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Stogie Tip: Choose Your Booze

23 Aug 2006

As I often get asked by readers and friends, “What’s a good drink to have with a cigar?” Well, unfortunately, I usually have to answer that question with a barrage of other questions. What kind of cigar are you smoking? What time of day is it? How goofed up do you want to get? And, perhaps most importantly, what sort of adult beverages do you normally like or dislike?

You see, pairing a cigar with a cocktail is no exact science. Just like the celebration of smoking a stogie, the whole idea is to just enjoy the experience and relax. You probably have enough other crap to worry about – so don’t waste your time agonizing over what’s the right cigar to have with the right drink. Doing so completely misses the point.

That being said, in order to maximize your enjoyment, I do have a few bits of advice to offer.

First, when choosing which booze to couple with a smoke, consider the strength of flavors in the cigar versus the strength of the flavors in the drink. A good general rule to follow is that full-bodied smokes should be paired with full-flavored drinks. After all, you don’t want a hefty stogie to completely drown out your cocktail, and you certainly don’t want your beverage to overcome your smoke.

This is a handy rule of thumb because it seems rational and it’s easy to remember. But as Jack Bettridge, an editor with Cigar Aficionado, points out:

Two problems persist with this rule, however. First, like all generalizations, it’s not always true. We’ve been pleasantly surprised in pairings when a big, ballsy cigar made a great partner for a light whiskey and vice versa. Second, it’s a rule that’s more useful for avoiding mistakes than for identifying sublime marriages.

Working off this strength-of-flavors tangent, my second bit of advice is that rum, whiskey, and brandy usually make the best compliments to a cigar. As far as flavors go, a stogie is a very heavy experience. Beer, wine, gin, and vodka are often too subtle to compete for your taste buds’ attention. This 2002 article from CA highlights some great rums, cognacs, scotches, and bourbons to pair with cigars.

In case you’re wondering, I generally prefer Meyers Dark or Chairman’s Reserve rum, while Semmens prefers Knob Creek or Blanton’s bourbon. Try any of those straight or on the rocks with any fine cigar and I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Since so much has already been written on the Internet and elsewhere about rum, cognac, scotch, or bourbon and stogies, and since – from time to time – I enjoy other drinks with cigars, I thought I would share some not-so-mainstream couplings that have become tried-and-true pairings in my relaxation repertoire:

1) A light Macanudo Natural with a refreshing Tanqueray, soda, and lime
2) A smooth Romeo y Julieta with a crisp Estancia Pinot Noir
3) A mild Arturo Fuente with a clean Ketel One and tonic

Feel free to leave a comment and tell Stogie Guys Nation what pairings have worked best for you.

Finally, please remember to take all this “advice” with a grain of salt. Only you can know what drinks you’ll like best with what cigars. Fortunately, this requires a lot of trial and error…which means you’d better get busy drinking and smoking.

-Patrick A

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