Trying to find a great pairing for your cigars can prove tricky for even the most advanced cigar aficionado. To help you on your way to finding the perfect partners we have put together our ultimate pairing guide, covering drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, as well as an assortment of food.
For many cigar lovers, an alcoholic beverage is their number one choice when it comes to finding a pair for their smoke. Here are some of the most loved pairings.
Whisky and Cigars
Whisky and cigars are the golden combination. It is the drink type that most cigar smokers will associate with pairing. The key to finding the perfect whiskey partner for your stogie is balance. A pairing should be complementary and enhance the flavours of the other, without masking or overwhelming them. Therefore, a stronger cigar can be nicely matched with the smoky tones of a glass of Scotch, while a milder stick works best with a softer dram, such as Irish whiskey. Whisky can also be quite versatile in flavour when combined with other ingredients and drinks, so you can also try making a whisky cocktail to experiment with different pairings.
Spirits and Cigars
There are a number of reasons for picking a spirit to pair with your cigar. As spirits can be drunk straight or combined with a wide variety of mixers, there are an almost infinite number of combinations to be paired with cigars. This means that spirits can be paired with almost any cigar.
There is something to consider when looking to pair a cigar with a straight spirit though, as the neat liquor is likely to numb your taste senses a little, meaning that you will lose out on any delicate or complex flavours present in a cigar.
Picking a lighter spirit, such as gin or vodka, is a great way to refresh and cleanse the palate after every puff. This is especially the case when mixed with a light and bubbly tonic, as the crispness of the bubbles are ideal for giving the palate a refresh. A white spirit and mixer is a great way to avoid overpowering the taste and aromas of your cigar.
If you’d rather something a little heftier to enjoy alongside an after-dinner smoke, then brandy can be an excellent choice. Plus, nothing looks quite as good as being sat in an armchair, swirling a splash of Cognac around your glass!
A great way to make the perfect pairing for your cigar is to use a spirit in a cocktail, with the additional ingredients working well together to match any complex notes. For example, fruity undertones in the smoke can be enhanced with the addition of fruit juice or peel, whereas creamier cigars will work wonderfully with a splash of Irish cream liqueur mixed into your cocktail.
Beer and Cigars
While beer may seem too ‘cheap’ a drink to match with the delectable flavours of a luxury cigar, the rise of craft beers has opened up a world of possibilities when it comes to flavour pairing. One of the main reasons beer works so well with cigars is the fact that it is carbonated, with the bubbles acting as a palate cleanser between puffs.
As with all pairings, a ‘like with like’ approach is the best way to go about enjoying a cigar alongside a pint. Therefore a light beer, such as a Pilsner, will go nicely with a mild and mellow stogie, like the Montecristo No.1. A fuller bodied stick, such as the CroMagnon Aquitaine Anthropology, would overpower a paler beer, so it would work best with a darker drink, like Stout. The seemingly never-ending list of craft beers provide an immense range of flavours that can now be paired with almost any cigar type, matching even the most complex of flavour combinations.
Champagne and Cigars
For the most part, the crisp and dainty flavours of a lighter wine do not match well with the strong and smoky cigar, however, an exception can certainly be made for Champagne or other sparkling wines. As with the other carbonated drinks, the bubbles present in a glass of champers will act as a magical palate cleanser, allowing you to experience every note in your cigars smoke and avoiding dulling your palate with the more dominant flavours.
Another reason for picking a sparkling wine over a spirit is down to the alcohol content. The higher alcohol levels in spirits, such as whisky, can cause your senses to become a little hazy, so picking a slightly less alcoholic drink, like Champagne, keeps the senses sharp and refined, so that the full complexities of the taste and aroma can be detected.
Plus, Winston Churchill, one of the most iconic cigar smokers in the world, drank Champagne as if it were water, even enjoying a bottle full every morning! So if he enjoyed a glass of bubbly with his cigar, then that’s all the convincing we need to think it a great idea too!
Champagne and Cava are still quite subtle drinks though, so it is best to pair these with a milder cigar, so as to not fully overwhelm the bubbly.
