How to Pair Cheese and Cocktails

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How to Pair Cheese and Cocktails

You’ve probably heard of pairing cheese and wine, but what about cheese and cocktails? The two go together better than you think.

Bartender extraordinaire John deBary recently worked with Emmi Kaltbach cheeses to come up with some pretty epic cocktail and cheese pairings. We caught up with deBary to get a rundown on how each pairing works.

“I wanted to create cocktails that were harmonious with the Kaltbach™ cheeses, not overpowering while not shying away. Drinks with assertive acidity, slight bitterness, and aromatic complexity are great companions to cheese or cheese-centric meals,” deBary says.

Here’s what he came up with:

The Santenberg Spritz with Kaltbach Emmentaler AOP

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Named after the mountain adjacent to the Kaltbach™ cave, this cocktail pairs perfectly with Emmi Kaltbach™ Emmentaler® AOP as an aperitif. Gin is a natural choice as a versatile cocktail base, as it provides a welcoming canvass for a variety of flavor profiles. In this case, we paired it with Genépi de Alpes, a slightly bitter wormwood-based liqueur that is a popular après ski beverage. Grapefruit juice provides acidity and a touch of bitterness. The drink is lengthened with a sparkling mineral water, which gives it a great texture, and lowers the alcohol concentration. Think of it as an enhanced Gin and Tonic—easy drinking at brunch or as an aperitif before dinner.

Emmi Kaltbach Emmentaler AOP is a traditional hard Swiss cheese aged for 12 months. During its aging process, the natural environment of the Kaltbach™ cave causes pockets of water and fine white crystals to form on the inside of the cheese, and a dark, almost black rind to develop on the outside. In this pairing, the complex earthy woodiness of the Emmi Kaltbach™ Emmentaler provides the perfect complement to the herbal bitterness of the Satenberg Spritz cocktail.

Santenberg Spritz
1 oz. Gin
.75 oz. Genépi des Alpes
.75 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice

Directions: Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled collins (or water) glass, top with sparkling mineral water. Garnish with a half wheel of grapefruit.


The Kaltbach Athletic Club and Emmi Kaltbach Le Gruyére AOP

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This is a nod to the classic cocktail, the Last Word, invented in the 1930s at the Detroit Athletic Club. Again, I started with a base of gin, true to the original Last Word recipe, and added Kirschwasser, a cherry eau-de-vie popular throughout the Alps, St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur, and lime juice. A garnish of cucumber wheel highlights the fresh, vegetal notes of the gin, and accompanies the fruity aromatics of the Kirschwasser.

Made in the Gruyére region of Switzerland, Emmi Kaltbach Le Gruyére AOP is a Swiss classic aged for 12 months to give it flavors of dried stone fruit, spice, black tea and hazelnuts. An excellent melting cheese, Kaltbach Le Gruyére AOP can also be used to make fondue. Since Kirschwasser is often used in fondue recipes, this Kirschwasser-infused cocktail makes for an ideal pairing.

Kaltbach Athletic Club
1 oz. Gin
.75 oz. Kirschwasser
.75 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz. St. Germain

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe (or martini glass). Garnish with a cucumber ribbon on a pick.


Via Alpina and Emmi Kaltbach Le Crémeux

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As a digestif I created the Via Alpina, a Negroni riff with alpine flair. This drink mixes gin with Gran Classico—a cousin of Campari, along with French Vermouth—made with an abundance of alpine botanicals, and a small amount of Zirbenz—an Austrian alpine liqueur made with the fruit of the stone pine tree. Served on the rocks, this drink is meant to be a great way to cap a satisfying meal.

Emmi Kaltbach Le Crémeux develops a unique, complex flavor during the four months it spends aging in the Kaltbach™ caves. Sweet and unassuming at first, this semi-firm cheese is made with extra cream which gives it a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a buttery earthy flavor. This cocktail pairing works exceptionally well as the extra cream from the Emmi Kaltbach Le Crémeux coats your pallet and enhances the herbal qualities of the gin and Zirbenz.

Via Alpina
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Gran Classico
.75 oz. French Dry Vermouth
.25 oz. Zirbenz Liqueur

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, fill with ice and stir for 15-20 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. No garnish.


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