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.
Foragers Yellow Label Gin
The Foragers Yellow Label (42% ABV) is a small batch distillation made with juniper from the harsh slopes of Snowdonia, vibrant sea buckthorn from the shores of North Wales, heather from the violet hills of Llandundo and elderberries from the hedgerows of farmland. That allows the Foragers team to produce a gin with notes of Sicilian orange citrus and a coating of honey and Braeburn apples. The Foragers Yellow Label has won several awards, including medals at the 2021 World Gin Awards.
When you drink this gin straight or neat, it has a strong nose of juniper and botanicals. The gin is surprisingly spicy and you can taste the botanicals. There is sweetness and the sea buckthorn releases a mild citrus flavour. I assume the sweetness comes from the elderberries. This is a pretty straight forward, pleasurable gin that calls for an earthy or woody cigar to complement the spice, sweetness and mild citrus aroma from the gin. Or something with a nutty and coffee aroma such as the San Cristobal/Paradiso Quintessence or a Montecristo for the Cuban smokers.
Gin & Tonic
One of the most popular cocktails in the world is probably the Gin Tonic, although many might not even consider it a cocktail but merely a mixed drink. So, every single gin I write about has to be tasted as a Gin & Tonic. The tonic used is Schweppes, nothing fancy but for the true aficionado there are better quality tonics out there. The cocktail has a mild aroma of botanicals. The flavour is surprisingly lemony, the tonic enhances sea buckthorn citrus tremendously, and there is not even a hint of alcohol. This is very refreshing. The spice that I tasted when I drank the gin ‘as is’ is gone.
Drinks with citrus are often not a good pairing with cigars, as it is hard for the tobacco to cut through the citrus. But even though this gin & tonic has a lemony flavour, it is mild enough to work with any cigar. And when I say any cigar, I mean any cigar. This cocktail is the perfect backdrop for cigars ranging from a mild Connecticut Shade cigar or a Cuban Fonseca Delicias to a powerhouse such as the Perdomo 20th Anniversary Maduro.
Recently I watched the movie ‘Last night in Soho’ and with a big nod to James Bond, the main character ordered a Vesper. Now in the movie, you saw a big poster of Thunderball, but the cocktail first makes its appearance in both the book and the movie Casino Royale. The book is from 1953, the movie from 2006. It is named after Bond’s lover Vesper Lynd.
This is a strong cocktail, but that’s no surprise since all the components contain alcohol. Even though the gin vs vodka is 3 vs 1, there is a clear vodka flavour but mildly smoother, although further in the drink, the gin starts to shine and the vodka becomes the backdrop. The botanicals of the gin seem to have disappeared. The lemon peel gives a slight citrus flavour, but so mild it’s not an issue for a pairing. Since the alcohol content is quite high compared to other cocktails, I would pick a slightly stronger cigar but due to the quite neutral flavours of the cocktail this one can be easily paired with almost every cigar, palate wise, just make sure it’s strong enough to stand up against the ABV. So, I would not pick anything with a Connecticut Shade wrapper, unless it’s one of the modern “not your grandfather” Connecticut Shade cigars like the Jas Sum Kral Zlatno Sonce.
And now for the Vesper recipe:
3 ounces or 90 ml of Foragers Yellow Label Gin
1 ounce of 30 ml of Ybet Vodka
½ ounce of Lillet Blanc
Lemon peel for garnish
Put all the ingredients, minus the lemon peel, with some ice in your shaker and shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Double strain into a martini glass or a coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
One of my favourite cocktail channels on YouTube did a video on 50 classic cocktails you need to know. Now, I must admit, I did not know all 50 and I saw a few that piqued my interest. One of those cocktails was the Silver Fizz and it so happened that I had all the ingredients available. That’s not a surprise, as the ingredients for this cocktail are pretty straight forward. It’s a cocktail that needs a bit of work due to the egg white, the dry shake and then the wet shake, but it seemed interesting enough to make it. And so I did.
This cocktail has no smell at all, it could be that the fizz in the soda water masks the true aroma. Flavour wise it is quite tart. I taste lots of lemon with a flavour of hard liquor, the botanicals are lost in this cocktail. The Silver Fizz is quite watery but with a creamy mouthfeel from the egg white. Much to my surprise, it is not as refreshing as a gin & tonic, even with the extra lemon. I was hoping for a very refreshing summer drink, but the cocktail is a bit of a downer. This one needs a bit stronger smoke, earthy and peppery to stand up to the lemon. Something like an Oliva series V, Partagas Serie D, Bolivar Belicoso Finos, My Father Le Bijou, or Tatuaje J21. I smoked an aged private label made by Plasencia and that one stood up against the lemon. But I don’t think this is a cocktail that goes well with cigars, nor will I ever make it again.
And now for the Silver Fizz recipe:
2 ounces or 60 ml of Foragers Yellow Label Gin
¼ tablespoon of granulated sugar
½ ounce or 15 ml of lemon juice
1 egg white
1 ounce or 30ml of soda water
Add the lemon juice and the sugar in your shaker and shake. Then add the Foragers Yellow Label gin and the egg white, shake hard for about 30 seconds to emulsify the egg. Then add your ice and shake again for about 10 seconds. Double strain into a Collins glass with ice and top with the soda water.