It's no secret: pairing cigars and spirits is my thing. But I don't regard the actual mixing of the two a particularly palatable proposition. That is, I don't dip my cigar's head into a brandy snifter before smoking it and I don't feature tobacco that has been flavored with whiskey—even the Maker's Mark cigar that has been aromatized with one of my favorite Bourbons; it smells and tastes rank when you light it.
But how about if you made a cocktail that tasted like a cigar? At least then you could go to a bar with a no-smoking policy and, while not actually indulging in our favorite pastime, get a reminder of what you were missing. I encountered something like that yesterday at an event for Pallini Limoncello at the Macau Trading Company in New York City's Tribeca section. It was a small gathering with the express purpose of inventing cocktails with the host's liqueur.
Limoncello is the signature drink of Italy's Amalfi Coast, where huge lemons grow all over the place. While out-sized, the native lemons aren't particularly tart compared to what grows in the United States, and they make a sweet liqueur that tastes something like a lemon drop. Limoncellos are not necessarily made from that lemon, although Pallini is one of the makers that uses Amalfi lemons exclusively.
Anyway, we all set to work on creating drinks and a few of them ended up being fairly reminiscent of a cigar. No, there was no tobacco added. (I've had that at a Manhattan contest, and it succeeded in putting me off what is usually one of my favorite drinks.) What gave them that taste were smoky spirits. In particular, Ardbeg single-malt Scotch and mezcal. It seemed that the lemon in the Pallini brought out the inherent smokiness in both those products in a pleasant way.
It wasn't something I would have thought of. (My own instinct for the limoncello challenge was to go with Bourbon, in something like a Sazerac offshoot, including a wash of absinthe and a dash of orange bitters, which worked out well, but had no cigar overtones.) This suggests to me a whole new avenue of experimentation with sort of Rob Roy variations, using Islay Scotch and limoncello. Now, I have something to do with my free time. My wife's reaction was, "Oh, joy!"
Here's the recipe for the mezcal cocktail:
2 slices red jalapeno peppers
1 1/2 oz. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
1 oz. Pallini Limoncello
Muddle the strawberries and peppers. Place all ingredients in an iced shaker, shake and strain into an iced rocks glass.
I called my own creation a Sazer-Cello-Maniac and made it like this:
3 sprigs basil
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
2 1/2 oz. Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon
1 oz. Pallini Limoncello
Coat the inside of an old-fashioned glass with absinthe. Pour excess back into bottle. Muddle basil and bitters in bottom of a mixing glass. Add Bourbon, limoncello and ice. Shake. Strain mixture into old-fashioned glass.