Smoke and Cocktails

Jun 26, 2012 | By Jack Bettridge

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:

Fragocello Diablo
2 strawberries
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.

"Glad to hear one of you favortite Bourbons is Makers, as is mine. Jack I guess Im just too "Old School". I basically refuse to pair my cigars, which are always full-bodied with anything but Scotch or Bourbon, neat of course. Scotch of choice is Macallan 12 or 18, Bourbon has to be Woodford Reserve or your favorite Makers Mark, and at times a bit of Knob Cteek" —June 15, 2013 19:59 PM
"Nice post Jack, looking forward to trying it. I've been to the Macau Trading Company and have enjoyed their late night menu as well as their mixes. If you enjoy bitters you must hit Amor y Amargo on 443 East 6th sreet. They make bespoke bitters and will create amazing cocktail mixtures. Changed my knowledge of just how many bitters can be made and pair so well with spirits. I'm a bourbon guy and what they did with said drink seriously impressed. " —June 29, 2012 14:39 PM
"Great post Jack. I had heard about something like what you describe but have not experienced it yet. If you would be interested in a guest blog post on my website, let me know. I would love to have more of your recipe's to share!" —June 29, 2012 03:33 AM

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