perfect cheese canoe. Here, I am using Belgian endive leaves to portage Ouleout, my latest beefy dreamboat. I’ve added a sprig of dill and a sprinkling of walnuts for freshness and crunch. Glorious. Forget your crackers, your bread, your gluten-free rice cakes. Plant worshipers, come hither. I believe endive will save us all.
A member of the chicory family, Belgian endive is a bitter green. It’s easy to find at the grocery and the perfect size for picnicking or packing as a snack. Before I run off to work, I like to lob a wee head of endive into my tote, along with a hunk of beefy cheese and a handful of nuts. Then, when I’m hungry, I relish peeling off each slender leaf and preparing a desk lunch of endive boats.
Vulto Creamery’s Ouleout is an ideal endive passenger because the boldness of the cheese cuts through endive’s slight bitterness. Can’t find this cheese? Try any muscular washed rind that makes eyes at you over the cheese counter. Oma. Epoisses. Even a heady Taleggio. These cheeses are all of the same ilk, the same style: burnt-umber rinds, fudgy paste. Cheesemakers moisten the surfaces of these cheeses with brine (or booze) to create a sensuous texture and to foster a rosy glow on the rind.
Are you panting yet? Look below, Ouleout is giving you the stink eye.
About Ouleout (OH-lee-out): Like paté, this raw cow’s milk cheese from the western Catskills of New York is rich and beefy. When I met up with cheesemaker Jos Vulto of Vulto Creamery at a Di Bruno Bros. tasting recently, he laughed and told me that people who taste his cheese often ask, “Why do I feel like I am eating meat?” Vulto, who is a sculptor by training, has achieved cult status in the cheese world for his rustic raw-milk cheeses. He began as an urban cheese hobbyist in Brooklyn, then found such a warm response to his project that he built a small creamery in Walton, New York, where he produced his “first legal batch” in 2012. Ouleout is named after a nearby creek (which is named after an Iroquois chief). To read more about Vulto Creamery, check out this terrific story on Cheese Notes.
Today is Raw Milk Appreciation Day! How are you celebrating?
With The New Cocktail Hour on the brink of release, I find myself in a frenzy of cocktails and cheese pairings. What could be better? The weather is dreck, and a person needs bright drinks, bright dairy.
I offer you my notes from the weekend, where I served an all-local cheese board with a mostly local cocktail at the Philly Food & Farm Fest. This combination involved deep collaboration with old friends and new, in no particular order: Philadelphia Distilling, Press Gang Ginger Beer, Greensgrow Farm, and cheesemonger Matt Buddah of Weaver’s Way Coop.
The drink was inspired by farmer Katelyn Repash of Greensgrow Farm, who offered me some “sweet, tender rosemary” I couldn’t resist. Since Greensgrow is my local urban farm — home of CSAs, workshops, and nusery plants that I enjoy — I wanted to honor the farm with a special cocktail. I played off Audrey Saunder’s Gin-Gin Mule, which appears in the “modern classics” section of my new book.
My discovery: savory rosemary works better with cheese than mint (mint lingers too long on the palate, I think). The Greensgrow Mule pairs beautifully with a range of cheeses and pairings, particularly honey and goat cheese. It’s a beautiful patio drink — gin, ginger beer, simple syrup, lime, and rosemary.
Here’s the recipe, along with the list of cheeses and pairings we paired with it on Saturday. Huge thanks to everyone who helped this dream board come together. Want a taste? I have more upcoming cheese + cocktail tastings listed on my events page.
Lightly adapted from the much-loved Gin-Gin Mule recipe by Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club), this sipper uses local gin, local ginger beer, and fresh rosemary. Try seeking out as many local ingredients as you can find — or use your favorite gin and ginger beer.
11/2 ounces gin (I used Bluecoat Gin)
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup
1 to 3 ounces ginger beer (I used Press Gang)
rosemary sprig, for garnish, plus 8-10 needles for muddling*
Instructions: Muddle rosemary with simple syrup and lime juice in a shaker. Add gin, shake with ice, and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with lime and a sprig of fresh herbs.
*For a true Gin-Gin Mule, use mint in place of rosemary.
The Cheese Board
Recreate this board using cheeses similar in style from your area: a fresh goat, a local Brie, a fudgy-wudge (think Taleggio), and a firm mixed-milk cheese.
Shellbark Sharp II
A fresh goat cheese made by Pete Demchur of Shellbark Hollow Farm, Honey Brook, PA
Farm notes: Chester County’s first artisan goat dairy
Pairings: great with honey and orchard fruit, figs, nuts
A pudding-soft bloomy made by Paul Lawler at Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville, NJ
Farm notes: Visit the cows and the farm store right on rt. 206
Pairings: try stone-fruit jam or sautéed mushrooms
A gateway stinker, made by Sue Miller at Birchrun Hills Farm, Birchrunville, PA
Farm notes: raw-milk farmstead cheeses
Pairings: serve with charcuterie, stone-fruit jam, toasted sourdough
Creamery Collection Batch #11
A firm beauty made by Sam Kennedy and Matt Hettlinger of Doe Run Farm in Chester County, PA
Farm notes: pasture-raised pasteurized farmstead cheeses
Pairings: made with a trio of milks, pair with guanciale and a Spanish red
Friends in Philadelphia, I have two book events for The New Cocktail Hour this month for your calendars: the Curd Convention (April 10) and a special Happy Hour at Mike Geno’s painting studio (April 23rd). Please read on for details!
