We are biased, but we think a great cigar goes hand in hand with a good belt of whatever suits your fancy: beer, rum, whiskey, wine, brand and/or a mixed drink of your choice. Get fun done, life is short!
Is cost part of the equation? Short answer: yes. But, you can pair a reasonably priced cigar with any number of types of booze and have a great experience.
Save Your Money – Cuban Cigars are overpriced
Do you need a “Cuban” to go with that shot of JD or fine brandy? Sidebar: now that we have normalized relations a lot more Cuban sticks have “suddenly” moved into circulation.
That’s cool but truth be told, it’s probably not worth a lot of time and money trying to find a Cuban cigar – you can get a great cigar made here in the U.S., Nicaragua, Honduras, or the Dominican Republic that will pair well with a drink in hand.
There is no absolute “right” advice we can give you about what makes a great cigar, Cuban or not, it’s up to individual taste. Sure you are getting what you pay for but life is short, so smoke what you have in the humidor and enjoy yourself.
Our Short List for Selecting a Great Cigar
- Most premium cigars are made with a lighter end of the tobacco leaf at the end farthest from the stem – as you smoke it you are smoking the strongest part of the leaf, giving you a much more intense, stronger and richer taste. So, it’s worth it to spend a few bucks on a good premium cigar. It’s going to taste a lot better.
- Remember to keep the tip of the cigar as dry as possible (the Al Capone method of jamming a stick in your mouth and yakking away on your phone is never a good thing) – tars and nicotine will build up in the saliva and ruin the taste of the cigar.
- Let a cigar burn at it’s own pace – think sipping a glass of great cognac leisurely, not gulping it down. It’s about enjoying the experience.
- There’s nothing wrong with a cigar going out on you, especially if you’ve smoked over half of it. In most cases and if you’ve got a great cigar you can relight it for up to an hour.
- Never roll a cigar around and hold it up to your ear – anyone who knows their way around a great cigar will think you are a newbie or amateur.
- Never ever warm up the length of a cigar – that was necessary back in the “ancient days” when cigars were made using gum and burning it off was necessary. No longer the case.
How to Pair a Great Cigar with the Right Drink
Premium Cigars come in a wide assortment of flavors and types. Your palate and sophistication are part of the equation. You are trying to either enhance the flavor of your stick or the booze by selecting complimentary or contrasting flavors that work.
Rum goes well with just about any cigar. Cigars and rum both have their roots in the Caribbean and just seem to go well together. A dark rum goes great with a full-bodied cigar. “Body” just refers to whether or not the cigar can be described as “full” (strong), medium or mild (very delicate). But, most veteran smokers like to match a full-bodied cigar with rum.
Whiskey has always been popular with cigar smokers, bearing in mind scotch has a more of a smoky or peaty flavor and some prefer a great scotch to a whiskey. But, Jack Daniels was Frank’s favorite drink with a cigar in hand for good reason and Marker’s Mark or Knob Creek can be more easily paired well with a more delicate cigar versus Rum.
Red or white wine? We hate to make the call but most cigar smokers prefer to match a cigar to a a more robust red wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or even a lighter Pinot Noir.
If you like a heavier chardonnay it can be matched with a medium or mild cigar; but avoid a full-bodied stick, as it will overpower the wine. The heavier tannins in a red wine typically bring out the spicier elements of a cigar, which is why most prefer a red wine.
Some cigar aficionados turn their noses up to beer and a cigar pairing, we do not! We have hundreds of craft breweries scattered across the U.S. and you’ll find subtle nuances and intricate flavors in some that can be paired well with a great cigar.
A darker beer goes best with a full-bodied cigar and Belgian Wheat flavored beer can be nicely matched with a medium or mild cigar.
But lest we sound too egalitarian, there is nothing wrong with pairing a low priced economical beer with a cigar. Some think a cheap beer of any type works with a cigar and we agree.
Pairing a Cigar with Booze Du Jour
Gin, if you have the budget go for Tanqueray, soda and lime and match it with a lighter stick like a Macanudo – you’ll find some hidden “notes” in the gin that will be brought out by the cigar.
Vodka, with the advent of hundreds of types of flavored Vodkas becoming an increasingly more popular pairing with a premium cigar. In most cases Vodka’s somewhat singular taste doesn’t go well with a cigar – stick to the flavored varieties.
Tequila typically generates a “I hate the stuff” or “love it” review from most. Because tequila that is barrel aged is much smoother than one that is not, go with the latter when possible and pair it with a milder cigar, so you don’t overpower the tequila.
Brandy and cognac are somewhat dissimilar if you split hairs; but both are made from grapes and can be spicy so you can complement either with a much stronger cigar and not overpower the taste of the stick or the booze.
Champagne is a tough thing to pair with a cigar – in most cases you want a milder or lighter cigar and the bubbles are somewhat of a pallet cleanser that help to reinforce your taste of the cigar as you puff away on it.
Remember Subjectivity is the Order of the Day when Pairing Booze with a Cigar
Let your sense of adventure be your guide as you think about pairing a cigar with a drink in hand.
There are no hard and fast rules for making the “right” choice – it’s a matter of your individual palate, the company you are in whether or not you have all the time in the world to savor a great cigar with a drink.
Remember life is short and you should be savoring the company while stimulating your taste buds and senses. If you find the perfect pairing for a Mojito let us know – we have a heated discussion around the office on this topic.