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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 pairings 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

Susan Sherrill Axelrod is a former editor of Culture. Her 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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