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Drinks Pairings

Speedy Smokes for Derby Day

May 4, 2012 | By Jack Bettridge
Speedy Smokes for Derby Day

Billed as the fastest two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby doesn’t allow much time for a drink and a smoke. Happily, the race’s signature cocktail—the Mint Julep—is a short one, not meant for sipping (as its crushed ice dilutes it quickly).

In that spirit, we chose to pair it with a short cigar. In the name of science, two editors lit up simultaneously and timed how long it took to finish each cigar.

The Horses
Two Padrón 1926 Serie 35 cigars in natural wrapper. One of our favorite short smokes, this four-inch-long cigar was named by Jorge Padrón for the established average time it takes to smoke one (35 minutes). Note that the Spanish for “father”—padre—may not be the base of the Padrón surname, but we duly mention that three names in the real Derby—Daddy Long Legs, Daddy Nose Best and El Padrino—have paternal connections.

Just in case you’re looking for hunch bets tomorrow. My money is on the horse with my favorite bar catchphrase: I’ll Have Another.

The Jockeys
David “The Turtle” Savona
“Rapid” Jack Bettridge

The Drink
A Mint Julep made with Elijah Craig Small Batch 12 Years Old (94 proof, retails for about $25), which proves to be a mouthful of candy, pear, caramel and vanilla that stands right up to the mint of the cocktail recipe. (Editor’s note: Traditionally, we fill this pre-Kentucky Derby Friday drinks space with a recipe story on the customary cocktail of the event. For a leader-of-the-pack Mint Julep recipe, click here.)

The race got off to a quick start under cloudy skies and somewhat muddy conditions. Savona and Bettridge left the gate quickly and stayed neck and neck around the first bend. The Turtle seemed distracted, however, checking his email and Facebook responses, and Rapid Jack built an early lead.

As the second horse pulled away quickly, it began to look like Secretariat’s famous early move at the Belmont Stakes. The Turtle was far behind, and both drinks were long gone.

By the halfway point, they took a breather to comment on how both horses were performing. (The Padróns were keeping up the pace with leathery zing, joined by coffee or cappuccino notes as well as cinnamon and graham cracker.) And by the stretch, the eventual winner seemed clear. Barring a thrown shoe or a foul by Savona, Bettridge would be the easy champion.

At the wire (the point at which the leading cigar burnt to its band), Rapid Jack had clocked 18 minutes and 56 seconds in wolfing down his cigar. Savona was still huffing and puffing.

In the spirit of competition (and so as to not waste any precious tobacco) Bettridge pulled back the band and kept riding. The sportsmanlike move afforded him an extra five minutes of smoking, even as he singed his finger tips a bit.

Still, Bettridge easily beat Savona, who finally pulled in at 36:23, almost a minute and a half longer than the previous standard referenced by Padrón himself.

A gracious winner, Bettridge offered to go again with more Juleps and the same smoke (this time with a maduro wrapper). Cooler heads prevailed, however, and it was agreed to continue the competition at the running of the Preakness (in two weeks time), using a rye whiskey drink in salute to Maryland’s historical spirit.

Of course, Padrón is not the only maker of quality short smokes.

What follows is a list of short cigars (most around 4 inches long, each scoring 90 points or more in the last year) that you might enjoy with a very quick race.

Outstanding Short Smokes
Rated in past 12 months, Cigar Aficionado and Cigar Insider

Fuente Fuente OpusX Perfecxion No. 5 Dom. Rep. 93
La Palina El Diario Kill Bill Honduras 93
Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Machito Nicaragua 92
Litto Gomez Diez Oriental 2010 Dom. Rep. 92
Montecristo Petit Edmundo Cuba 92
Savinelli Dos Campeones Sixto Trabajador Nicaragua 92
Trinidad Reyes Cuba 92
H. Upmann Half Corona Cuba 91
Macanudo Crü Royale Poco Gordo Dom. Rep.
Padrón Serie 1926 Maduro No. 35 Nicaragua 91
Partagas No. 4 Dom. Rep. 91
Por Larrañaga Petit Corona Cuba 91
Quesada Selección España Short Robusto Dom. Rep.
Tatuaje Cabinet Noellas U.S.A.
Illusione Epernay Le Petite Honduras 90
La Flor de Cano Short Robusto Exclusivo Reino Unido Cuba 90
La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero DL-452 Dom. Rep. 90
NUb Cameroon 460 Nicaragua 90
Romeo y Julieta Julieta Cuba 90
Room 101 Namakubi Roxxo Honduras 90
Partagás Serie D No. 5 Cuba 90
"Great Hunch!! Hope you placed your bet!! Got a hunch for the the next leg? Kenny." —May 7, 2012 17:10 PM

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