A fusion of favourites from L’Ubriaco
“It touches your senses—but it reaches your heart,” Pamela of L’Ubriaco enthuses, with the romantic intensity you’d expect from an Italian describing Italian food. The subject at hand is not pizza margherita, spaghetti aglio olio or any of the heavyweight classics, but a blue-veined formaggio that sits at the frontier of not just Italian, but all cheeses: Blugins.
It’s made by Antonio Carpenedo, a producer who’s been making boozy waves in the cheese industry for some time with his so-called drunk cheeses. Known as l’ubriaco in Italian (a language in which even intoxication sounds beautiful), they comprise a variety of pasteurised, aged cow’s milk cheeses which have been steeped in vats containing the must of local red wine to aid the ageing process. More recently he and his sons have extended the drunk cheeses to beer and brandy—but never ventured to spirits. Then, just over two years ago, the idea hit.
“Alessandro, one of Antonio’s sons, knew an artisanal gin producer.” They met through the local bartender who helped orchestrate the 50th anniversary of Antonio’s company, La Casearia Carpenedo, by pairing cocktails with their cheese. He sourced his gin from Roby Marton: a producer whose eponymous gin encapsulates the red berries, sweet liquorice and ear-popping horseradish that grows in Treviso. He introduced them and together, Roby and Alessandro spent the next two years experimenting to find the right recipe for gin cheese.
A living body
“Cheese is a living body, which needs to be treated as such,” says Pamela. Antonio and his family “must create the perfect conditions of temperature, humidity and time, so that the cheese can be penetrated with the best artisan ingredients. For this reason, there is never an exact recipe.” Each batch will be made slightly differently according to the weather, the season and so on, and the formula still took some time to perfect. “That is why Le Caseria Carependo don’t like to share the recipe.”
Still, Pamela can outline the basic process: the ageing of cow’s milk from local farms for four months, during which time the rind is washed with gin and additional spices. “They massage the cheese with the gin and the juniper, cinnamon, liquorice and so on,” she says. “Gin is such a strong spirit, but I think in the making process it evaporates, so it gives a nice, fresh touch to the cheese without overwhelming it.”
Some of the Carpendo’s cheeses are strong: both in cheese, and in booziness. “The wine flavour in one of them is like a slap in the face. This isn’t so powerful,” she continues, laughing. “I think they found the right balance. It’s a blue cheese for those that don’t like blue cheese”—and a gin cheese for non-gin drinkers.
Biting into it, we are startled by the zingy-ness of its palate—sweet on first bite, then a fleeting glimpse of spice before a clean, bright finish at the end. “It has a delicate flavour, with a fresh aftertaste,” she continues—and before you ask, yes it does indeed go perfectly with gin on the side. “At the launch of the cheese in Italy we actually served it with gin moscow mules!”