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Stir It Up

A scrumptious spread of cheeses and cocktails.

A Widow's Kiss Cocktail stands in a martini glass next to a half wedge of blue cheese.

If you’ve been watching trends in America’s cocktail culture, you might have noticed that it mirrors the same quality that drives much of the American specialty cheesemaking scene—namely, a spirited quest for originality. Forget the once-ubiquitous Cosmo and all those daiquiris. Skilled bartenders—excuse me, mixologists—across the country are now mixing and muddling premium liquor with fresh ingredients to create cocktails that are uniquely their own. In the process, they’ve come up with some great new pours to pair with cheese. Especially right for fall, these four seasonal drinks are sure to create a buzz beside your cheese plate.

The Widow’s Kiss

Bryan Dayton, the former bar manager at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado, recommends serving this Halloween-inspired cocktail with a soft blue cheese, like Cambozola, which mellows the combination of Chartreuse and Benedictine.

serves 1

  • 1½ ounces Calvados
  • ¾ ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • ¾ ounce Benedictine
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Cherry

Combine the Calvados, Chartreuse, Benedictine, and bitters in a mixing glass. Stir for 30 seconds. Serve up in a cocktail glass, garnished with a cherry.

The SweetWater

From the rooftop garden bar (now closed) at the Surrey hotel in New York City comes this hearty, cold-weather cocktail. Pair it with Caerphilly cheese from Tonjes Farm Dairy in Callicoon, New York, or a caramelly, aged Gouda.

serves 1

  • 3 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Aromatic Bitters
  • 1 generous squeeze honey (local, unfiltered is preferable)
  • 2 ounces Tuthilltown Spirits Hudson Baby Bourbon
  • 2 ice cubes
  • 2 ounces Vermont Sweetwater Maple Seltzer (see note)
  • 1 apple slice

Add bitters and honey to a sturdy rocks glass, then add bourbon and stir with a bar spoon. Add ice cubes and seltzer. Stir again. Garnish with apple slice.

Note: Vermont Sweetwater Maple Seltzer is a light, not-too-sweet beverage made of carbonated maple sap. Find it at vtsweetwater.com.

The Uppercut

Bobby Heugel, cofounder of the Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston, Texas, enjoys this fun and fizzy cocktail with blue cheese, such as Point Reyes Original Blue. Heugel likes the way the tangy, balanced blue stands up to the drink’s fruity liqueur and the acidity of the sparkling wine.

serves 1

  • 1½ ounces white rum
  • ¾ ounce apricot liqueur
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice
  • ½ ounce honey syrup (3 parts honey to 1 part water)
  • Dash of peach bitters
  • Sparkling wine, to taste

Combine the rum, apricot liqueur, lemon juice, honey syrup, and bitters in a cocktail shaker and shake till blended. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine.

Ruby Chai Appletini

H. Joseph Ehrmann, proprietor of Elixir in San Francisco, serves this cider-based drink with Irish cheddar. “There’s something about the combination of cheddar and apple,” he muses, “and when you throw chai in there, it warms you right up.” The texture of Gala apple when muddled into a sauce-like consistency, Ehrmann adds, “gives this drink a velvety, viscous mouthfeel with a creamy head like a pint of Guinness.”

serves 1

  • ¼ Gala apple, cored, plus a slice for garnish
  • 1½ ounces Square One Organic Vodka infused with Numi Organic Ruby Chai Tea (see note)
  • 1&frc12; ounces apple cider
  • &frc12; ounce organic agave nectar (or other natural sweetener)
  • &frc12; ounce fresh lemon juice
  • Ice

In a mixing glass, muddle the ¼ apple to applesauce consistency. Add the vodka infusion, cider, agave nectar, lemon juice, and ice. Shake well for 10 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Head should be frothy and creamy. Garnish with the apple slice.

Note: Infuse 1 tea bag per 6 ounces of cold vodka for about an hour.

Holly Beretto

Holly is a freelance food and beverage writer based in Texas.

Gregory Cherin