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Cigar Spirits: Rules of Thumb for Pairing Drinks with Cigars

4 Sep 2013

Over the years my colleagues and I have written many articles about various bourbons, rums, ryes, whiskies, mixed cocktails, beer, and coffee—and which cigars they pair best with. (You can peruse all of those articles here, or you can simply use our search bar at the upper right to locate the libation you’re looking for.) During this time I’ve found a few rules of thumb for pairing drinks with cigars. Keep in mind these conclusions are mine and mine alone. They may fly in the face of my colleagues’ opinions, your own experiences, or even conventional wisdom. But they’ve served me well. I list them here with hopes they help with your own experimentation and/or prompt a constructive dialog.


I’ve admittedly turned into a bit of a coffee snob and lately have been favoring Chicago-based producers like Metropolis and Inteligensia. Both have myriad blends that accentuate notes of fruit or nuts over the standard bitter flavor that’s dominant in less superior black coffee. These blends pair outstandingly with milder, Connecticut- or Ecuadorian-wrapped smokes. No, you can’t judge a cigar by the color of its wrapper, but, as a general rule of thumb, lighter, golden wrappers make for excellent coffee companions.


I’m not a fan of pairing cigars with white wine (or even champagne, for that matter). Big, bold reds, however, tend to be a treat with dark, maduro cigars, particularly those that yield chocolate notes. I’ve especially found that cigars with significant Mata Fina tobacco are good candidates for red wine pairings. I’ll leave any musings on specific varietals—pinot noir, zinfandel, merlot, malbec, etc.—to myself for now since that’s a little too specific for this article’s purpose.


While I’m not going to win any friends with this opinion, I must say that beer, for me, just doesn’t jive well with cigars at all. I’ve pretty much decided that I’m either smoking a cigar or drinking beer, not both. One tends to ruin the other. My hypothesis is this mismatch stems from my affinity for hoppy, bitter beers. When it comes to pairing a drink with cigars, bitter is not something to look for in a spirit.


Bourbons and rums are the opposite of beer. Pick any bourbon or rum. Pick any cigar. Relax and enjoy. Whether straight, on the rocks, or even in most mixed drinks, these spirits tend to go well with just about any cigar. The only suggestion I’ll make is, for example, if you’re drinking a particularly sweet rum, like Zaya, pair it with a spicy smoke. The objective is all about balance. And, unlike wine, don’t be afraid to select a full-bodied smoke. Bourbon or rum can hold its own on the palate.

So there you have it. Some general rules of thumb on pairing drinks with cigars from one humble man’s perspective. I look forward to hearing what you have to say in the comments.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

11 Responses to “Cigar Spirits: Rules of Thumb for Pairing Drinks with Cigars”

  1. Rene Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 4:10 am #

    Patrick, I see no wrong on those rules…

  2. Archie Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    I'll agree. Beer is great. Cigars are wonderful. Beer + cigars = too bitter, not balanced.

  3. Bill Williams Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    I love single malts with cigars.. can't believe you left them out. Most premium single malt pair well with cigars. One in particular Balvienie Caribbean Cask pairs with almost all cigars.
    Try a awesome beer like Innis & Gunn Rum Cask and I think you might find something you will truly enjoy.

  4. Timothy Black Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Big beer fan here and I agree. I have never found a hoppy beer like an IPA to work with cigars. Bitter doesn't work with cigars in my opinion.

    But….there is a whole other side to beer. Some people are hopheads, some are maltheads.

    Sweeter, darker ales like porters and stouts are another matter. Boozy Doppelbocks work well, too. In the way that bourbon, wine and some scotch (like the aforementioned Rum cask Balvenie) are sweet and pair well with a cigar, the same can be said about the sweeter, heavier and boozier beers.

    • Patrick Semmens Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

      I agree. IPAs are all about bitterness, which is the surest way to ruin a cigar. That said, malty beers can be a treat. One of my favorites cigar beer pairings is Founders Breakfast Stout with a Undercrown.

  5. Timothy Black Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    And you're totally forgetting the myriad beers that are bourbon barrel aged. Very popular now and almost all of them are stouts and porters with high ABV, usually 10-12%.

    They're the best of 3 worlds. The sweetness of bourbon, the drinkability of a beer and the alcohol content of a wine. These are awesome with a stick, I promise.

  6. Jared Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Any thoughts on non-alcoholic beverages? Sodas, juices, tea, etc.

    • Patrick Ashby Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 11:46 am #

      I’m not a big tea, soda, or juice drinker. If I’m having a non-alcoholic drink with a cigar it’s almost always either water or coffee. But I’ve heard some guys swear by grape- or orange-flavored soda pairings. Would be interested to hear their thoughts on this.

    • @cigarsmokingman Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 11:56 am #

      Root Beer goes well with cigars as well as Yoo Hoo.

  7. Will Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    I've been smoking cigars with IPA's since I started smoking cigars a few years ago. I always thought they paired great. But I'll have to think about it more next time I combine the two. Maybe I'm just not very discerning about these things yet. I agree that coffee, rum, and wine are great choices as well.

  8. Jared Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Pumpkin beers are around us. Having a Ditka throwback and Shocktop pumpkin which pair very nicely.