Smoking a cigar is a luxury that can be equally enjoyed with friends or alone. That moment of reward and relaxation brought on a by premium tobacco is truly special, and can be elevated further by the correct drink pairing. The right beverage will both increase your enjoyment of the moment and develop your knowledge of what choices work for you, making each subsequent smoke a little bit better.
Cigars should help us to unwind and celebrate life—so should good whiskey or wine. Of course, the range of drinks available to us to choose from is as varied and extensive as the range of cigars. Faced with a seemingly endless list of options, picking the right one can be a daunting task. A strong drink can overpower a light-bodied cigar; while something too light and sweet will not stand up to the intensity of a powerful Nicaraguan Puro.
A good rule of thumb is to match the intensity and flavor profiles so they enhance each other—as opposed to contrast and clash. Double down on the notes you like and the rewards will follow.
Whiskey is probably the most popular choice of pairing for cigar smokers. The beauty lies in its versatility; the many different expressions of whiskey result in a fantastic ability to pair with pretty much any cigar. Debates rage the world over as to which nation does it best (it’s Scotland), but wherever you choose to source your dram from, there will likely be something to match your smoke. Try a classic light and fruity Speyside Scotch like The Glenlivet with a light-bodied Quai d’Orsay from Cuba or Dominican Davidoff Signature. If you’re in the mood for a bit more strength, spice, and body—and a touch of added luxury—light up a Cuban Cohiba or an Arturo Fuente Opus X and pour yourself a hearty measure of sherry-cask whiskey—Glenfarclas 15 year old will work perfectly.
As the majority of tobacco-producing countries also produce sugar, rum is a natural companion to cigars. Most will have similar tasting notes—vanilla and caramel, with the sweetness of the sugar cane, are common—together with a rich mouthfeel and long finish. The easiest way to pair them is let the geography guide your choice. Rich and earthy Nicaraguan cigars—like Plasencia, with its dark chocolate and molasses notes—will go beautifully with compatriot rum like Flor de Caña. Likewise, Havana Club is the ideal foil for Cuban cigars—try the Havana Club 7 Años with a stick from Trinidad for a true taste of La Habana.
After whiskey, brandy is probably the most popular choice for a pairing drink. The rich notes of dark fruits, the depth of the flavor, and the warmth as it hits your palate are perfect to round off a meal, and best suited to a stronger cigar. The powerful pepper and rich spice of Cuba’s Partagas are exactly what is called for here—they will mingle with the plum, fig, and cinnamon flavors of Remy Martin XO. Similarly, the coffee, nuts, and spice found in the Davidoff Yamasa line are the ideal foil for the fruit, toffee, and ginger found in Hine Rare VSOP. A truly opulent way to finish an evening.
Wine is a drink often overlooked as a cigar pairing, but can provide an excellent option. Like whiskey, it’s so versatile and varied in its range of flavors, that you should be able to find a bottle that will complement whatever cigar you choose. The advice here is simple: match, don’t contrast, your combinations. Heavy, robust reds will go with full-bodied, powerful cigars, while dry and crisp whites will do better with lighter, more fragrant smokes. Try a meaty merlot with an Oliva Churchill from Nicaragua, or begin a day on holiday with a glass of champagne and a little Hoyo de Monterrey Hoyo du Depute. It may not the first combination that pops into your mind, but is definitely one worth trying.
Not everyone who smokes also drinks, and not every cigar is enjoyed at a point in the day where we can afford to have too much booze. Coffee is the ideal sober pairing—the flavors are so often similar, and the two together can brighten up a lunch break or form the ideal way to kick-start a day. For a latte or cappuccino, try a cigar with similar creaminess and velvety mouthfeel—the Por Larrañaga Petit Corona or La Flor Dominicana Reserva Especial are excellent choices. If you prefer your coffee without any milk, sugar, or anything else, the classic Ramon Allones Specially Selected—one of Cuba’s most popular exports—will do the job perfectly. Whether it’s to charge up your morning or perk you up after a big dinner, hot coffee and a fine cigar will provide the jolt you need.