Cheese Pairing with Fruits & Spirits
Home entertaining is a snap when you pair artisanal cheeses with your favorite fruits, cocktails, and spirits.
When you’re entertaining in your home, remember: the best type of party food is the one that requires no cooking! Appetizers requiring minimal prep work should always be part of your entertaining repertoire. An artisanal cheese tray loaded with fresh and dried fruits (nuts & crackers, as well) is particularly delightful.
Additionally, while you can always offer guests wine or beer to go with cheese, consider offering friends and family a cheese, fruit & cocktail pairing they won’t forget!
When you think about traditional matchmaking, sometimes similar types get along…but opposites attract just as often. The same kind of chemistry can happen with artisanal cheese pairings when you create balance. Sweet and salty is a classic contrasting pairing. When you have a cheese that has an earthy flavor, a complementary drink would be one that helps smooth out that funky cheese flavor in a good way.
Remember that there are no firm rules when it comes to pairings—just guidelines to help steer you in the right direction. You are the best judge when it comes to picking out gourmet foods and beverages that pair well together. Even a mismatched pairing can be educational!
Fruit and Cheese Pairings
So, what fruits and cheeses go best together. While apples and grapes (both red and green) are usually the first fruits that come to mind when serving a party food cheese tray, there are so many other fruits that pair beautifully with cheese. Check out this list for more ideas:
The best fruit and cheese pairings create a delightful combination of flavors and textures. Here are some popular fruit and cheese pairings that are generally well-received:
- Apples and Cheddar: The crispness of apples complements the sharpness of Wisconsin Cheddar cheese, creating a classic and satisfying combination. Semi-sour apple pairings (think Granny Smith) are a particularly good match.
- Grapes and Brie: Sweet and juicy grapes pair beautifully with the creamy and slightly tangy flavor of Brie cheese.
- Pears and Gorgonzola: The sweet and slightly grainy texture of pears contrasts nicely with the pungent and creamy Gorgonzola cheese.
- Apricots and Goat Cheese: The sweetness and delicate flavor of fresh or dried apricots are enhanced by the creamy and tangy taste of goat cheese.
- Strawberries and Ricotta: The sweetness of ripe strawberries balances well with the mild and creamy nature of ricotta cheese.
- Blueberries and Feta: The tartness of blueberries pairs nicely with the salty and tangy taste of feta cheese, creating a delicious contrast.
- Cherries and Asiago: The nutty and slightly sharp flavor of Asiago cheese can contrast nicely with the sweet and tart taste of cherries.
- Figs and Blue Cheese: This is considered a classic and delicious cheese and fruit pairing. The creamy, rich, and pungent flavor of blue cheese complements the sweet, jammy, and earthy taste of figs. The combination creates a wonderful balance of flavors.
- Peaches and Gouda: The smooth, buttery, and nutty flavor of aged Gouda cheese complements the juicy, sweet, and fragrant nature of peaches.
- Plums & Berries: The rich and creamy texture of Brie complements the juicy sweetness of plums and berries, creating a delightful combination. The mild and slightly tangy flavor of Brie allows the natural flavors of the fruits to shine while adding a creamy and smooth element to the pairing.
- Pineapple and Monterey Jack: Pineapple (and other acidic fruit) can be tricky to pair with cheese. This mild and buttery cheese, with its creamy texture, can be a good match for the tropical flavor of pineapple, allowing it to shine without overpowering it.
- Watermelon and Halloumi: The refreshing and juicy nature of watermelon pairs unexpectedly well with the salty and slightly squeaky texture of grilled halloumi cheese.
Remember, these pairings are suggestions based on flavor and texture combinations, and personal taste preferences may vary. Feel free to experiment with different combinations to find your own favorite fruit and cheese pairing!
Cocktail & Spirits Cheese Pairings
With cocktails and hard liquor, start with ones that you already like. A good rule of thumb is to pick something that you would put in your personal liquor cabinet. It’s a similar rule to cooking only with a wine you would drink.
While not traditionally served with cheese, spirits make fantastic pairings. If you’re planning a spirits and cheese pairing, present it at the beginning of the meal. Follow it with a lighter course such as charcuterie and a bright tasting green salad.
Cheese is a single-source food that comes from milk. Some artisanal cheesemakers allow their animals to graze outside, and many cows have a varied diet dependent on the season, weather and region. The resulting milk holds amazing and different flavors that affect a cheese’s taste. This variety of flavors means that cheeses marry well with complex spirits. Pick out two or three tasting notes that you like in the spirit you will be drinking, and find a selection of artisanal cheese to match.
Consider some of these options when you plan out your party food for a fun gathering:
- Gin: Often fragrant and herbaceous with citrus notes, gin pairs nicely with goat cheeses. Try these or other mixed-milk cheeses for a unique combination with a gin and tonic.
- Whiskey: There are a variety of whiskey flavors. Try pairing peaty and spicy whiskies with smoky, meaty-textured cheeses such as smoked cheddar, aged sheep cheeses, Gouda, and a strong blue cheese. Balanced whiskies are a great match for rich and nutty cheeses. Grassy Cheddars offer a pleasant contrast to a smoky Scotch. Bold bourbon can handle a strong cheese, especially one with caramel and sweet notes so that the pairing is like a dessert.
- Brandy/Cognac: While some folks think age is only a number, fresh cheeses like Brie tend to pair well with young Cognacs and mature, aged cheeses go with older Cognacs.
- Rum: The tannins found in rum bond well with fatty cheeses for a lovely combination. Cheese experts know that the caramel, toffee, and warm spiced notes in a quality rum call for triple cream or washed-rind cheeses.
- Fruit Brandies: These flavored brandies offer a natural match for many cheeses; try a pear brandy with blue cheese.
Another tip is to think of an artisanal cheese plate as an orchestra. Serve three or four cheeses on a plate with each bringing out different notes of the spirit to deliver a well-rounded experience to your palate. For more ideas on pairing gourmet foods, like artisanal cheese, for holiday entertaining, check out this handy pairing guide.