Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Nikka Coffey Vodka

Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Nikka Coffey Vodka
Date: June 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.

Nikka Coffey Vodka

Nikka has a few spirits with the name Coffey. Two whiskies, the Nikka Coffey Grain and the Nikka Coffey Malt. I happen to love both. And after the success of these spirits, Nikka also made a Coffey Gin and a Coffey Vodka. I still need to try the gin, but for some reason I ended up with a bottle of Nikka Coffey Vodka. Odd that I have this, as I am not a vodka drinker and almost never make cocktails that use vodka, except for an incidental Long Island Iced Tea. But I have it, so let’s give it a try. Now, don’t think that this spirits, or any others in the Coffey range, have anything to do with coffee. I thought that in the beginning, but it’s all about the Coffey stills that Nikka uses for these spirits.

Coffey Vodka is a vodka with flavor and texture according to the Nikka website. The secret behind this extremely smooth mouthfeel and delicate taste is the quality of Coffey distillates and the preciseness in blending. Corn and barley are separately distilled into various batches with slight difference in ABV and taste profile. These batches are carefully blended by experts and then refined with white birch charcoal. The ABV differs per market, the bottle I have has an ABV of 40%.

Neat

On the nose this vodka is not bad. There isn’t a burn of ethanol, it is quite soft yet spicy with a hint of vanilla. The taste is soft too. Soft and warm with a slightly spicy undertone. Tropical fruits, white pepper and a little bit of vanilla. It is actually a pleasant vodka to drink, softer and smoother than most other vodkas I tried. Will this change my mind on the drink? No, not really, for me it will still only be an ingredient for cocktails and nothing I will drink neat. But if I would, I would pair it with a medium bodied, creamy cigar. Cuesta Rey Centenario Natural for example.

Harvey Wallbanger

Such a famous cocktail, yet I had never tried it. And now that I am finally giving it a go, it is a slightly altered version as I don’t have Galliano in my liquor cabinet. I replaced it with yellow Chartreuse, which according to the internet, is an acceptable alternative. The Harvey Wallbanger is a modern classic cocktail that was reportedly born in the 1950s, when it was first prepared by California bartender Donato “Duke” Antone. It is basically a vodka orange juice aka screwdriver with the addition of Galliano.

On the nose I don’t get anything of the vodka or the yellow chartreuse. It’s just orange juice, muted due to the ice. The yellow chartreuse is only there with the first sips, after that it’s just orange juice with a little bit of the vodka. This vodka is so smooth that it has a hard time standing up to the orange juice. Orange juice isn’t very acidic not sweet so it’s easy to pair this with any cigar. I paired it with a cigar with a Sumatra wrapper and that was very nice. Now the cigar I smoked, My Father Reloba Sumatra is no longer being made, but pair this with an Ashton VSG, Romeo y Julieta 1875, or an Oliva Serie V Melanio and you’ll have that same great pairing.

And now for the Harvey Wallbanger recipe:
1½ oz or 45ml Vodka
3 oz or 90 ml of Orange Juice, freshly squeezed
½ ounce of 15ml of Galliano (in my case: yellow Chartreuse)
Fill a tall glass halfway with ice. Add the vodka and the orange juice, stir and then float the Galliano or chartreuse on top.

Sea Breeze

The Sea Breeze is an icon of 1980s drinking, a light and refreshing cocktail that pairs perfectly with sunny days at the beach. Featuring vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice, it’s often grouped with similar drinks of the era. Despite its significant ’80s street cred, the Sea Breeze likely originated decades earlier, although in a different form than it’s known today. Harry Craddock’s famed 1930 tome, “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” includes a recipe for the Sea Breeze Cooler, which calls for equal parts dry gin and apricot brandy, plus half a lemon and two dashes of grenadine. It’s served over ice, topped with club soda and garnished with mint. Though a much different cocktail than today’s version, many believe this to be the basis for the modern Sea Breeze. And the recipe changeup may be due to some clever marketing by a cranberry consortium.

This cocktail needs cranberry juice but I could not find any. The closest I could find is cranberry & pomegranate juice so I used that instead. The aroma is almost nothing, just a muted sweetness of the fruit juice. The cocktail looks great though, dark pink. This drink is very refreshing, sweetness from the juice, and just like with the Harvey Wallbanger, the fruit juice and grapefruit overpower the soft vodka. I bet this will be better with a rougher vodka. But in this setup I would pick a medium bodied cigar, maybe an Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Sun Grown, or a Fratello Classico.

And now for the Sea Breeze recipe:
1½ oz or 45ml Vodka
3 oz or 90 ml of Cranberry Juice
1½ oz or 45ml Grapefruit juice
Add the ingredients in a Collins glass with ice and stir.

Inspector X

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