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Cigar Tip: Warm Up with These Hot Winter Beverages

17 Feb 2015


If you are, like me, in the ever-increasing part of the country where the temperatures have taken a dive, then maybe you’re looking for a fun way to warm up. And what better way than a warm drink that also packs a little boozy kick? Here are my five favorites:

Hot Toddy — A classic that can be made with scotch whisky (save the single malt, use a blend), bourbon, or even brandy. It’s simple to make. Just add sugar, lemon, and cloves to boiling water and your spirit. (Feel free to swap in honey or cinnamon, or even look for a recipe that uses ginger ale.)

Stonewall Jackson — A simple classic consisting of hot cider and bourbon (but rye, Tennessee whiskey, or even spiced rum fill in nicely). Want to kick this up notch? Add some mulling spices to turn it into mulled cider. Just don’t boil the booze out.

Hot Buttered Rum — Perhaps my favorite of the bunch, hot buttered rum is a little more complicated to make than the above drinks, but you’ll find that it’s really not too difficult. If you want, you can make a batch of the batter ahead of time (it will last in the freezer) or just make it as you go directly into a mug.

Mexican Hot Chocolate — While there are lots of recipes out there, “normal” Mexican hot chocolate is spicy and intense with unsweetened chocolate, cinnamon, and chiles. Adding some tequila kicks it up a notch. While I use something similar to this recipe, I might also add a splash of Cointreau.

Spiked Coffee — There are plenty of variations of the basic coffee (milk and sugar optional) with booze. Coffee or chocolate liqueurs are particularly popular options, although there’s nothing wrong with simply adding whiskey, rum, or brandy. Want a recommendation I picked up traveling in Mexico? Add goat milk caramel (you can buy it from Amazon) to coffee and Kahlua.

-Patrick S

photo credit: AccuWeather

Cigar Tip: Pair New Years Champagne with a Fine Cigar

30 Dec 2014

Five years ago I offered some tips on pairing cigars with champagne. With New Years Eve a day away, now seems like a good time to update those tips with a half-decade worth of additional experience.

Champagne_uncorkingPairing brown liquor with  cigars is the more obvious choice, but champagne (or other sparkling wines) can go surprisingly well with a smoke. Not to mention the celebratory nature of the bubbly. To enhance your Champagne and cigar enjoyment, here are a few basic tips:

Save the top-dollar champagne.

Champagne can be fantastic, but unless you have unlimited funds, the vintage Dom Pérignon should be held back if you’re smoking a cigar. You pay a price for the champagne name (meaning it’s from the Champagne region of France). There are plenty of good champagne-style sparkling wines that can be had for a reasonable cost. Spending $50 or $100 on brand name French bubbly will probably be a waste (considering you’re going to lose some of the complexities due to your cigar). Spanish Cava, in particular, can be had for a fraction of the price.

Stick with mild cigars.

Champagne doesn’t have the heft of rum, whiskey, or even beer or coffee. The best champagnes are the most subtle, so the same subtlety is needed in the cigar you pair with your sparkling wine. Stick with mild cigars that have balance. Too often Connecticut-wrapped cigars feature bitterness, so look for those with age and balance. Extra-aged Cubans can be a great pairing, and a special mention is deserved for the Illusione Epernay, which is named after the Champagne region and was blended with a champagne pairing in mind.

Age your cigars and your champagne.

Smoking a cigar with champagne calls for a cigar that is smooth, mild, complex, and subtle, all of which can be the result of aging a cigar. Some cigars just lose their flavor with age, so be careful, but others are enhanced by months or years aging properly in a humidor. Some of the same things happen to aged champagne which, while not for everyone, loses some of its bubbly crispness but adds creaminess and depth along the lines of a well-aged white burgundy. Usually you pay extra for vintage champagne. But if you can get some of those same qualities by just putting aside a good champagne and waiting, don’t be afraid to give it a try. (Not long ago I had some non-vintage Champagne Tattinger with a decade of age, and the result was very impressive.)


