Whether it’s cigar and scotch pairing, cigar and beer pairing or any cigar and liquor pairing, even the most seasoned cigar smokers and spirit connoisseurs can sometimes find themselves at a loss when pairing drinks with cigars.
But the truth is that you already use your natural tasting abilities when you select the dressing to put on a salad, or decide which wine to drink with dinner. Your palate tells you what is right for you. And the more you use your sense of taste, the more refined it becomes. That’s how professional cigar makers and whiskey distillers develop their expertise. (Read more on the first blind cigar tasting held in Nairobi)
When selecting a good drink to go with your cigar, in general you should try to match relative flavours and weights. A full-bodied cigar calls for a full-bodied drink, while more delicate drinks such as champagne, while they may still work, call for a far lighter cigar.
So after all those lovely words, let’s get into the real business, and let me provide you a short guide to some of the more common drinks, in order to simplify the situation. Be aware that, the list will be rated from the first to the last.
Cognac is the traditional, almost clichéd, drink to have with cigars. This is largely because of timing – both were usually taken after meals, and so they naturally became linked. Arguably, there is no better drink to combine with a cigar after a meal.
When buying cognac, pay attention to the age designation of the bottle. VS (Very Special) is the lowest category of age, and should generally be ignored for pairing with cigars. The middle age bracket is designated VSOP (Very Special Old Pale), and indicates ageing of at least four and a half years. Mild and medium-bodied cigars go particularly well with this age of cognac.
In the world of spirits, small batch and single barrel Bourbons and single malt Scotches are super premium products that have the complexity and depth of flavor to stand up to a cigar. The smoky quality of a fine single malt, derived from the smoked peat used to filter the spirit, marries perfectly with a good cigar. The small batch Bourbons are bottled at a higher proof level, which gives them a backbone of strong flavors, and they marry well with medium- and full-bodied cigars.
Port is a traditional partner for a great cigar. The sweetness and alcoholic power of vintage Port blends perfectly with a full-bodied smoke; even younger vintage Ports are appropriate because their strong tannins stand up to a spicy smoke. Nonvintage styles such as tawny Port also complement a cigar nicely because of the woody characteristics they acquire during long barrel aging.
4. Coffee Drinks
There are many variations and types of coffee drinks, including those which are non-alcoholic (such as Cappuccino, Cafe Mocha, Cafe con Leche, and Cuban Coffee). However, we are lumping them all into this one category. To recommend only one, try coffee with Irish Cream. It tastes great, and will greatly enhance your cigar smoking experience. And when using Bailey’s, there’s really no need to add sugar or cream. Delicious!
5. RumTraditionally, rum and cigars come from a similar geographical area. Whether we are talking Cuba or the Caribbean, the people who make cigars have also made rum. For this reason, the two things complement each other very well. The cigar makers make their cigars to go with the drink they know. But rum in its cheapest and most basic form can ruin even the best cigar, accentuating any roughness of the smoke until all pleasure is lost completely. However, if you buy carefully, the right rum can be a perfect complement to a good cigar.
6. Kahlua Drinks
Kahlua drinks go great with cigars. As with coffee drinks, there are many variations, such as the Black Russian, Mud Slide and Nutty Irishman. To recommend just one, try smoking a cigar with a White Russian, which contains Kahlua, vodka, and cream.
Martinis come in many different flavors these days, but they all have one thing in common, they all contain lots of alcohol, which holds up very well with full flavored cigars. With that in mind, it becomes simply a matter of testing different combinations until you find one that suits you.