We love pairing cheese with all kinds of drinks, but the world of cheese pairing tends to be pretty heavy on booze. That’s why we’re exploring the world of nonalcoholic cheese pairings, including how to pair cheese with tea, hot chocolate, and even kombucha.
Whether you brew it in a jar at home, buy it ready-made, or sip it on draft, kombucha pairs beautifully with cheese for many of the reasons other pairings like wine, beer, or cider do. Its flavors and mouthfeel complement and contrast with cheese’s flavors and textures, and the huge variety of kombuchas on the market today offer fruity, herbaceous, floral, and even earthy tasting notes—minus the hangover.
Note that kombucha isn’t strictly alcohol-free. In the U.S., commercially brewed booch must be under 0.5% alcohol to be sold as an alcohol-free product. Homebrew can range anywhere from 1% to 3% alcohol depending on how it’s made. Because of this very low alcohol content, kombucha may be off-limits to those who are sober, in recovery, or who abstain from alcohol for religious reasons.
Assess kombucha for flavor and mouthfeel before pairing.
If you’re already a kombucha connoisseur, you may be able to skip this step—but for those of us new to the world of kombucha, it’s important to taste before pairing.
That’s because different kombucha brands (not to mention homebrewers) take different approaches to produce the drink. Some add fruit juices to fermented tea to balance acidity and sweetness and enhance flavor, while others go for a drier, fizzier, or more acidic drink. So start with a kombucha you enjoy first, then consider cheeses that might pair well with its particular flavor profile and body.
Once you’ve assessed the character of your kombucha, you can match it with cheese. A mellow, sweet, fruit-forward batch of booch can make a natural pairing for fresh and bloomy cheeses, savory aged cheeses, and blues alike. A particularly tart, citrusy variety is good for balancing out cloudlike lactic cheeses and creamy, umami-rich washed rinds. A kombucha spiced with ginger or warming spices can complement a salty, pungent blue.
As always with pairing, experimentation is the key to success—and the only “correct” combination is the one you enjoy!
Pair particularly bubbly kombucha with rich, dense, or creamy cheese.
One of the reasons kombucha pairs so well with cheese is that it shares many qualities with other versatile pairing beverages. With its tannic, mouth-drying texture, sweet-tart flavors, and notes ranging from earthy to fruity to floral to herbaceous, good booch can mimic a nice dry white wine (minus the booze).
That goes double for very fizzy varieties. Palate-cleansing bubbles can mimic a sip of Champagne, prosecco, Lambrusco, or other sparkling wine. For this reason, particularly effervescent kombucha is an excellent pairing for the same cheeses we love to serve with sparkling wine: tender burrata, lush double- and triple-creams, and dense, long-aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Experiment with nonalcoholic kombucha cocktails to incorporate additional flavors.
A good bottle of kombucha will offer a refreshing mouthfeel, balanced flavors, and complex aromatic notes on its own—but the drink can also serve as the base for a spirit-free cocktail. Consider enhancing your favorite kombucha with ingredients like citrus, fresh fruit juice, flavored syrups and shrubs, fresh herbs, and zero-proof spirits.
Doctoring your booch into a spirit-free cocktail gives you the chance to incorporate other flavors and textures that can bring out specific qualities of the cheese—such as fruity or floral flavor notes—or balance its texture with tannins or acid. Once again, experimentation is key, so get creative, have fun, and taste away!
Have you ever paired cheese with kombucha? Tag us @cheesegrotto on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and let us know!