-Patrick S

photo credit: Wikipedia

Cigar Tip: Frequent Cigar Questions Asked and Answered

10 Dec 2014

Cigar forums offer a lot. A chance to learn from more experienced smokers. Hear directly from manufacturers and industry leaders occasionally. Arrange a herf with other members. Get involved in trades and box passes.

Aging Cigars

But there are some topics that come up over and over, and I’d like to help address them. I’m sure this article won’t prevent the queries from arising again, though if it results in even a small reduction I’ll consider it a success. Here are three questions I see all the time:

Cellophane on or off?

It’s up to you. Manufacturers use cello to protect cigars against damage in shipping and handling, as well as when they’re on display in shop humdiors. Cellophane offers you that same protection. Don’t worry about the impact on aging. Cellophane allows air to pass through it, slowing the transfer so little you’re unlikely to notice the difference (unless you measure your aging in decades).

Humidity at 60, 65, or 70?

Again, that’s up to you. Most smokers have to experiment to determine the level they prefer. For one thing, the ambient humidity and temperature where you live and smoke can have a strong impact. Nowadays, too, the old 70/70 “rule” isn’t as applicable, since newer humidification methods permit much greater control. But recognize that precisely measuring relative humidity is notoriously difficult, and even good hygrometers can easily get out of whack.

What bundle cigar tastes like a Padrón Anniverary or Opus X or Davidoff or …?

What Japanese compact drives like a Ferrari? What off-the-rack suit fits like one from Savile Row? What budget hotel accommodations match Four Seasons? Sorry, no cheap smokes come any closer in replicating the best in the business. Yes, some cigars are overpriced, but that doesn’t mean all expensive cigars are overpriced. The storied brands have earned their reputations and value through hard work, meticulous attention to detail, and use of the finest materials.

I hope this helps. If you want more on any of these—or other—topics, just click on Tips at the top of the page or use the Search function at the top right for a wealth of information.

P.S. Yes, always store infused cigars separately from regular sticks.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Host a Whiskey Tasting

9 Dec 2014

Tasting multiple cigars in a sitting can be tricky. An entire cigar needs to smoked for it to be properly judged, but smoking full cigars one after another can overwhelm your palate.

Most cigar tastings, to the extent they aren’t just a single cigar, will consist of several specially made mini pure grade cigars (made entirely of one type of tobacco). This is a valuable educational experience, but what you taste isn’t actually a finished cigar.


Whiskeys, on the other hand, are perfect for tasting side by side. Pick two whiskeys, or five, or a dozen, and get to it. Observe the color, take in the nose, experience the taste (on the palate and the finish), and keep notes so you can come back to them later. While the basics aren’t hard to understand, here are a few tips to improve your whiskey tastings:

Select the right whiskeys – It sounds obvious, but it’s also crucial. Tastings are great because you can compare and contrast, so focus on a selection with both similarities and differences. Here are just a few suggestions: wheated bourbons, Indiana-distilled ryes, barrel-proof bourbons, sherry cask-aged single malts, etc. In the photo above, I decided to taste the first three Orphan Barrel bourbons, all of which are at least 20 years old.

Proper glassware – I’m a big fan of Glencairn whiskey glasses, which were specially designed for whiskey tasting. You don’t have to go that route, but tasting from similar glasses is important because the shape will impact what you pick up. Along those lines, shot glasses or big tumblers are poor choices, but a medium or small wine glass can work well.

Keep your palate fresh – Much like cigar tasting, I like to use club soda or sparkling mineral water to cleanse the palate. You’ll also want some spring water on hand. No ice is allowed (it dulls your taste). Try and taste it all neat first, then add a drop or two of water at a time to see how that impacts flavor. For a food to help keep your palate fresh, keep some bread or lightly salted crackers on hand.

Bring friends  – Of course, drinking with good friends is fun, but there are more reasons why this is preferable. First, you can compare notes. Second, with the help of friends, all but one person can taste blind. Because that’s the real test: Do you enjoy a particular whiskey even without knowing what it is and what it costs?

