Sweet Pairing: The Sake That Goes with Cocoa Cigarettes (ココアシガレットに合うお酒) from Chiyonosono Sake Brewery (千代の園酒蔵), Kumamoto Prefecture

Here’s a cigarette that even the defunct Tobacco Institute could plug with the confidence that their argument would remain unassailable—a smoke sans tobacco! No, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong. We’re not talking about vaping here: we are referencing those ever-so-retro confectionaries known as chocolate cigarettes. Sometimes these cylindrical pieces of chocolate come wrapped in paper, the kind that closely approximates the texture of those used by the tobacco companies. In Japan, however, the ones that are fondly remembered are hard candies, cylindrically shaped, and infused with the flavor of cocoa—paper not included.

Recently, we learned from the very informative Sake Industry News (SIN) about an interesting pairing, which we will comment on below. For those unfamiliar with SIN, it is the brainchild of John Gauntner, whose bio states that he is “a leading authority on Japanese sake.” Although this is certainly true, we would substitute the definite article for the indefinite “a” when describing foreign experts. Anyway, we never flatter or do product placement at this site: this is simply an honest assessment.

Sake of a slightly different color

SIN’s report on the unusual sake prepared to go with these cigarettes is as follows: “Chiyonosono Shuzō’s candy inspired sake is actually an akazake (red sake) made with mochi-rice and added sugars.” Akazake is a type of sake that is unique to Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu. More on that in a later post after we try more traditional akazake. We found the sake to be medium (+) with respect to sweetness, far from the luscious notes of a Pedro Ximénez or a Rutherglen Muscat, yet significantly more than one would expect from an average nihonshu. We drank it straight, though the kura recommends that it be consumed on the rocks. On the nose we picked up on dried shiitake reminiscent of koshu or aged sake, unexpected, of course, but not unpleasant. It added much to the drink’s complexity. As for the cocoa cigarettes, how did things go? Well, let us consider the three Ss—smoking, sucking, and stirring. There was none of the first-mentioned going on, a lot of the second, and for one of us at least, there was a little of the last-mentioned. You see, these cigarettes make excellent swizzle sticks, sans plastic, of course. Say, they’re green, as well! Try this pairing.

A smiley face we always like to see

Recommendation level (out of five stars):


We have written a book. For more information on Japanese beverages, please check it out. You can get it at fine offline and online booksellers in Japan, including Amazon.


#drinkingjapan #drinkjapan #cocoacigarette #chiyonosono #akazake #kumamoto

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