Smoking a cigar is an experience. In order to maximize your experience and enjoy a cigar to the fullest, you may find it helpful to pair it with a drink. But with so many different types of cigars and beverages, knowing how to choose the correct pairing is key.

4 Factors to Consider

Cigars – good cigars, at least – are complex in their flavor and aroma. Just as a fine wine has many unique flavors, a well-aged cigar has multiple layers and combinations of flavors rolled into that brown cylindrical tube.  And as the cigar ages, the flavors continue to change and marry. Pairing it with a good drink – whether spirit, beer, or wine – is a science. 

Here are some factors to think about:

1. Basic Rule of Thumb

When it comes to spirits, some liquor is easy to pair with a cigar, while others are best avoided. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll find that the right types of brandy, whiskey, and rum will go well with certain cigars. On the other hand, vodka, gin, and other white spirits are best avoided. These latter spirits don’t have a strong enough flavor and will be overpowered by the cigar. 

You’ll also find that, when strategically selected, certain beers and wines go well with cigars. You’ll have to do your research and experiment with your own taste buds to figure out what works.

2. The Cigar’s Body

When pairing a cigar with a drink, you’ll want to start with the cigar’s body. By matching the cigar’s body with the drink’s body, you’ll find it much easier to accurately zero in on a good pairing.

“The ring gauge of the cigar will give you a general indication of how full the body is,” Thompson Cigar explains. “The larger the ring size, generally, the fuller, smoother, cooler, and slower the smoke will be.”

For best results, a full-bodied cigar should be paired with a full-bodied spirit that won’t be overpowered by the smoke. Individual flavors within both the cigar and the drink should be capable of being differentiated.

Without knowing the exact flavor profiles of the cigar, Gentleman’s Gazette surmises that the following beverages may work well:

  • Full-bodied cigar: A bold bourbon like Bookers, or a peaty scotch whiskey (such as Lagavulin 16), a thick, rich beer like Guinness, or a deep red wine like a red Chianti or Malbec.
  • Medium-bodied cigar: A cognac from Hennessy or Remy Martin, tasty rum like Flor De Cana 12 Year or Diplomatico Reserva, or a scotch whiskey like Glenlivet.
  • Light-bodied cigar: A young white wine or Prosecco, a mild Irish whiskey (like 2 Gingers), an apple brandy, or a beer like Corona or Dos Equis.

3. The Cigar’s Flavor

The flavor of a cigar is also quite important. As mentioned, cigars have very robust and complex flavors. Just like someone would pair a wine with a particular food dish, great care must be taken to pair a cigar’s flavor with a specific drink. 

The flavor portion of pairing is highly personal. Whereas body is a general term used to categorize cigars, each individual will experience different tastes in a cigar. The more you try different cigars and drinks, the more you’ll learn how the flavors pair in your palate. 

4. The Mood and Experience

Finally, think about the mood and experience. Are you enjoying a nice smoke alone on the back porch after a hectic weekday? Or are you relaxing around a bonfire with friends on a long weekend? The mood of the moment will often dictate which direction you go.

Refine Your Tastes

You aren’t going to pick up a cigar for the first time and automatically pair it with the perfect drink. Cigars are an acquired tasted, and it may take you some time before you’re able to detect some of the less obvious flavors. You’ll also find that your palate is different than the next. So while one person might enjoy a nice scotch with a particular cigar, you may be more drawn to a particular type of beer. 

Use this article as a nice introductory to pairing drinks and cigars. Try out different combinations and listen to your taste buds. The more you actively pay attention to the flavors and tastes – as well as their combinations – the more you’ll enjoy the art of smoking.