Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Chartreuse Yellow

Cigars and alcohol. Two luxury products that go hand in hand, and sometimes even meet on business level. Aging tobacco in whisky, rum, or cognac barrels is a practice several brands do to achieve extra flavour to the wrapper for certain lines. The famous bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has their own cigar, sold in tubes with the signature wax coating. Drew Estate works with Pappy van Winkle and used to make Kahlua cigars. Mombacho has the Diplomatico series. General Cigars works with Sazerac, which resulted in Fireball cigars, Weller by Cohiba and collaborations with Buffalo Trace. And there is the Diesel Whisky Row, a collaboration with Rabbit Hole Distilleries. Fratello Cigars also sells craft beer. Most famous are probably the Cuban collaboration between Martell Cognac and Cohiba. Dominique London, the European retailer with more than 20 shops in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and the Canary Islands takes it one step further. They bought a distillery in Wales and produce gin, rum, vodka and liquors, and bottle whisky. They were kind enough to sponsor Cigar Inspector with samples so we can write about pairings.

Chartreuse (yellow)

Chartreuse is a French herbal liqueur available in green and yellow versions that differ in taste and alcohol content. The liqueur has been made by Carthusian monks since 1737 according to instructions set out in a manuscript given to them by François Annibal d’Estrées in 1605. It was named after the monks’ Grande Chartreuse monastery, located in the Chartreuse Mountains. Today the liqueur is produced in their distillery in nearby Aiguenoire. It is composed of distilled alcohol aged with 130 herbs, plants and flowers. According to tradition, a marshal of artillery to French king Henry IV, François Hannibal d’Estrées, presented the Carthusian monks at Vauvert, near Paris, with an alchemical manuscript that contained a recipe for an “elixir of long life” in 1605. The recipe eventually reached the religious order’s headquarters at the Grande Chartreuse monastery, north of Grenoble. The formula is said to include 130 herbs, plants and flowers and secret ingredients combined in a wine alcohol base. The recipe was further enhanced in 1737 by Brother Gérome Maubec.
The beverage soon became popular, and in 1764 the monks adapted the elixir recipe to make what is now called the “Elixir Végétal de la Grande Chartreuse”.
Chartreuse increased in popularity during the craft cocktail movement of the early 2000s, due to its bittersweet profile and romantic history. In 2020, the trend toward at-home cocktail making during the COVID-19 pandemic doubled worldwide demand for the liqueur. Meanwhile in a separate decision, the Carthusian monks decided in 2019 to limit Chartreuse production to 1.6 million bottles per year, citing the environmental impacts of production, and the monks’ desire to focus on solitude and prayer. The combination of fixed production and increased demand has resulted in shortages of Chartreuse across the world. Yellow Chartreuse (80 proof or 40%) has a milder and sweeter flavour and aroma than Green Chartreuse, and is lower in alcohol content.

Neat

The nose is a little milder than Chartreuse green when it comes to ethanol but the mint and herbal aromas are very similar. It’s almost medicinal in aroma, as is the green version. The bite is less than the green, while the mind is stronger. It’s almost like drinking toothpaste. Sweet, minty and herbal. The mint is so strong that it needs a stronger cigar to stand up to that. A medium to full bodied Habano cigar would be my choice.

Alaska

The Alaska is a close relative to the Martini and is at least a century old. Like a Martini, the Alaska is a straightforward drink to construct, with only gin, yellow Chartreuse and a dash of (orange)bitters needed.

The nose is all lemon, but that was expected. That little bit of lemon oil and lemon peel are the strongest smelling part of the cocktail. The juniper of the gin and the herbal aromas of the yellow chartreuse are the perfect backdrop though. The sweetness and herbal notes of the yellow chartreuse are shining through with the gin and marry with the botanicals of the gin like they were meant together. The orange bitters provide a slight bitterness and depth, plus a little orange flavour. The characteristics of both the chartreuse and the gin are still separately noticeable yet elevate each other to higher levels. This is a complexed cocktail and I would not destroy it with an overly strong cigar. Something subtle, something complex to compliment the cocktail. Something like Steve Saka’s Sobremesa, the Alec Bradley Coyol, Fonseca Delicias if you’re a fan of Cuban cigars.

