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.
photo credit: Stogie Guys