The Curd Convention (April 10)
This Sunday marks Philadelphia’s first Curd Convention — part of the Philly Farm & Food Fest . Held in the Pennsylvania Convention Center, this is a great chance to meet local makers, snack on samples, press the flesh with the lacto-rati, or chat goat breeding. Tickets are $20, with an additional $10 charge to get into the Libations Lounge. Here’s where I’ll be:
1-2 p.m. I’ll be signing cocktail books!
3 p.m. Join me in the Libations Lounge, where I’ll be making a “Greensgrow Mule” — a mostly local cocktail, featuring Bluecoat Gin, paired with local cheeses from Weaver’s Way Co-op. Cheesemonger Matt Buddha will talk dairy and pairings, and together we’ll show you how to create a patio cheese board. (Note: advance sign-up required at the Libations Lounge entrance; limit 30 seats).
Happy Hour at Mike Geno’s Studio (April 23rd)
Painter Mike Geno is throwing open the doors of his studio to sell prints at a discount (cheese portraits for Mother’s Day!) while I sign books. Stop by for happy hour from 4-6 p.m.
Studio Address: Viking Mill Studio building (2nd floor), 2026 E. Hagert St., Phila, PA 19125
For a complete list of upcoming events, please check my events page!
Molly didn’t want strippers at her bachelorette party. Instead, she wanted cheese. So, down I swooped to help plan a lacto-centric bachelorette party with a pair of cheese boards, each with a special theme to toast the bride in her next life.
- Love & Prosperity: Triple Cremes & Truffle Board
- Wisdom & Long Life: Strong and Aged cheeses
No, I wouldn’t do a lacto-bachelorette party for just anyone. Molly is a former student, and I still remember her as one of the most curious and engaged writers in my first Food Writing class back in 2008, was it? She still texts me occasionally for cheese pairing recommendations (IPA and Cheddar have become her go-to), though now that she has moved to Mexico City, I’ll be texting her to find pairings: Molly, thoughts on pairing cheese and Mezcal?
Here’s what Molly and her 17 friends enjoyed on the eve of her bachelorette party, held in South Philadelphia on a warm April evening two weeks before her Big Day.
Prosperity: Triple Cremes & Truffle Board
To usher in prosperity for Molly’s bright future, we used a selection of beautiful California cheeses sent to me from Marin French Cheese Co., the longest continually operating cheese company in America.
Cheeses: Marin French Brie, Petite Supreme, Laura Chenel Black Truffle Goat Cheese
Notes: Marin French Brie is delicate and grassy, a perfect first bite with crisp cucumber or a sip of sparkling wine. Luxurious Petite Supreme rivaled the lingerie hanging in the windows — it was ultra buttery with a texture like white chocolate mousse. Laura Chenel’s Truffle Goat Cheese was the first to disappear. When I left, there was nothing left of this board but a few grape stems.
A Cocktail to Match: French 75
1 ounce gin
½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar + water)
4 ounces Champagne
lemon peel, for garnish
Instructions: Combine gin, lemon, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a glass and top with bubbly. Garnish.
Tip 1: Start the party off with a toast. A French 75 is easy to batch (squeeze your lemons in the morning, then combine the juice with simple syrup). At the party, just add an ounce of your mixer + an ounce of gin to each glass. Add ice and top each glass with bubbly.
Tip 2: Serve your cheeses at room temperature, always. Let your guests know that the rinds are edible. In fact, the rinds on these soft cheeses contain the most flavor (look for notes of mushroom and black pepper).
Curious about our second board? I’ll be writing about those cheeses in the coming weeks, but for those of you who can’t stand the suspense (or if you were at Molly’s Lacto Bachelorette party), here’s what we had. Sorry, I didn’t snap any pictures of this board since it was too dark at that point.
Wisdom & Long Life Board: Strong and Aged cheeses
- Vulto Creamery Ouleout
- Cabot Clothbound with homemade Pear Shallot Chutney (recipe from Foodinjars.com)
- Wilde Weide Gouda with Chocolove Pretzels in Milk Chocolate
Here’s wishing Molly and her man a long and happy life. Molly, it was an honor to toast you with cheese and cocktails. Stay in touch forever, dahhhlink!
Upcoming Events: I’ll be at the Curd Convention in Philadelphia next Sunday, April 10! Come find me at the “Will Travel for Cheese” booth (noon), where I’ll be talking cheese travel with Sue Miller (Birchrun Hills Farm) and Anna Juhl (of Cheese Journeys). Note: Sue will treat you to a bite of her new clothbound cheddar! Then join me for an all-local cocktail and cheese board in the Libations Lounge!
Check out my events page for lots of upcoming tastings!