It’s most common to see cheese paired with beer and wine—even nonalcoholic wine and cheese pairings. But balanced and bracing mixed drinks pair beautifully with cheese, too—and so do their nonalcoholic cocktail cousins.
The basics of pairing—matching intensities, experimenting with complementary or contrasting flavors, and serving bubbly beverages with particularly rich cheeses—still hold true for nonalcoholic spirits. But with this new world of alcohol-free drinks, a little guidance goes a long way.
Whether you’re serving sober guests, doing a Dry January challenge, or living a zero-proof lifestyle all year long, it’s good to have alcohol-free cheese pairings in mind. Here are some tips for sourcing and pairing nonalcoholic spirits and zero-proof cocktails with cheese.
How to Pair Cheese With Alcohol-Free Cocktails Made With Zero-Proof Spirits
Many makers of zero-proof spirits have based their recipes on the flavors of classic bottles like whiskey, gin, and amaro. These products can be used in place of booze in well-known cocktail recipes, creating booze-free drinks with profiles known to match well with certain cheeses.
Seedlip, one of the first alcohol-free brands on the market, is a great starting point for those new to pairing mocktails and cheese: their clear, herbaceous Garden 108 can be paired with tonic and citrus for a zero-proof gin and tonic.
The classic summer sip pairs well with Pecorino-style sheep’s milk cheeses like Pecora Nocciola. Here’s a roundup of other gin and cheese pairing ideas for reference as you explore zero-proof cocktail and cheese pairings.
For a fruitier sip, reach for a citrusy, balanced beverage like Eva’s Spritz, made by For Bitter or For Worse. Swap it into a zero-proof Aperol Spritz, then pair the drink with fresh or soft-ripened goat cheese like Merry Goat Round from Firefly Farms. Check out our post on amaro and cheese pairings for inspiration, then swap in alcohol-free analogues.
If you prefer the warm, mellow notes of brown liquor, there are nonalcoholic spirits and cheese pairings for you, too. Whip up a Manhattan with spicy Monday Zero Alcohol Whiskey to pair with an aged Alpine cheese like Gruyère or Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
You can emulate an Old Fashioned with Spiritless’s Kentucky 74, a sweet, smoky swap for bourbon, then serve it with long-aged Gouda or a hunk of clothbound cheddar like Lucky Linda from Redhead Farms. See our full list of whiskey and cheese pairings for more inspiration.
Experiment With Unique Nonalcoholic Spirits Before Pairing With Cheese
Many makers of alcohol-free spirits have taken the opportunity to explore new flavor profiles rather than trying to emulate existing beverages. This is great news for those seeking zero-proof spirits and cocktails to pair with cheese—but you’ll want to experiment with untried bottles so you know what you’re dealing with before you hit the cheese shop.
As you sample different products, keep in mind the kinds of flavors we often pair with cheeses: bright and citrusy cocktails with soft goat cheese; dry, bubbly drinks with Brie or Petite Camembert; sweet, rich sips with dense Parmigiano-Reggiano or salty, peppery blues like Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill.
Once you’ve found a bottle you like, build yourself a cheese board and taste away. Note the combinations you enjoy so you can return to them the next time you’re craving a stellar pairing. You can also blend these beverages with fresh fruits and herbs, teas, kombucha, and craft soda to create unique original mocktails.
Should You Serve Nonalcoholic Spirits With Mixers or Sip Them Neat When Pairing With Cheese?
Cheese pairs well with mixed drinks or good-quality straight-up alcohol—but what about zero-proof spirits? When sourcing nonalcoholic spirits to pair with cheese, it’s important to find out whether the producer recommends sipping your hangover-free drink with mixers or on its own.
While many brands can be enjoyed on their own or combined with tonic, seltzer, or other mixers to create nonalcoholic cocktails, some booze-free bottles are recommended to mix into mocktails only. Seedlip is one such brand, but many others can be mixed or sipped as is.
What are your favorite nonalcoholic spirits and cocktails to pair with cheese? Tag us @cheesegrotto on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter and let us know!