Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Zuidam Jonge Jenever

Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Zuidam Jonge Jenever
Date: April 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. 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.

I have been writing a lot about gin. I like gin, I like gin a lot. But I must admit that I don’t know much about a drink called jenever, also known as jenever. Another name for this distilled spirit is Dutch Gin. And the truth is that gin became popular after the introduction of jenever in Great Britain. As a gin connoisseur I decided to look into jenever a bit more only to become more confused. The difference between jenever and gin is quite simple. Gin can be distilled from any raw material, while jenever is always made from grains like rye, malted barley and corn. No wonder jenever producers often describe it as a cross between gin and whisky. But then it gets confusing. There is jonge (young) jenever and oude (old) jenever. Still not confusing right, but what if I tell you that those names have nothing to do with age?

The difference between a young (=jonge) and an old (=oude) jenever has nothing to do with the maturation of the product. A young jenever mainly differs in production method and in taste from an old jenever. An old jenever refers to the old production method and consists a great amount of malt wine. A young jenever refers to the usage of neutral (grain) alcohol. In the beginning of the 19th century a new distillation method with a column, made distilling to 96% ABV possible. Consequently there was no grain taste left in the grain distillate. A young jenever does not differ in age but in taste and composition to an old jenever.

Malt wine is distilled to maximum 80% ABV, thus contains a lot of grain taste. An old jenever will always hold a fuller grain taste than a young jenever.

Zuidam Jonge Jenever

On a recent trip to The Netherlands I walked into a bottle store and got myself a bottle of jonge jenever and a bottle of oude jenever. Since I don’t know much about the spirit, I asked the store owner, a 96 year old lady who still works retail, to recommend me a brand. She picked Zuidam, a family owned distillery founded in 1976 in Baarle Nassau in the south of The Netherlands. The jonge jenever has an ABV of 35% and the recipe contains three different grains, rye, corn and barley. And also juniper, liquorice, carrot and anise seeds.

So I tried the Zuidam Jonge Jenever is my favourite type of glassware for drinks I never tried before, a Glencairn glass. The shape of the glass gives the best nose when trying alcohol. And the nose gives me sour apple with a little citrus and vanilla. The alcohol aroma is strong. The spirit self has a bit of a bite, that travels up to the nose. But the flavours are nice, sweet vanilla. It is almost like a less sweet liquid ice cream although it seems a bit disrespectful writing it down like that, and it also doesn’t cover everything. But it’s hard to put in words what I do taste. This will go well with a smooth, medium bodied cigar such as the Joya Red or a Cuban Juan Lopez.

Jenever & Tonic

Since gin and jenever are so closely related, I wanted to try the classic gin cocktail but then with jenever instead just to see if there is a big difference between the two. And on the nose, there is no difference as there is hardly any nose at all. But that is the same thing with most gin & tonics too. Flavour wise it is different than a gin tonic. The tonic is sort of overpowering the jenever and I only taste a bit of alcohol and a slight tardiness. This cocktail is also sweeter with lesser botanicals. The aftertaste has some pepper. I prefer a gin tonic to be honest. I would recommend a cigar with stronger flavours but without too much of a body. Something like the Alec Bradley Magic Toast, Arturo Fuente Flor Fina or a Quai d’Orsay 50.

And now for the jenever tonic recipe:
2 ounces or 60ml of Zuidam jonge jenever
4 ounces or 120ml of Tonic water
Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice. Add the jenever, then the tonic and stir gently.

Barbadian Gin Punch Swizzle

In my search for simple cocktails that you can make at home and use jenever, I ran into the Barbadian Gin Punch Swizzle. Now the name mentions gin, but the recipes I saw used jenever. On the nose this cocktail is all about lime, and that worries me. Citrus forward cocktails often don’t play with cigars very well. I taste lime and botanical. This cocktail has sweetness and is well balanced and refreshing. In the nose the lime was overpowering but in the cocktail it doesn’t. There is a hint of coconut due to the use of coconut water. I would pair this Barbadian Gin Punch Swizzle with a medium bodied cigar with earthy flavours. A cigar with some pepper to give the pairing a little extra character could work too as the cocktail itself lacks a bit of oomph.

And now for the Barbadian Gin Punch Swizzle:
2 ounces or 60ml of Zuidam jonge jenever

2 ounces or 60ml of coconut water
½ ounce or 15ml of freshly squeezed lime juice
½  ounce or 15ml of rich demerara syrup
2 dashes of angostura bitters
Fill a Collins glass with crushed ice. Then add all the other ingredients and swizzle until the glass is frosted.

Inspector X

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