Pairing Drinks and Cigars: A Guide

Accompanied by the right beverage, a fine cigar improves from memorable to downright religious. The key is to start with a bit of theory, then get on with the fun part: experimentation.

Start with intensity of flavor. Turkish coffee’s gonna overpower a mild cigar every time, just as hot tea will lose its nuance if paired with a full-bodied bruiser. You want the beverage and cigar to interact in an interesting way, instead of canceling each other out.

Also consider flavor profile. Smoking a peppery cigar? Then a peppery wine may cause you to lose interest. Instead, try complementary or contrasting flavors: A refreshing contrast to a peppery cigar could be something sweet, like soda (pop) or port. An invigorating complement to a bold, earthy Maduro might be a single malt scotch with lots of caramel-like flavors.

Don’t forget about mouth-feel. Food critics use this term to describe food’s texture. Smoke has a texture too, defined as “body.” Is the smoke thick, coating the roof and walls of your mouth? Then a thicker beverage would better refresh your palate. Is the smoke “salty,” causing you to salivate? Something lighter, like tonic water with lime, might keep things going.

Three suggestions:

  1. Keep a log or journal of your pairs – what you liked, what you didn’t, and why
  2. Ask your local purveyor of adult beverages or favorite bartender for guidance
  3. Don’t overthink it!

A good pairing offers an experience that’s more than the sum of its parts. Use these tips as a guideline and you’ll be pairing like a pro in no time!

  • Beer (IPAs, stouts, porters, pilsners, barley wines, Belgian styles, and amber ales come to mind)
  • Single-malt Scotch or bourbon
  • Red wine or Port wine (ruby or tawny)
  • Rum-based drinks
  • Brandy (the grape variety, including Cognac, Armagnac, etc.)

Non-alcoholic beverage suggestions:

  • Water
  • Coffee drinks
  • Fine teas, iced tea, soda (pop)
  • Mineral water mixed with fruit juice
  • Tonic water with lime
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Comments

  1. thediscobiscuit says:

    I find the best things to drink with my cigars ,of course personal taste, are coffee, tea, and Dr. Pepper. OK so coffee and tea are easy. Earthy flavors can compliment earthy cigars and natural flavors found in them. I even drink herbal teas when i smoke cigars something about the natural flavors combines well. Dr. Pepper on the other hand is the odd ball. This is good if you are trying out a new cigar you are not sure you will like. With the 23 different flavors you can cover a bad taste easily and the spice combines nicely with spicy cigars :) If you like the drink at all. Sorry I don’t know my alcohols. I don’t drink very often, but I am curious to try a few with some good red wines or wheat beers. Let me know if you guys know some good combos.

  2. Northrube says:

    Just started smoking cigars and have no idea about drinks other than dr. Pepper or coke? This might help though. Nubs and Alex Bradley are my favs

  3. Tom says:

    Honestly, it’s completely open to whatever tastes the best for you.

    If you don’t enjoy scotch, it is unlikely you will start enjoying it with cigars. Drink what you enjoy, and experiment a little. Anything from coke to red wine to a martini.

  4. Mike says:

    I find that Coke with any cigar tastes like mold. It is not a great fit. I find that smoking a cigar with coffee, especially black coffee, compliment each other perfectly. Only thing is that you will need to pick a more full bodied cigar with a darker coffee. and the other way too.

    If you would like to go down the alchoholic route, Scotch, Bourbon, and beer(lager particularly) works well.

  5. Sarah says:

    THANK YOU for mentioning tea in this list! I feel like it so often goes unnoticed when people think about pairing drinks with cigars, and it has got to be one of the best options. You can pair by age, origin, strength, and flavor profile… so cool.

    Check out this podcast, where a cigar connoisseur talks passionately all about pairing with fine teas: http://www.steepingaround.com/show102/

    Enjoy!