Best Drinks to Pair With Cigars
While the exact history is unknown, the origins of the modern cigar can be traced back thousands of years. Ever since those first tobacco leaves were rolled to create the first primitive vitola, the wonder that is cigars has spread around the world.
A cigar is a story, from its blend to its flavors and even its shape; each is a chapter in a tale. Since the inception of the cigar, people have found ways to enhance their experience and expand on that story.
It is in that spirit that the art form of cigar pairing was born. I say art form because to create a successful pairing, there are many factors to take into account.
A carelessly thrown together combination of booze and tobacco can result in the worsening of both flavors; contrastingly, an artfully constructed pairing of drinks and cigars can complement one another for a wondrous crescendo of taste.
There is always going to be some trial and error when it comes to pairing your cigar, either with alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. However, to enhance your experience, I’ve put together some general guidelines for what to drink with cigars. These should help you determine what you are looking for with various cigar pairings.
Coffee and Cigar Pairing Tips
Obviously, when thinking about a cigar pairing, your mind immediately goes to a stiff, adult beverage. However, the most commonly paired drink, and in my mind one of the best, is a simple cup of coffee. Coffee is a favorite morning to drink for many adults, and it just so happens that it shares several similarities with cigar tobacco.
Coffee beans are often grown in similar environments as cigar tobacco. South and Central American nations, such as Honduras, Mexico, Colombia and Nicaragua, are known for both their cigar and coffee industries.
The growth and fermentation process of tobacco and coffee beans share a similar process and are designed to unleash the utmost amount of flavor from each. It is because of this that several tobacco varieties have a natural coffee flavor. Cigars using a maduro wrapper, particularly Broadleaf or Mexican San Andreas are known for their rich coffee-like flavors.
In the infused market, there are also several best-selling brands, such as Tabak or Java, that are coffee-infused. All of these factors make coffee a natural pairing partner for cigars. For a more in-depth look into coffee and cigar pairings, you can read our article right here.
Wine and Cigar Pairing Tips
As we now look into the more well-known alcohol pairings, I thought we should start with wine. While people tend to think of whiskey or beer when it comes to cigars, wine can act as a perfect pairing partner.
When pairing a cigar with wine, the most commonly made mistake is overpowering the taste of the wine with a darker cigar, and this is especially true if you’re a fan of white.
That is why if you’re looking to have a successful pairing of crushed grapes with cigars, you should look to red wine. It is not as simple as just matching up darker cigars with a darker wine, however. All red wines might look similar, but they each have their own flavor profiles.
Like tobaccos and wrappers, red wines can cover a wide spectrum that ranges, from earthy to sweet. Naturally, you’ll want to find a cigar that harmonizes. So, take into account whether the particular drink is medium or full-bodied and strive to find a cigar that will match the wine’s robust taste without it being overwhelming or masked.
For example, a nicely spiced make like the original My Father will work perfectly with a tannin-rich Cabernet. A sweeter, richer cigar, like the Charter Oak Maduro, will taste wonderful with a fruitier wine with like Merlot. For a more in-depth look into wine pairings, check out our article right here.
Fortified Wine and Cigar Pairing Tips
This is a term that might be lost on the younger generation, but fortified wines remain a popular after-dinner drink and make for a great cigar pairing. Fortified wines are wine varieties that have been combined or altered to give them a distinct characteristic.
For example, Port is a fortified wine and one of my favorite cigar airing beverages. Port is a Portuguese made red wine that is richer and much sweeter than your average red. It makes for a great after-dinner drink and pairs well with a smooth, rich maduro, like the Ashton Aged Maduro.
Sherry is another popular fortified wine, this one coming out of Spain. Using a combination of white grapes and an extensive fermentation process, sherry has been a popular light, sweet drink for centuries. For this, I would go with a more mellow smoke with a touch of sweetness and floral notes, such as the Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real.
Beer and Cigar Pairing Tips
Due to the boom of the craft beer industry, cigar pairings with beer have become quite the rage in the last decade. While an ice-cold Bud was always a good choice for smoking a cigar on a hot day, the advent of different styles and profiles among beer has made it a pairing favorite for cigar smokers.
It can become overwhelming to figure out which beer to pair with your cigar, especially with such a plethora of styles and breweries. For example, which cigar goes with a peanut butter beer? That is why you need to keep it simple.
