The Indulgent Cheese Pairing You Need While Sipping Irish Coffee

Food and beverage pairings sometimes rely on complementary flavors, while others are all about contrast. Advice from flavor pairing experts can help you figure out what kind of duo you want to experiment with. We've asked Chad Galer, Vice President of Product Innovation and Food Safety at Dairy Management Inc., what kind of cheese goes best with a holiday favorite: Irish coffee. 

This classic, comforting cocktail — a blend of Irish whiskey, coffee, cream, and sugar — is enjoyed year-round, but it's especially fitting during the holiday season, thanks to its pleasing sweetness and cozy-making wintertime warmth. The warmth is attributed not only to the hot coffee, but also to the potent alcohol content of Irish whiskey (typically about 80 proof).

Coffee and cheese are a classic pairing in many countries, and for your holiday gatherings, Galer recommends serving up aged gouda when you hand out Irish coffees to guests. "The slight sweet and savory cheese can hold up to the sweet and complex after-dinner drink," he says. Gouda both complements and slightly with contrasts your Irish coffee for a hearty snack-and-drink pairing that's sure to please.

Why aged gouda and Irish coffee are a complementary pairing

Gouda is traditionally made in the Netherlands, and aged varieties — which are matured for two years or more — have a particularly complex texture and taste. Aged gouda has a characteristic sweetness, just like Irish coffee with its sugar and whipped cream topping. A gouda's caramelly flavor comes from the way it's made, as scalding water is used to wash the curds before they're formed into wheels for aging, providing that caramelized effect. This pairs well with a rich Irish's coffee's sweet and warm notes. 

Aged gouda's nutty flavors also bring out whichever coffee you decide to use. A bold dark roast can stand up to a rich Irish whiskey, while a medium roast provides a milder flavor. Either will pair well with aged gouda, so set out a plate of bite-sized pieces of cheese with your Irish coffees for a delicious dinner party appetizer, or even as a sweet finish to a main meal. If you end up hooked on the combo of coffee and cheese, expand your possibilities even more by learning what other cheeses pair brilliantly with coffee drinks.

Other pairing options for aged gouda

The possibilities of pairing gouda with drinks go far beyond alcoholic coffees. Various goudas have long been considered excellent pairing options with beer and wine, and aged gouda is a traditional partner for darker beer styles like porters and stouts. Chocolate and coffee-flavored stouts, in particular, are a good match with crumbly and crystalized aged gouda. One of the reasons gouda is the best cheese to pair with Irish coffee is that it helps counteract the natural harshness of some darker-roasted blends, and it does the same for dark beers with coffee notes.

The versatility of aged gouda as a pairing option is even more pronounced when it comes to wine. Wines featuring grapes as diverse as Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon all pair well with aged gouda. Its caramel-like flavor profile also makes it a good match for sweet wintertime treats besides Irish Coffee. Serve aged gouda with green apple slices with a handful of nuts, add a drizzle of dulce de leche sauce, and you'll have yet another sweet and savory pairing option to enjoy during the holiday season.