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 used to have 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 whisky, gin, rum, vodka and liquors.
The origin of Gin lies in The Netherlands, as I wrote about when I tried to pair Zuidam Jenever with cigars. The British variation of jenever was gin, and they made it to counter the bitterness of quinine in tonic water. The quinine helped the British armed forces fight malaria in overseas territory. But that doesn’t mean that distilling gin is limited to the United Kingdom. Gin is made everywhere in the world, and nowadays more gin distilleries pop up everywhere. Citadelle is a French gin that’s been around for close to thirty years, distilled in Chateau de Bonbonnet in the South West of France. The French influence isn’t limited to the gin, as I will get to later, but also to the appearance. A beautiful transparent blue bottle with a design that immediately makes you think of France and the label has the same French touch. The gin has an abv of 44%, its distilled in copper pot stills and uses 19 different botanicals.
Neat this gin has a beautiful nose. A nice perfume of sweet orange, violet, coriander and spice, all with a floral undertone. The aroma is already delicate and sophisticated, that is a big promise for what’s to come. And I must admit that this gin is sophisticated and delicate with floral flavours, bright and clean with a bit of sweetness. The spices remind me of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel and liquorice. The citrus flavours are orange and lemon, but they are perfectly in balance. This is a very delicate gin, perfect to drink neat. But due to the fact that this drink is so delicate, I would go with a milder cigar. Something like the Quesada Reserva, Oliva Connecticut Reserva, Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne, CAO Brasilia or a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure #2. Stay away from strong, bold and peppery cigars with this gin.
The classic cocktail, and the baseline for every new gin that I try is a gin tonic. So, I do the same for Citadelle. Citadelle gin and Schweppes Tonic Water as I could not find any artisan tonic while doing groceries this time. On the nose it does not matter as a gin and tonic is usually odourless due to the ice. I don’t know if it’s the quality of the tonic, or the delicate flavour of the gin, but this gin tonic doesn’t seem to work. It’s a watered-down version of the neat drink with botanicals and floral notes. There is a little bit of alcohol taste in the cocktail with some added freshness. The floral notes and the crispiness make this a non-traditional gin, I bet that’s the French influence. And to keep with that French theme, I suggest smoking a Flor de Selva (for those that wonder what the connection is, Maya Selva is French Honduran) or a Quai d’Orsay. If you have an old Corona Claro from Quai d’Orsay, you could have a perfect pairing on your hands.
And now for the gin tonic recipe:
2 ounces of 60ml of Citadelle gin
4 ounces or 120ml of Tonic water
Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice. Add the gin, then the tonic and stir gently.
14 Hours Ahead
This cocktail is inspired by Japan and used Matcha tea. That also leads to the weird name, but once you know the Japanese inspiration things might become a little clearer. Tokyo, Japan’s capitol, is 14 hours ahead of the Eastern Coast of the United States where distiller and bartender Allan Katz created this cocktail. I decided to try this review as I was intrigued by the use of matcha in the cocktail, even though it looks like there is too much citrus in the mix for this cocktail to be a good pairing with cigars.
On the nose this cocktail doesn’t offer anything at all. Flavour wise it’s different. The first sip was so sour, so much lime and lemon that the fillings in my teeth started to hurt. There is some sweetness from the honey syrup, but the matcha and the gin are completely overpowered. I am not a qualified barkeeper and not nearly skilled enough to rescue this recipe but I would start with half the citrus and adding a drop of vanilla essence. I bet a qualified barkeeper can make this recipe much better. The heavy cream gives the cocktail a nice creamy mouthfeel though, almost like a thin milkshake. Due to the strong citrus in this cocktail, I would not pair it with a cigar. Honestly, I would just smoke a cigar and leave this cocktail off the menu or have the Citadelle Gin neat. But if you want to drink a 14 hours ahead while smoking a cigar then go for something strong and bold.
And now for the 14 Hours Ahead recipe:
1½ ounce or 45ml of Citadelle Gin
¾ ounce or 22½ml of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
¾ ounce or 22½ml of lime juice, freshly squeezed
½ ounce or 15ml of honey syrup
½ ounce or 15ml of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of matcha (powdered green tea)
Garnish: pineapple wedge and pineapple leaf
Add all the ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until well-chilled. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice and serve with a straw.