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Shaken Stirred and Curd: New-fashioned cocktail pairings for the holidays and beyond

Photography by Nicole Wolf; Styled by Chantal Lambeth

Let summer have its breezy G+Ts and Aperol spritzes: When days are short and trees are bare, more complex, nuanced cocktails are in order. Michael Gatlin, general manager of Maine Craft Distilling and co-founder of Owl and Whale—maker of artisanal bitters and shrubs—both in Portland, Maine, uses amari, vermouths, and fruit brandies to instill his cocktail recipes with a sophisticated yet balanced blend of flavors that pair beautifully with cheese. “The balance of sweetness in alcoholic beverages and saltiness in cheese is a perfect marriage,” Gatlin says. “I tend to lean towards hard, flaky, aged cheeses and soft, gooey, funky cheeses. Whiskey cocktails are a match for the harder cheeses and gin cocktails for the funky, gooey ones.”

Will Sissle and Mary Chapman, owners of The Cheese Shop of Portland, consider a few factors when pairing their cheeses with mixed drinks. “An important thing for me is looking at the sugar content in a cocktail,” says Sissle. “Another important element is mouthfeel; we look at that with cheese to find something texturally that will work well.” Finally, because “we eat with our eyes,” appearance matters, he says. Each of the following pair-ings has beauty to spare.

Dark Sky


  • 1 ½ ounces Espolon Añejo tequila
  • ¾ ounce Punt e Mes
  • ½ ounce Cardamaro
  • ¼ ounce Bully Boy Amaro
  • 3 dashes cherry bitters
  • Orange slice


  • Stir all ingredients over ice.
  • Strain into coupe glass.
  • Garnish with orange slice.

+ CHEESE: L’Amuse Signature Gouda, Holland

Bronze Age


  • ½ ounce Fernet Branca
  • ½ ounce Green Chartreuse
  • ½ ounce St. Germaine
  • ½ ounce Strega
  • ½ ounce honey
  • ¾ ounce yuzu juice
  • Long strip of orange peel


  • Shake all ingredients over ice.
  • Strain into rocks glass and add ice from shaker.
  • Garnish with orange peel inside the glass.

 + CHEESE: Chiriboga Blue, Albert Kraus’ Hofkäserei Kraus, Bavaria, Germany

Commercial Product


  • 1 ounce Black Cap Vodka
  • ½ ounce Winter & Rothman’s Apricot
  • ¼ ounce Yellow Chartreuse
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • 4 dashes Owl and Whale persimmon bitters
  • Prosecco
  • Dried apricot sliced to fit onto rim of glass


  • Shake first five ingredients over ice.
  • Strain into champagne flute.
  • Top with prosecco and garnish with dried apricot.

+ CHEESE: Hanna’s Awashed, Ruggles Hill Creamery, Hardwick, MA

The Siren



  • ½ cup dill pickle juice
  • ¼ cup sugar


  • 2 ounces George Dickel Rye
  • ½ ounce dill pickle syrup
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Green Chartreuse
  • Cornichon
  • Lemon slice


  • Syrup: Add dill pickle juice and sugar to a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool before using.
  • Cocktail: Shake all ingredients over ice. Strain into rocks glass with ice or a large single cube. Garnish with cornichon and wheel.

+ CHEESE: Bleu Mont Bandaged Cheddar, Bleu Mont Dairy, Blue Mounds, WI

Wicked Game


  • 1 ½ ounce Botanist gin
  • ¼ ounce Yellow Chartreuse
  • ¼ ounce Tempus Fugit Gran Classico
  • ½ ounce Combier Pêche de Vigne
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • Caramelized peach segment


  • Shake all ingredients over ice.
  • Double strain into coupe glass and garnish with caramelized peach segment.

+ CHEESE: Frolic, Orb Weaver Creamery, New Haven, VT

Susan Axelrod

Editor-in Chief Susan Sherrill Axelrod’s love affair with cheese began at age 12, when she bicycled to a gourmet shop to taste an exotic newcomer—French brie. She lives with her partner in midcoast Maine, where she enjoys a well-made cocktail, hiking with their dog, Lucy, and spending as much time as possible on the water.

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