Just as in the wine pairing section, with beer pairings, you want to go light with light, fruity with fruity, and rich with rich. For example, dark and creamy stout is a perfect pairing for a dark and rich maduro cigar.
If you are more into sours, you want something with a touch of fruit and floral notes, such as the Espinosa Laranja Reserva. The citrus and fruity notes of the cigar will pair beautifully with a sweet-sour style beer
For the ever-popular IPAs, you want something more medium body with a dash of spice to it. You don’t want a cigar too strong, or it will overpower the flavor of the beer. For a more detailed look into cigar and beer pairings, you can check out our article right here.
Spirits & Cocktails and Cigar Pairing Tip
As with any complementary coupling, it is crucial that neither item overpowers the other. Since most cigars tend to have more robust flavors, even the mellow ones, it is generally best to stick with the darker spirits when pairing with a cigar.
Clear or lighter colored spirits such as vodka or gin tend to get cloaked by the stronger flavor profile of the cigar. This makes it tough to have a good cigar pairing with just straight vodka or gin. However, a spirit-based cocktail could make for an interesting time.
A vodka martini is a classy drink, and one of my favorites if made right. Combining this with a more mellow, yet slightly spicy smoke could work out very well. Look for something like the Joya de Nicaragua Antano Connecticut.
Darker liquor-based cocktails, such as an old fashioned or a Manhattan are classic choices for cigar pairings. You will learn more about whiskey-based pairings as you continue to read.
Scotch and Cigar Pairings
Dating back hundreds of years, Scotch has been the quintessential pairing partner for a nice cigar. A skillful pairing of a good Scotch with the right cigar can be a life-changing experience.
Carefully aged in oak barrels to achieve a smoky flavor, this type of whiskey seems predestined to be intertwined with a fine, flavorful smoke. While most may feel as though most scotches will taste the same, and therefore you only need one variety of cigar, that is far from the truth.
Similar to beer and wine, the profile of scotch will vary depending on a variety of factors. These include the region of Scotland where the whiskey is made, or whether it is a blended or single malt scotch. Some regions have more sweet and fruity notes, while others are bolder and smokier.
You might need to educate yourself a bit about the different varieties and profiles of scotch, but luckily, we have you covered. If you are interested in some single malt scotch and cigar pairings, you can read up on it right here. If a blended scotch is more your speed, our pairing article here will be most helpful.
American Whiskey & Bourbon and Cigar Pairings
This is where my knowledge of whiskey will really shine. Over the past few years, I have become a much bigger fan of American whiskeys, specifically bourbon, and in my mind, nothing makes a better cigar pairing than bourbon.
Many of you might be asking if there is a difference, and to that, I say “of course”. In order to be legally considered bourbon, there are several specifications that need to be met. This includes a certain amount of corn in the mixture and the fact that it should be aged in a brand-new oak barrel.
It is these specifications that give bourbon its signature sweet and smooth flavor. Other American whiskeys, such as rye, or Tennessee whiskey, can offer up a different experience such as smoky or spicy.
When picking which cigar you want to pair with a whiskey, it is important to know the origin of the whiskey and what flavors it is going to offer. To see some of the best bourbon and cigar pairings, you can check out our article here. If you are trying other styles of American whiskey, we have you covered as well.
Rum and Cigar Pairing
Rum and cigars both hail from the Caribbean, so it is no coincidence that they work well with one another. This gives an added advantage of being able to pair cigars and rum from the same country.
For example, Nicaragua is home to one of the world’s most awarded rums, known as Flor de Cana. Match the spiced and sweet molasses undertones of this full-bodied and dark spirit with a creamy cigar, like a flavorfully nutty and cocoa filled Le Careme from Crowned Heads.
In the Dominican Republic, Brugal seems to be the rum of choice. A smooth and creamy Dominican smoke, such as the Arturo Fuente Hemingway Maduro. The sweet and rich nature of the cigar goes amazing well with the rum. For a more detailed look at Rum and cigar pairings, you check out our pairing article here.
While these are just suggestions for you to get started, the only way for you to know for sure what drinks pair with cigars is to try various combinations. Start with the basic guidelines just given, and experiment for yourself. After all, the only thing that truly matters is that you are enjoying yourself while puffing on a premium cigar.