Historically, many men have enjoyed the pleasures of a fine cigar as they sipped brandy or whisky in the evening. Today, the art of perfect pairings has moved into coffee, wine, and even beer. So what are the tricks to ensuring harmony between your cigar and your drink?
There are many spirits that cigars pair well with and some that simply don’t stand up nearly as well.
Drinks That Work Well:
Drinks that Don’t Work As Well:
- Other White Spirits
The reason these white spirits don’t work as well is that in most cases, the cigar overpowers the spirit. There are some exceptions, but if you’re learning to pair your cigars and spirits, we suggest sticking with the basics at first.
The Trick To Pairing:
There is one simple factor that can determine whether or not a drink will pair well, and that’s the body. The first step to determining how a drink will pair with a cigar is to match the body. This means that if it’s a full bodied cigar, you likely need a full-bodied spirit that will not be overpowered by the cigar. Whenever you pair something, you want them to work in harmony. This means that both the cigar and the beverage stand out, and you can differentiate between the two.
As an example, if we wanted to pair a full bodied cigar with some spirits, without knowing the flavor profiles, we could surmise that the following beverages might work well:
- A beer with a thick mouthfeel such as Guinness, Kilkenny or Innis & Gunn Rum Finish.
- Wine like a deep red Chianti or a Malbec.
If we wanted to pair a medium bodied cigar, we might choose something like:
- A Speyside Scotch whisky such as Glenlivet or Macallan.
- A VSOP Cognac from Hennessy or Remy Martin.
- A delicious rum like Flor De Cana 12 Year or Diplomatico Reserva.
On the other hand, if we want to pair a light bodied cigar with a drink, we might opt for:
- A young red wine, or ideally, white wine or prosecco.
- A mild Irish whiskey like 2 Gingers.
- A Calvados (apple brandy) such as Boulard.
- A Cerveza like Dos Equis or Corona.
There are exceptions to every rule, but if you’re unfamiliar with the cigar you’re going to be smoking, it is always best to begin by pairing the body of the cigar to the body of the spirit.
What is the Body?
When we review both cigars and spirits, we always place them in three categories:
- Full Bodied
- Medium Bodied
- Light Bodied
This isn’t always attributed to the strength or ABV, and certainly, much of it is personal preference, but it is a determination of the overall weight and fullness of the flavor on the palate. Although the aroma and the finish are taken into consideration, the overall feel on the tongue is what determines its body. When we receive cigars and spirits, we always compare them to ones in the same spirit categories (based on type and region) we’ve tried before. We rate the boldest and most powerful ones as full bodied; the most delicate as light bodied and the ones in the middle as medium bodied.
When we pair a cigar with a beverage, we want to make sure they are balanced, so one doesn’t dominate over the other. At the same time, you want to find attributes in the cigar that will help to show off the spirit and vice versa. Like a marriage or relationship, the differences between the two should help to elevate and strengthen the pair as a whole.