While most people would automatically think of pairing a cigar with a dram of whisky, there are many non-alcoholic drinks that work wonderfully alongside smoking a stogie. Here are a couple of our favourites, and how you can make them work with your favourite cigars.
Coffee and Cigars
Coffee is undeniably one of the best drinks you can pair cigars with, whether alcoholic or not. Coffee and cigars have such a great relationship as they are both most commonly grown in the same areas; South America, Africa and Southern Asia, where the soil conditions and climate are ideal for producing the highest quality products. This also means that a lot of the flavours in each will be similar or complimentary, with earthy tones, a faint acidity and a hint of spice.
As with all pairing combinations, you are looking for further similarities between the cigar and coffee. So a mild cigar and a light roast coffee work well, and won’t overpower the other. A cigar with hints of nuttiness can be paired with a similarly nutty coffee, or perhaps, a mocha or other cocoa-based coffee. The spicy and leathery notes of a strong, Maduro wrapped cigar needs a bold, full-strength roast, enhancing any acidic undertones. For example, the strong smoke of an Aging Room Maduro would be the perfect partner for a full-bodied espresso, enhancing the fruity and dry notes.
Carbonated Drinks and Cigars
Carbonated drinks are the best way to refresh the palate, so fizzy drinks can be a great choice for pairing. Keeping it simple with some sparkling water can be good if you’re very confused and unsure by pairing, but want a drink when you smoke, as it is flavourless, so won’t impact on your cigars taste.
For fuller-bodied smokes, you need a drink that can keep up with the strength, such as ginger beer. The sharpness of the ginger makes a worthy companion to the strongest of smokes, matching levels of spiciness and standing its own in the face of intense cigar flavours.
While it may seem a little out of place in the world of luxurious smoking, many cigar lovers swear by Dr Pepper as their top choice. Boasting a blend that contains 23 different flavours, it’s not hard to imagine that some of these will overlap and compliment at least one of the 50 noted flavours that could be present in your cigar. The amount of different flavours within Dr Pepper also means that it can help to both enhance the smoke and bring out any subtler or complex notes.
Food and Cigars
Treat your cigar pairing with food in the same manner you would a glass of wine. You wouldn’t pair a glass of red with a salad, so don’t go smoking a full-bodied stick as you pick through some lettuce leaves. As cigars leave behind quite a strong aftertaste, it is important to pick complimentary tastes so that your palate isn’t too impaired! Remember, you are looking to enhance the experience and flavours of both the cigar and the food.
What you smoke is dependent on both what foods you want to eat, and when you want to smoke them. If you would like to smoke between each course of a dinner, rather than before or after a full dinner, then picking a smaller cigar or cigarillo can be the best choice, as you won’t keep people at the table (or your food) waiting too long.
Like with wines, a lighter bite, such as chicken or fish needs a milder, mellower and smaller smoke, so the delicate tastes are not overwhelmed. The smokiness of a cigar can also do wonders for fish dishes; there is a reason some like their fish smoked! On the other hand, fuller-bodied cigars work best with meatier meals, letting the intense flavours balance out with the heavier tastes and textures that come with steak.
The like with like rule applies to far more than just flavour though. When pairing food and wine, think of the quality as well. If you have a top quality steak on your plate, you need a premium cigar to pair it with, as having an inferior partner will spoil the taste of the other. Another way to pair a dish with a cigar is to incorporate an easier to pair drink into it, for example, adding a glaze of bourbon to the meat, or a splash of red wine into the gravy.
Cigars are traditionally used as a replacement for the dessert course, as cigars do not usually pair well with sweet treats. However, if you are having a cigar after a meal and also want a dessert, then dark chocolate is one of the best options, as the slightly bitter undertone works well with cigars. Alternatively, something like a lemon sorbet is perfect as acting as an edible palate cleanser, with the cooling spoonful’s refreshing your mouth.
If you have any great pairing recommendations, drop us a comment below, or via our social media channels, we’d love to know!