Let's Talk About Cheese Booze (No, really!)
All photos by Aliza Kellerman.
I discovered something recently: I kind of like cheesy booze. No, I’m not talking about wine bottles with Santa on the label or punny beer, I mean alcohol that is, quite literally, cheesy. I was invited to the French Cheese Board, a pop up cheese “idea lab”/retail space done in partnership with cheese distributor Cheeses Of Europe. Unfortunately, the pop-up has closed (but will relocate to SoHo soon, stay tuned!) and Alcohol Professor is not a cheese website, so why am I telling you about this event at all?
The invite said the cocktails would be “cheese-inspired” and I was intrigued. I’ll admit, half of that interest was because of the person creating the cocktail, Natasha David of Nitecap. Nitecap is a terrific spot on the Lower East Side with creative cocktails. She’s the co-owner/head bartender of the joint, and besides that she has an impressive resume of experience. So I was interested to see what she would conceive based on the theme of “cheese.” What I was not expecting were cocktails where cheese was an actual ingredient.
Three dairy-rich cocktails were served, each meant to be paired with three cheese dishes. The cocktails didn’t have names, so I’ll refer to them by the dishes they were designed to accompany: Mac & Mimolette, Brie & Grapes, and Racelette & Potatoes.
The Mac & Mimolette was gin-fizz esque. A combination of mimolette rind-infused Calvados, lemon, fig, egg white, and grated mimolette, this cocktail was shockingly delicious - by far my favorite of the night. The creamy, sharp taste of the mimolette worked well with the egg white. And of course, the flavor of fig is also a great complement to cheese. Calvados, while not “sweet” per se, has obvious apple undertones that also work well with cheese.
The Brie & Grapes was a little more shocking: camembert infused gin, ginger, lemon, and lingonberry worked together to bring a taste that reminded me a bit of concord grape juice. In fact, I was surprised there were no grapes involved. The lingonberry must have fooled me. The ginger added a nice complexity, although ginger is not one of my favorite flavors. So while enjoyable, this sweet, sensory thrilling drink would probably be better for a ginger nut.
Lastly, the very strange although not unpleasant Raclette & Potatoes. This drink was comprised of bleu d’Auvergne infused Aquavit, Blanc and Dry vermouths, brine, and pickled tomato. It sort of tasted like a potato salad martini. That isn’t a bad thing! Many of us enjoy pickle-backs, and this was kind of like “pickle-back pays a mortgage and begins to raise a family.” I’ll also say it made sense while paired with the actual potatoes. If you’re really into herbs and culinary spice, this drink would be a winner. The botanicals of the aquavit worked well with the brine and bleu as well.
So there you have it, folks. Cheese is a cocktail ingredient that delivers. Yes, these are drinks that have shock value, but they’re also way more fun than a glass of Prosecco. The next time you’re having friends over for light bites, why not whip up some of these concoctions? Although these drinks aren’t actually being sold anywhere, you can easily make them at home because Natasha was kind enough to give us recipes!
To make the cheese infused booze, let each cheese sit in its spirit for the prescribed amount of time (see below) then strain and freeze so the fat rises to the top, then strain again. Do this twice over a period of 48 hours. This is basically a method of fat washing. Here’s how long each cheese should sit in its respective spirit:
For the Mimolette Rind - 50 g of rind to one 750 ml bottle of Calvados for 7 hours.
For Camembert - 60 g of Camembert to one 750 ml bottle of Dorothy Parker Gin for 5 hours
For Bleu - 50 g to one 750 ml bottle of Linie for 2 hours.
Mimolette & Mac:
- 2 oz (59 ml) Rind infused Busnel Calvados
- 0.75 (22 ml) oz Lemon Juice
- 0.5 (15 ml) oz Simple Syrup
- 1 barspoon Bon Mama Fig Preserve
- Egg White
Method: Shake, Strain
Glass: Double Rocks glass with Big Block of Ice
Garnish: Grated Mimolette
Brie & Grapes:
- 2 oz (59 ml) Camembert-infused Dorothy Parker Gin
- 0.75 (22 ml) oz Lemon juice
- 0.5 oz (15 ml) Ginger syrup
- 1 barspoon Lingonberry preserves
- Seltzer, to top
Method: Shake, Strain, Top w/ Seltzer
Glass: Highball with Kold Draft
Garnish: Candied Ginger
Raclette & Potatoes:
- 1.5 oz (44 ml) Blue infused Linie Aquavit
- 0.75 (22 ml) oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
- 0.75 (22 ml) oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
- 1 tsp. Pickled Tomato brine
Method: Stir, Strain
Glass: Nick and Nora or Martini
Garnish: Blue cheese stuffed pickled tomato