Drinks and Cigars: The Ultimate Pairing Guide
Like finding the perfect wine for your steak or fish, you can enhance your cigar smoking experience by pairing it with a fitting drink. One of the main reasons people smoke cigars is for relaxation, so it stands to reason that pairing your cigar with a complimentary beverage can heighten that experience. Cigars come in many different flavour profiles and aromas, so pairing them with a complimentary drink can be a marvellous experience. In this ultimate pairing guide, we’ll look at the different pairing rules, flavour combinations and some of our favourite pairings to try.
The most popular cigars to pair with your drink
Lighter cigars such as the Villiger Export Pressed Cigar and the El Rey Del Mondo La Reina pair well with white wines, young red wines, blended scotches, light beers and light roast coffee. Both are more accessible cigars for novices with delicate flavours and subtle aromas. The Villiger Export Pressed Cigar is excellent for those seeking a fuller flavour for a lower cost.
Sweeter tasting cigars can complement more bitter drinks and vice versa; if you’re enjoying a bitter coffee, for example, you may notice the sweeter notes of your cigar. The Romeo Y Julieta Wide Churchills have a sweet cedar flavour that’s both creamy and mellow. This would pair well with a bitter drink such as a Negroni cocktail.
The Cohiba Talisman has proved a popular cigar. Its flavour is full but smooth and would be complemented by a full-bodied alcoholic beverage, like a Bourbon or Single Malt with vanilla or maple tones. The Cohiba Talisman has notes of wood, cocoa and spice.
Accessible cigars have grown in popularity as more manufacturers opt for a faster burn, lower cost and mellower cigars for novices. The Montecristo No.4 is an excellent cigar for the beginner with a pleasant earthy taste. The Romeo Y Julieta Purito and Montecristo Club 10 are smaller cigars for a faster smoke that appeals to new and seasoned smokers alike. Both are flavourful with rich Cuban tobacco tones and pair well with rum and coffee’s Cuban flavours.
The most popular drinks to pair cigars with
Cigars and bourbon is the all-American pairing. Bourbon complements medium and full-bodied cigars. There are many different flavour profiles in various bourbon types but look for flavours that harmonise, such as bourbon with vanilla tones and a rich cigar.
Due to the areas where tobacco is grown, the more traditional pairings are rum and coffee, simply because they have been produced in the same place. Rum is an excellent accompaniment to a cigar, given how well the Cuban ancestral flavours mix. There are many different rum types, but connoisseurs swear by spiced rum as the perfect accompaniment to cigars with sweet and spicy undertones.
Like cigars, tequila comes in many different styles. There are four main types of tequila. Blanco is the most common; it’s clear and often has a strong taste. Blanco is often paired best with a robust and flavourful cigar so that neither the tequila nor the cigar overpowers each other. Resposado tequila has to be rested for a minimum of two months; it is much smoother than Blanco and complements a softer, more rich tasting cigar. Anejo tequila is tequila that has been aged for over a year but less than three years in wooden barrels. The ageing process leaves this tequila with a smooth and complex flavour profile, which complements an aged cigar. Extra Anejo tequila has been aged for a minimum of three years; the flavour profile of an extra Anejo tequila is complex and exciting and needs an exceptional cigar.
Many cigar experts consider brandy or cognac to be a match made in heaven. Due to the similar flavour profiles, brandy and cognac can be a good starter for a cigar novice looking to explore drinks pairings. When matching a cigar and a beverage, the general rule is that the flavours honour each other and don’t take anything away from each other.
Can you pair white spirits with cigars?
You do not want to pair a cigar with a white spirit like vodka or gin, as the cigar can overpower the spirit. With the exception of tequila, most white spirits do not have a substantial flavour profile, and even the mildest of cigars can overpower the drink.
Cocktails to pair with your cigar
A bitter cocktail like an Aperol Spritz can contrast the flavours of a creamy, smooth cigar. Coffee liquor-based cocktails such as a Black Russian or Espresso Martini can be the perfect accompaniment to a cigar with rich, chocolatey tones. Coca Cola and Dr Pepper are two popular non-alcoholic accompaniments to cigars, so cocktails like the Cuba Libre (basically a rum and coke!) can pair beautifully with a cigar. An Irish Coffee and a cigar can be perfect in the winter months; a warming combination of coffee and Irish whiskey would pair perfectly with a rich cigar.
Setting the scene: What you need to pair for your favourite cigar and drink
Drinking with a cigar is a sensory experience associated with relaxing and luxury, but what do you need to set the scene to enjoy your pairing? Depending on your drink of choice, there are different ways to serve it. Whiskey should be enjoyed neat or over ice in an Old Fashioned glass; the same goes for bourbon, cognac and brandy. Cocktails should be served in tall glasses or cocktail glass and beer in a proper pint glass. Pairing your cigar with a beverage is a personal choice at the end of the day. You might try pairings that you’re not so keen on, or you might try something that you love. It’s fun to experiment with different flavour profiles and see what works for you.