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.
- Keep a log or journal of your pairs – what you liked, what you didn’t, and why
- Ask your local purveyor of adult beverages or favorite bartender for guidance
- 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:
- Coffee drinks
- Fine teas, iced tea, soda (pop)
- Mineral water mixed with fruit juice
- Tonic water with lime