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Give the Gift of Cigars this Christmas

3 Dec 2014

Like it or not, the Christmas shopping season is upon us. And if you’re a regular reader, changes are you have a few individuals on your list who are lovers of the leaf themselves. But sometimes shopping for cigars for gifts can be intimidating and confusing—even for the most seasoned cigar veterans.

Christmas Presents

Never fear. Cigar smokers need not be a difficult crowd for which to buy presents. Their passion for the hobby makes it easy to narrow down gift choices. This holiday season, you can be virtually assured of gift-giving success if you follow some simple rules of thumb.

Only give a box if you’re sure. Some cigar enthusiasts are completely loyal to one brand or one specific blend. If this is the case, you can’t do wrong by buying a box he or she is sure to love. Maybe this isn’t the most original idea—and maybe the box won’t be much of a surprise—but any cigar smoker will tell you that you can never have enough of your favorite smokes, especially if they’re made in limited quantities.

Samplers offer variety. Many cigar enthusiasts don’t have just one favorite cigar. For these folks, I can’t recommend buying a whole box. Instead, samplers are terrific. When you give a sampler of ten different cigars, it’s like giving ten different gifts. The recipient might not love all ten, but chances are he/she will really enjoy at least a few, and you might even be responsible for turning someone on to his/her new favorite.

Consider cigar accessories. Every cigar enthusiast needs a great table lighter, travel lighter, nice cutter, good ashtray, humidor, etc. Instead of buying cigars, think about giving the gift of a cigar accessory. Many accessories can be personalized and, unlike cigars themselves, are likely to last for years to come. My wife gave me a wonderful alligator skin cigar case years ago and I’ve cherished it ever since.

Cigar access can be invaluable. Many cigar smokers don’t have ready access to a good indoor lounge where they can light up without fear of temperature, wind, or precipitation. If there’s a members-only indoor lounge near him/her, you might look into buying him/her a seasonal or year-round pass (or maybe even a private locker). This gift would obviously be expensive, but no doubt appreciated.

Think drinks. Cigars pair excellently with all sorts of libations, including coffee, wine, bourbon, rum, and scotch. Maybe that cigar smoker on your list would really enjoy a French press to make the perfect brew. Or perhaps a nice bottle of something special. Feel free to peruse our many musings on spirits; most of these articles include recommended cigar pairings to help make the gift complete.

Don’t forget cigar rights. Most cigar smokers have a fervent passion for defending cigar rights and opposing tobacco taxes and smoking bans. For these folks, a membership to Cigar Rights of America is an excellent gift. Benefits of membership include supporting professional lobbyists who fight for cigar freedoms, discounts at cigar shops, free cigars, and more.

I hope these tips are helpful as you shop for that cigar smoker on your list. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a tip of your own that you’d like to share. And happy holidays.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Have a Happy Thanksgiving… with Cigars

26 Nov 2014

With football on the TV, turkey in your stomach, and family gathered, Thanksgiving is a great day to enjoy a fine cigar (or several). So, as we have for the previous seven years, today the team tells you what cigars we’ll be firing up after our big meals.

Patrick A: This year I was lucky enough to purchase a box of the new Tatuaje Monster Series, The Jekyll. As tempting (and trendy) as it would be to name that cigar my go-to stick for Thanksgiving, I’ve decided on a smoke that’s much less rare: the Joya Red Robusto. In addition to loving this blend since it was released earlier this year, I think its medium-bodied, balanced profile of citrus, dry cedar spice, roasted nuts, black pepper, and toasty notes will pair well with a warm up of coffee after a huge meal. And given its availability and modest price point, I won’t have any misgivings about sharing the same cigar with interested family and friends.

Patrick S: Family, friends, football, good food, fine drink… They all call for a fine cigar. This year I’ve decided to select one of the Verocu cigars from the 2014 Tatuaje Saints & Sinners smoke kit (I’m leaning towards the robusto size). I’ve tried both of the two Verocu sizes from this year’s kit, and they are both outstanding (reminiscent of the excellent East and West versions). They feature all the chocolate, earth, and wood of the regular Havana VI line, but with a delicious added kick of spice and complexity. It should be just right with a coffee or a whiskey (or both) after dessert.

