Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Chartreuse Green

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 (green)

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. The green chartreuse is 110 proof, or 55% ABV. It is a naturally green liqueur made from 130 herbs and other plants macerated in alcohol and steeped for about eight hours. A last maceration of plants gives its colour to the liqueur. The first version of the liqueur was devised in 1825, with the modern version first released in 1840

Neat

I poured a little bit in a Glencairn glass to try the liquor neat. Since it’s hard to find, I don’t think anyone will ever drink this neat though as everyone wants to use this sparingly. The aroma is strong with plenty of herbal aromas. It’s like cooking a nice Italian dish with lots of fresh herbs. Basil, rosemary and citrus. The flavour is sweet, minty, herbal and because of the 55% abv, there is also a bite. It’s almost medicinal in flavour, like natural cough syrup. The consistency is also thick as syrup. I don’t think this liquor would be nice with a cigar, but if you pair it, I would go for a creamy cigar, a mild to medium bodied Connecticut Shade. Or a nice La Estancia Edicion Exclusiva from the Meerapfel family.

Verdant Lady

The nose is minty from the garnish and herbal from the botanicals in the gin and the herbs in the Chartreuse. The lime is not present in the nose. But the lime is in the flavour, minty, herbal and tart. This cocktail is simple to make but it delivers. Complex and sophisticated, yet balanced and easy to make.

I would pair this with a mild to medium bodied cigar. Nothing too heavy as that will overpower the subtilities of this cocktail. Sobremesa Brulee, EPC New Wave Belicoso, Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Natural, Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure #2, cigars in that category.

And now for the gin Verdant Lady recipe:

1½ ounces of 45ml of gin
½ ounce or 15ml of Lime juice, freshly squeezed
¼ ounce or 7½ml of simple syrup
1/6 ounce or 5ml of Green Chartreuse
4 large mint leaves
Pour all ingredients in a shaker with plenty of ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Double strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a mint sprig.

Green Ghost

The Green Ghost first appears in print in 1937, in the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, where it’s attributed to a J. B. Hurrell. It is a simple, spirit forward, cocktail that uses London Dry Gin and the French Liqueur Chartreuse, the green version as you get from the name.

On the nose I get some lime and a lot of the spices and herbs from the green chartreuse. The juniper and botanicals of the gin are hidden behind the herbal aromas. I’m happily surprised, as that little bit of green Chartreuse and lime juice transform the gin into a nice, smooth, herbal, interesting and delicious concoction. The gin gives the cocktail body, the lime provides the tardiness that cuts binds the herbs of the liqueur and the botanicals of the gin together. This is a nice Cameroon cigar, something like the Arturo Fuente Don Carlos, New World Cameroon by A.J. Fernandez or the non-Cuban H. Upmann Cameroon.

And now for the Green Ghost recipe:

2 ounces or 60ml of Gin
½ ounce or 15ml of Green Chartreuse
½ ounce or 15ml of Lime Juice, freshly squeezed
Add the spirits in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail 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.

Inspector X

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