Vegas Blue: Drinks that Compliment Cigars

Unleash the flavors of your cigar
iStockPhoto.com/ Steve Cukrov

Many factors apply when enjoying the pleasure of cigars. A beverage can be used for “good or evil,” enhancing the complex taste of your smokes or overpowering it. So your choices must sometimes be careful and in accordance with your palate and preferences.

I am by no means an expert on cigar and beverage pairings; in fact, I began my own research on the issue just a few years ago, occasionally stepping away from my favorite drink to try a few others with my precious smokes. Here’s a few tips that might help when you try to find a beverage to enjoy along with yours.

It’s all about harmony
Cigars have a “body” just like alcoholic beverages, and I believe that the bodies of a cigar and beverage should match. A full-bodied cigar will overpower a medium-bodied drink or vice versa. When it comes to flavors however, I believe that you should find a drink that complements your cigar, creating a harmony that enhances the individual flavors of both. Many people believe that you should drink a beverage that will match your cigar “taste for taste.” I don’t subscribe to this belief. You don’t want to overwhelm your palate with more of the same tastes, go for a flavorful variety. You’ll notice the benefit when you try a new drink with a cigar you’ve had many times and discover new hints and various flavors.

Pleasure by attrition
The only way to find out which beverage will enhance the pleasure of your cigar is to try different couplings to see which you prefer. With all of the drinks out there, it seems like an insurmountable task. In some cases, even when you find a certain drink there may be hundreds of types of that particular drink itself. It may be possible to narrow your search. Here’s a few drinks known for their ability to enhance the flavor a quality smoke:

Cognac
I thought I would start by mentioning one of the more obvious ones first. While this is not one of my favorite beverages, I cannot deny that Cognac has been considered an after dinner counterpart for cigars for centuries. One of my favorite medium-bodied smokes, a Gurkha Grand Reserve, reached a high level of popularity because of its infusion with Louis XIII cognac. Make sure that your cognac is of great quality and well aged. Some of these spirits have abbreviations more confusing than those following the names of doctors, but the one to look for is “XO.” This abbreviation, which stands for Extra Old, accompanies the best-aged cognacs.

Rum
Many believe that rum goes well with cigars because for the most part they come from the same geographical areas. This may be true, however for me the jury is still out on its combination with the full-bodied smokes I customarily enjoy. I believe that my mistake thus far has been that the rums I have tried have been, for lack of a better word, common. In the near future, I will track down exotic rums for pairings. I’ll send an update when my quest is complete.

Coffee
Not all beverages enjoyed with quality tobacco have to be alcoholic. The only time I will drink coffee or espresso is with a cigar. Just as rum has geographical ties with cigars so does coffee. If you ever decide to enjoy an early afternoon smoke, or if you have finally finished your “twelve steps,” head to the nearest coffee shop for a great complement to your favorite cigar.

This port wine conflicted with my full-bodied cigar,
so I only took a sip of it
Photo by John Robert Taylor

Wine
Just as Cognac is traditionally paired with cigars based on the time of day in which it is usually consumed, port wine has been paired with cigars for similar reasons. As a dessert wine, many have tried sipping on it along with their favorite after-dinner cigar. I initially tried this with a full-bodied smoke and did not have the most enjoyable experience. I would recommend that port be tried with lighter more medium-bodied cigars. In addition to port, there may be other enjoyable wines pairings. Although it’s not very traditional, I was once given a glass of Syrah while enjoying a full-bodied smoke and fell in love with the pairing.

Scotch
This is my favorite drink to enjoy with a cigar. I patiently enjoy my cigar the same way I patiently sip a glass of scotch. It cannot be any scotch though. I prefer it be single malt and I can’t detail why but I like the single malts from the Highlands of Scotland. Examples would be The Balvenie Double wood, Oban, Glen Livet, Glenfiddich, or my favorite Macallan. These drinks should be enjoyed neat instead of with ice. The ice will compromise some of the flavor not only by eventually watering it down but via temperature as well.

Anytime you are drinking, please do so with a great level of responsibility. As I’ve mentioned, some drinks can compromise the taste of your cigars while others can unleash complex flavors you didn’t know existed. Feel free to suggest any cigar/beverage pairings you know of, that we all should try.

Comments

3 responses on “Vegas Blue: Drinks that Compliment Cigars

  1. I know we share this one tenet of belief — NEVER trample the flavor of a good cigar with any beer!

    I, too, prefer the flavor combination of single malts and a fine stogie when I have the luxury of time to enjoy both. My favorite single malt is a 1970-1972 Glenmorangie (which has, effectively been out of my luxury price range for a while), but I also like the subtle flavors of late model Oban. The more peaty of the single malts might afford a better complimentary match for some of the robust cigars, but I’ve never been able to enjoy that flavor. One of the least expensive — seriously peaty — single malts is the only except to this tenet — and this would be Finlaggan and you might give that a swirl one of these days.

    Great article —

    Mark

  2. John, I’ve been exploring port wine lately (without cigars) and there is definitely a wide range of taste experience available with port. My guess is that the port should be twenty years old (or older) to have the complexity needed to pair with a cigar. I’m willing to be corrected, though.

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