George E: Thanksgiving will be, for me, a rare two-cigar day. Rather than dine at home, we’ll eat at one of the local Greek restaurants. So, I plan to step up and celebrate before and after. For the first cigar, it’ll be a Davidoff Colorado Claro Short Perfecto, a great little smoke. That evening, I plan to light up an Opus X, though I don’t know which one. My local shop has a good selection, and I’ll make my choice in the humidor.

Joey J: I’ve really been debating what I should smoke after Thanksgiving dinner. Of course I’ll be watching the Cowboys-Eagles game, and I’ll probably be (at least) a few glasses of wine/bourbon in at that point, so whatever cigar I choose won’t have my complete attention. I was thinking of smoking a Lost City Lancero by Arturo Fuente just because I really enjoy a full-bodied smoke after a large meal. But I think I’m going to play it safe, and stick with the Tatuaje Black Corona Gorda. Since I reviewed this cigar, I’ve smoked my way through a jar—and then some. Over 20 cigars in, and I still haven’t been disappointed in the least.

Previous cigars the team designated as Thanksgiving smokes include:


Not a bad list, eh? If you’re so inclined, feel free to let us know what you’ll be smoking tomorrow in the comments below. And be sure to have a safe and joyous Thanksgiving.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Tip: How to Spot an Excellent Tobacconist

10 Sep 2014

These days I travel a fair amount for my regular job, staying a few nights here and there with meetings during the day and little to do in the evening. So, naturally, wherever I go I try to find a good (non-private) cigar lounge or tobacconist so I can enjoy a smoke, catch up on some emails, do a little writing, and perhaps even have an adult beverage or two.

Cigar Store Indian

While there are lots of great lounges and tobacconists across this fine nation, believe me when I say that sometimes a good locale is hard to find. I’ve been mentally compiling a list of attributes common among the good shops/lounges. Today I thought I’d share them.

Maintains good selection, fair prices. This one is obvious. I assume I’ll be paying more for the sticks than I otherwise might be able to find online—and I’m completely OK with that. But I don’t think it’s necessary to charge crazy mark-ups, either. And the selection should be big enough to require more than a few minutes to peruse, with the usual suspects and hopefully some hard-to-find smokes as well. House blends, when done right, can add an exclusive touch.

Serves coffee and/or liquor, or implements BYOB. I realize local ordinances and laws may make this impossible, but nothing goes better with a fine cigar than coffee, bourbon, rum, wine, scotch, etc. I’m happy to pay the shop/lounge for drinks, if possible; BYOB is a great alternative. If nothing else, providing coffee or water for free, or for purchase, is a great idea.

Has a friendly, attentive staff. Nothing is worse than being rushed, watched like a hawk, completely ignored, or assumed to be a petty thief. I love it when the staff says something like, “Welcome. Would you like some assistance picking out your cigars, or would you prefer to browse the selection yourself?”

Stays open later. Time and again I find many shops and lounges close early in the evening—like an hour or two after a normal work day. I understand it isn’t always possible, but I love it when they stay open late enough to have a post-dinner smoke. Bonus points for shops that recognize there are important sporting events that need to be watched, and that often merits staying open later if there’s a crowd.

Provides comfortable seating with access to power outlets. I don’t need decadence, but I don’t want to sit in a lawn chair, either. Plentiful, spread-out seating with solid ventilation is preferred. This is what makes me want to hang out, spend money, and come back.

Makes cleanliness a priority. I’m not asking for much. Empty the ash trays, dust the surfaces, and vacuum after those three guys got pizza crumbs everywhere. Also, the bathroom shouldn’t look like the opening scene of Saw.

Takes good care of the product. The cigars you sell should be in perfect smoking condition at the time of purchase. Period.

Values entertainment. Good TVs, WiFi, and maybe even a poker table. These touches go a long way. Cigar events are great, too.

What am I missing? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr