Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Grappa de Grignolino

Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Grappa de Grignolino
Date: May 2024
Author: Inspector X

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.

Grappa de Grignolino

Grappa is an alcoholic beverage: a fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy of Italian origin that contains 35 to 60 percent. Grappa is made by distilling the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems (i.e., the pomace) left over from winemaking after pressing the grapes. It was originally made to prevent waste by using these leftovers and it can only be called Grappa if it’s made in Italy, San Marino or the Italian of Switzerland. It must be made out of pomace with no water added prior to distillation or fermentation. There is American grappa but that is considered a brandy-style drink. The Grappa that I use for this article comes from the Antica Distilleria Di Altavilla di Laura Raimondo Mazzetti, based in Altavilla Monferrato, Italy. It has an ABV of 42%.

Neat

My only experience with Grappa is more than a decade ago when someone gave me a glass and I remember that I didn’t like it a bit. Now, I have no idea if that was just a poor quality grappa or that I really don’t like it as I never had it after. But maybe I taste changed, so let’s give it a go. The nose makes me scared; the ethanol is very strong. Apple and grapes are in the nose too. I taste some apple too, with some white pepper and vanilla. There is not a lot of sweetness. The apple flavour is of sour apples, which is a different acidity than citrus. That is a good thing as it means that this is a good drink to pair with a cigar if you happen to enjoy grappa, which I clearly don’t. That is what this grappa experience teaches me. Something with some body, with some wooden or earthy flavour notes.

Grappino

I am not a coffee drinker; I don’t have a fancy coffee machine. But I do like the flavour of coffee, I just don’t like hot drinks. Since I don’t have a coffee machine, I used instant espresso for this cocktail. And honestly, this cocktail looks very impressive. I mean, coffee, the almond flavour of amaretto, cream, nutmeg what’s not to like? Maybe the grappa, but let’s see.

On the nose I mostly get nutmeg from the garnish. At first all I taste is cream with a little bit of coffee. A bigger sip gives more coffee with a little almond with lots of cream but there is no sign of the grappa at all. Which is not a problem for me. A medium bodied, creamy Connecticut will go fantastic with this cocktail. The Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne, Sobremesa Brulé, Oliva Connecticut Reserva or a My Father Connecticut for example.

And now for the Grappino recipe:
¾ ounce or 22½ml of Grappa
½ ounce or 15ml of Amaretto
1 shot of espresso
¾ ounce or 22½ml of (soy) cream, I used regular cream as I didn’t have soy cream.
ground nutmeg
Shake the Grappa, Amaretto and espresso in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a rocks glass and slowly pour the cream on top. Garnish with some nutmeg.

Grappa Tonic

This isn’t just a Gin Tonic where the grappa is a substitute for gin. The alcohol is reduced, orange juice is introduced and the glassware is different. And it’s the orange that shows up in the aroma. There is no grappa aroma at all.  But the grappa is definitely in the taste. The sour apple and fruit flavours shine through the orange and the tonic and give this cocktail some character and bite. This is a great cocktail to pear with and earthy cigar such as the Quesada 40th Anniversary that I smoked while drinking this Grappa Tonic. A Montecristo #2 would pair nicely as well just as the Flores y Rodriguez CRV Azul.

And now for the Grappa Tonic recipe:
1 ounce or 30ml of Grappa
1 ounce or 30ml of Orange Juice, freshly squeezed
3 ounces or 90ml of Tonic
Garnish: Orange slice and thyme twigs
Add the liquids in a rocks glass with ice. Gently stir and garnish.

Sicily

This is an odd smelling cocktail, and not pleasant odd. Smelly shoes with a hint of chemicals, plastic almost. But the colour is cool, bright red. The cocktail is sweet from the blood orange syrup, and the orange really shines through. What I didn’t expect was the strong basil in the flavour. There is a citrus flavour too from both the lemon and the limoncello and some warmth from the ginger beer. I can taste grapes too, and fresh sour apples for some reason. The cocktail tastes better than it smells. Even though there is a citrus base in the cocktail here, this is not too strong to pair with a nice Kafie 1901 Don Fernando Maduro, Cimarron Maduro or any other medium strong maduro cigar.

And now for the Sicily recipe:
1 1/3 ounce or 40ml of Grappa
½ ounce or 15ml of Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
½ ounce or 15ml of Limoncello
2 ounce or 60ml of ginger beer
¾ ounce or 22½ml of blood orange syrup
Garnish: Basil leaves and a citrus wedge
Muddle the basil leaves in a shaker and add the liquids minus the ginger beer. Add ice and shake. Double strain into a cocktail glass and add the ginger beer.

Rum & Grappa Old Fashioned

I love a good old-fashioned, it’s my go to whisky cocktail and this twist sounds promising. I used Zacapa as the rum for this cocktail. The nose is all orange as expected. The viscosity is thick and the sweetness and vanilla make this cocktail almost creamy. The rum is dominant with a little sourness from the apple in the grappa and a hint of bitterness from the Angostura. The grappa also provides a bit of a bite, more than the rum gives on any given day. It is a nice twist on an old-fashioned and will go well with a stronger cigar, something with a Corojo wrapper that gives a nutty profile will be great. And when you say Corojo you say Aganorsa or anything made by Aganorsa such as Condega, Illusione, some Warped of the Aganorsa branded cigars.

And now for the Rum & Grapa Old-Fashioned recipe:
1 ½ ounce or 45ml of dark rum
1 ounce of 30ml Grappa
2 dashes of bitters
orange peel
Add the rum, grappa and bitters in a rocks glass with ice. Stir and garnish with the orange peel.

Inspector X

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