A Contrasting Pair Intermingled in a Complex Dance
By: J. Marshall Senkarik
Chosen to accompany this creative concoction is a relatively new offering from Gurkha Cigar Co., which we are very excited about- the Gurkha Cellar Reserve. Plump, deep brown and greatly constructed, the Cellar Reserve has a long, tight pig tail, coiled at its head. Aged in bourbon barrels, its pre-light aroma is one of oak and leather, with faint hints of whiskey and spices. This Dominican puro is blended with 15 year old tobacco and has a robust, but elegant shape, tapered down to the foot. This helps for an easy and quick lighting of the cigar.
The Martini is made with three parts Voli vodka to one part Martini & Rossi dry vermouth. This ratio makes for a dry martini indeed. I shake the mixture in a standard martini shaker until it is coated in a cloudy condensation, and becomes too cold to comfortably handle. I typically view this as a good thing. I then garnish a martini glass with a speared olive, and pour the frigid mixture directly over the speared olive, imparting just a hint of the olive flavor. Some imbibers add another splash of olive juice for taste afterwards, but for me, this evening is purely about the spirit, and the cigar.
The martini is sharp, bracingly cold, and dry, with the delicate bitter bite of the olive lingering with the sweet burn of the vodka. The floral notes of Voli vodka are more pronounced when augmented with the vermouth. It is a drink that cuts and heals at the same time, sweet off the tongue that warms as it goes down, the way good spirits should.
The cigar lights up quickly and evenly, with a smooth, firm draw. There are distinct flavors of oak and leather, with the sweet chewiness of bourbon. The smoke is smooth, soft and velvety, with a lush, creamy feel to it.
It’s amazing how much the cigar changes the entire flavor of the drink. Tasting the martini after a long draw on the cigar brings out its floral and olive notes. The thick, rich smoke is well complemented by the light and flavorful spirit. With the heat of the rich smoke still in my mouth, the jarring cold of the shaken martini comes as even more of a surprise. The tongue is already dancing from the delicious smoke, but becomes electrified into full swing when the vodka martini passes my lips.
I am accustomed to a cigar changing the nuanced flavors of most spirits. Wines and whiskies are famous for their limitless complexities of flavor that are brought out by whatever accompanies them. The martini, however, augments the flavor of my cigar. The heavy oak and leather flavors of the cigar become more pronounced and deeper after sipping on the olive infused cocktail. The dry vermouth is smoothed by the velvety smoke, but lends its flavor to the earthy notes of the Cellar Reserve.
The sweet bourbon flavors in the cigar stand in sharp contrast to the wintery, floral taste of the vodka, and the complexity that ensues gives each a turn for the better. The duality of this pairing is not lost on me, but I am surprised by the seamless blend of their vastly different flavors. This is the dance of estranged lovers, taking place on my palate.
Vodka martinis, which lose something as they return to room temperature, are best when taken relatively quickly so as not to warm up. On the other hand, the Gurkha Cellar Reserve is a smooth, slow burning dream. These two separate timelines give me few options: either allow the cigar to burn out and call it an evening, or prolong the event with a fresh cocktail. It is not hard to surmise my decision, as the idea of extinguishing this exquisite puro was never truly considered, and a second martini needed only another shake of the wrist.