Stand aside wine and beer, today we’re covering cocktails—the unsung hero of the cheese pairing world. What makes cocktails so great for cheese pairing? It’s simple: there is an infinite combination of spirits and components to mix and match, so you can find your perfect pairing with any cheese.
It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure game where every path ends with a cocktail in your hand and Wisconsin cheese in your mouth. Sounds like a win-win to us.
The Basics of Cocktail and Cheese Pairing
To help us with cocktail pairing suggestions and guidelines we interviewed cheese pairing expert, award-winning food and drink author, and fellow Wisconsin cheese lover Jeanette Hurt.
Start with the Base Spirits
The most prominent flavor in a cocktail generally comes from the base spirit. In a gin and tonic, the base spirit would be gin, or whiskey in an old fashioned.
Taking note of the base spirit can help you figure out what cheese will go best with your cocktail.
Mild base spirits like gin can be paired with a variety of delicate cheeses—depending on the cocktail. Bolder spirits like oaky bourbon, rum, or whiskey take a little more consideration and generally pair better with aged, nutty cheeses that can soak up all that tasty smoke and spice.
Match the Strengths
Just like we wrote about in our beginner’s guide to cheese pairing , your highest priority when pairing is to balance the intensity of your drink and the cheese.
You wouldn’t want to pair a delicate fresh mozzarella with a scotch-based cocktail. Why? The intensity of flavor in each sip of the cocktail will overwhelm any subtleties in the cheese.
A 10-year aged cheddar would be a better match. In general, higher alcohol content means higher intensity—and more challenging cheese pairing.
Think About Texture
Just like cheese, cocktails come in a variety of textures. They can be frothy, smooth, bubbly, and more depending on how they’re prepared. This opens an entirely new world filled with pairing possibilities.
Generally, as a rule of thumb, Jeanette says it’s easier to pair similar textures, but this doesn’t mean you can’t go for contrast either.
Our Favorite Cocktail and Cheese Pairings
GranQueso® with a Margarita
If it sounds like GranQueso and a margarita would be a logical pairing, you would be right. Inspired by manchego, this award-winning creation from Roth Cheese is great on its own, but even better with a cool margarita in your hands.
What makes GranQueso so special? It’s all in the aging. Each wheel is hand-rubbed with a blend of cinnamon and paprika before being aged. When you cut into it, you’ll be greeted with a firm semi-hard cheese that’s slightly tangy with notes of honey.
Each sip of margarita helps bring out more of that sweet and salty complexity while cleansing your palate with the acidity from the limes.
Alpine-Style with an Old Fashioned
Alpine-style is a robust cheese that calls for a robust drink—an old fashioned fits the bill. Whiskey helps complement and balance alpine-style’s nutty full-bodied flavor while the extra sugar and bitters in this cocktail add just enough sweetness to the round out each bite. In Wisconsin, we prefer our old fashioned cocktails with brandy rather than rye or bourbon whiskey. Try it both ways and let us know what you like best!
Blue Cheese with a Gin and Tonic
A floral cocktail with a blue cheese might sound like an unlikely pairing, but trust us on this one. Start with a blue that errs toward creamy and young. Hook's Cheese Original Blue or Roth’s Buttermilk Blue are great starting points.
These rich, fatty blues contrast beautifully with a botanical gin and the added tonic water adds just enough bitterness to wash away the finish, so every bite is as good as the first.
Gouda with a Negroni
The Negroni is a three-ingredient cocktail wonder that has been around for over a century but has just recently hit mainstream stardom in the U.S. Made with gin, vermouth, and Campari, you’d be forgiven for thinking this refreshingly bitter cocktail doesn’t pair with cheese.
Prepare to be surprised. What the Negroni lacks in richness, any aged gouda has in spades. When you combine the two you get a delicious combination of fruit and nuttiness on the nose with a light, refreshing finish.
Bread Cheese (Juustoleipa) and Daiquiri
Meet the wild card cocktail and cheese pairing of this list. Bread cheese is sort of like a grilled cheese sandwich made just of cheese—try it and you’ll understand what we mean.
Although this cheese hails originally from the fjords of northern Finland and Sweden and now sits comfortably in the midwest you can give it a tropical spin. As Jeanette explains: “Juustoleipa pairs well with rum drinks, especially if you grill it with pineapple to bring out the tropical notes in the pairing.”
Answer All Your Cheese Pairing Questions
Ready to learn more about cheese pairing? We’ve covered everything you need to know about pairing cheese with wine, food, beer, and more. Start with our beginner’s guide or just dive into whatever topic suits your fancy. Explore a world of cheese pairing at your fingertips.
Wine and Cheese Pairing
Liquor and Cheese Pairing
Cheese Board Essentials
Flex your cheese pairing muscles and get creative, or try one of our cheese board recipes, like this Summertime Cheese Board or this Sweet and Savory Brunch Cheese Board. If you want to cook a full meal try our selection of over 300 handcrafted recipes featuring Wisconsin Cheese. Share your creation with us on Instagram or Facebook and become part of the largest cheese community in the world.
Want to make cheese pairing even easier? You can plan your cheese board ahead of time and get your favorite Wisconsin cheeses delivered right to your door with our continuously updated list of cheesemakers and retailers that allow you to order cheese online. Award-winning Wisconsin cheese is just a click away.
What cocktails pair well with cheese?
There are a variety of cocktails that pair well with cheese! Some of our favorite cocktail and cheese pairings are:
- Old fashioned with alpine-style cheese
- Gin and tonic with blue cheese
Our number one cocktail and cheese pairing rule is to match the strengths. Match delicate, light cheeses with refreshing floral cocktails. Save the smoky single malt for an aged cheddar or gouda.
What cheese goes well with gin?
Gin is one of our favorite cheese pairing spirits whether you’re having it in a cocktail, or just a simple gin and tonic. We recommend pairing gin with smooth, creamy cheeses like blue or triple cream cheeses. The floral and botanical profile of most gins can help balance the rich, decadent, and slightly barnyardy flavor of many soft cheeses.
What to pair with an old fashioned?
Pair your old fashioned with a hardy aged cheddar, aged gouda, or an alpine-style. These nutty semi-hard cheeses can stand toe-to-toe with the whiskey in your old fashioned. Toss some roasted nuts into a ramekin on the side for some crunch and you’ve got your evening plans sorted.