And now for the Alaska recipe:
1½ ounces of 45ml of gin
½ ounce or 15ml of Yellow Chartreuse
1 dash of orange bitters
Garnish: Lemon peel
Add the gin, yellow Chartreuse and orange bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a Nick & Nora glass. Squeeze the oils of a lemon peel over the drink and then add the peel in the drink as a garnish

Honey Badger

The nose gives honey and ginger, but not much of the yellow chartreuse or bourbon aromas. The rosemary is there but very mild. This is a complexed cocktail, an explosion of flavours with lemon on the foreground, balanced by the honey sweetness and the heat of the ginger. Underneath are the herbal flavours of the chartreuse and the vanilla and woody notes of the bourbon. The few drops of bitters give this cocktail an edge. This is less sweet than expected, just as complex as I expected and the ingredients work together better than expected. I might have to infuse a bottle of bourbon with rosemary as this is a cocktail I definitely want to drink more often. And I will pair this with a nice and smooth medium bodied cigar. Padron Damaso comes to mind, just like the Arturo Fuente Rosado D’Oro. High end cigars, that’s what this cocktail deserves.

And now for the Honey Badger recipe:
2 ounces or 60ml of Bourbon
¾ ounce or 22½ml of Yellow Chartreuse
½ ounce or 15ml of Ginger Syrup
½ ounce or 15ml of 3 to 1 Honey Syrup
1 ounce or 30ml of Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
2 dashes of Lemon bitters (I replaced this with Orange bitters)
1 sprig of Rosemary

De-stark the sprig of rosemary and muddle the leaves together with the bourbon in a cocktail shaker (this is the quick version, you can also use a rosemary infused bourbon by leaving a sprig of rosemary in a bottle of bourbon for 48 hours while shaking occasionally, then strain and rebottle the bourbon. This is worth doing if you intend to drink honey badgers on a regular basis). Add the other ingredients with ice and shake. Then double strain into an ice filled rocks glass.

Episcopal

A simple cocktail, with only two ingredients. Yellow Chartreuse and Green Chartreuse. Simple right, then how can this cocktail be so complicated? Well, that’s because of the internet. The original recipe, written on the back of a bottle of yellow Chartreuse says “1 part of green Chartreuse to 2 parts of yellow Chartreuse” yet all the recipes online have more green than yellow, and none of them in the same quantities. On top of that, none of the recipes I found online have a recipe that’s easily copied in the format (oz + ml) that I use for my pairings. Either they are in ml, but in quantities that result in very odd oz, or in shots (not even oz) that result in odd ml quantities. This shows that you can adjust the cocktail to your liking and I’m adjusting the recipe as well to fit my format.

Minty, herbal, liquorice, the aroma of this cocktail is very complex. Sweetness, citrus, herbal, mint. The flavour of this cocktail is just as complicated and complex as the aroma. This cocktail is unlike any others I ever made and tasted, but I honestly wouldn’t know what to pair with this. Maybe an Alec Bradley Coyol, maybe another well balanced and slightly complex cigar. Padron Damaso would be an option too.

And now for the Episcopal recipe:
1½ ounces or 45ml of Green Chartreuse
¾ ounce or 22½ml of Yellow Chartreuse
In a mixing glass, add Green Chartreuse and Yellow Chartreuse and stir with ice. Strain into a balloon glass or rocks glass with a large ice cube.

Amber Dream

The Amber dream is a Gin based cocktail made with yellow Chartreuse, dry vermouth and a dash of orange bitters. It is a spirit forward cocktail and all four ingredients contain alcohol. It’s almost like a martini with some Chartreuse and based on that, I don’t think it’s up my alley. But fans of a martini or negroni might like it.

The nose has some orange from the garnish and herbs from the Chartreuse. The herbal fragrances of the Chartreuse shine through. The mouthfeel is dry, that must be the dry vermouth. It’s not as bad as I expected it to be, but it’s still not the kind of cocktail I enjoy. The slight citrus from the gin really shines through, but the juniper is overshadowed by the herbs and botanicals from the Chartreuse. It is an interesting cocktail and I would pair it with a woody cigar such as the Cohiba robusto, or a La Preferida 652. Maybe a nice Tatuaje.

And now for the Amber Dream recipe:
2 ounces or 60ml of Gin
¼ ounce or 7½ml of Yellow Chartreuse
1 ounce or 30ml of Dry vermouth
Dash of orange bitters
Add the spirits in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and double strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Garnish the drink with a flamed orange peel.

Inspector X

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