Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Zwettertje kruidenbitter

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.

Zwettertje kruidenbitter

Kruidenbitters (herbal bitters) are very popular in The Netherlands. And there are so many varieties, almost every liquor shop has a house brand. Every town, big or small, has its own brand. Now I don’t know if they are truly all different or if most are the same liquid just in another bottle. And talking about the bottles, most kruidenbitters come in pottery bottles for a traditional look. In the days before InterTabac I was in The Netherlands and ended up driving through a village not too far from Amsterdam. I stopped at a local bottle shop, which is run by a 90+ year old woman who really knows her stuff. The friendly lady gave me a small bottle of their local bitter, Zwettertje, named after the lake Het Zwet that is located in the town. Apparently, herbs grown on the borders of this lake are used in the distillation process. It turns out that there are a few cocktails that have this spirit as a base instead of just using a few dashes, so why not create them and see if this is something that will go well with cigars.


I tried this in a Glencairn glass and was expecting for the worst. I mean, the name ‘herbal bitter’ doesn’t sound appealing, it sounds like traditional medication. But on the nose, this is already very nice with sweet almonds and marzipan. And that aroma comes back in the flavour too. Sweet marzipan, and I love marzipan, with warm spice. This is full of flavour and very nice. Perfect for a nip in cold weather with the little alcohol burn and the sweet flavours. Something small will go well, earthy and spicy. Something with a Cameroon wrapper and then the Arturo Fuente Rainforest Delight is the first cigar that comes to mind.

43 Bitter

The 43 in the name comes from Licor 43, a Spanish liquor with 43 different herbs and spices. It’s a drink that my wife likes every once in a while, so I had a bottle at home. On the nose this cocktail has almonds and vanilla. The aroma is lesser in strength than the neat drink. The cocktail is overly sweet with lots of vanilla, yet there is a bitter undertone and there are also almonds and spices. This cocktail is quite complicated but too sweet. The close or more than 50 different herbs and spices make it hard to describe what I’m all tasting but in includes vanilla, almonds , coffee and dark spices. This needs an earthy cigar to counter the sweetness.

And now for the 43 bitter recipe:

2 ounces of 60ml of Licor 43
1 ounce or 30ml of Zwettertje kruidenbitter
add the Licor 43 and the bitter in a shaker with 2 cubes of ice. Shake and then strain into a cocktail glass.


Boo Boos Special

Would this fall under the tiki cocktail category or not? I mean, it has plenty of fruit juices but on the other hand, there is no rum anywhere near this cocktail. The nose is very fruity, orange and pineapple but that’s no surprise. The orange is stronger than the pineapple in the flavour, with a slight earthy undertone. The bitter and the grenadine sweetness are hardly noticeable. Although later on the sweetness of the berries does show up. This cocktail needs something woody, earthy or peppery to balance it out. I am thinking about an Inch Nicaragua by Ernesto Perez Carrillo.

And now for the Boo Boos Special recipe:
1 ounce or 30ml of Zwettertje kruidenbitter
3 ounces or 90ml of Pineapple juice
3 ounces or 90ml of orange juice, freshly squeezed
1 slash of grenadine

Add all the bitters, pineapple juice and orange juice into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until well-chilled. Strain into a hurricane glass and add the grenadine. Serve with a straw.


Soft & Silky

This is an alcohol forward cocktail, only two components and both consist of alcohol. On the nose I smell almonds from the bitter and juniper and botanicals from the gin. But I must say, the almond is way stronger than the other aromas. The cocktail is soft and silky indeed, earthy and sweet with floral almonds. It is not as sweet as the 43 Bitter and more balanced. There is a slight coffee flavour, sweet coffee. I can imagine Starbucks selling a sweet almond coffee that comes close to this, but of course, since it’s Starbucks the quality would be a bit lower. It would still be popular. The lingering aftertaste is a slightly bitter and sweet earthy flavour of liquorice. I would light a cigar with a bit of pepper or wood in the profile, medium plus in body.

And now for the Soft & Silky recipe:
1 ounce or 30ml of Zwettertje kruidenbitter
¾ ounce or 22½ml of Gin

Add all the bitters and gin in a rocks glass with some ice. Stir and serve.

Inspector X

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