Enhancing the enjoyment of a favorite cigar and elevating the flavor of a cherished whiskey or bourbon can transform an ordinary experience into a symphony of taste. The following guide will help you learn the basics of pairing adult beverages and cigars to make some of your favorite cigars and drinks even more delicious the next time you combine both worlds.
The Cigar Lounge Experience
It’s hard to enter any cigar lounge without seeing the smoking patrons combining their cigar time with a nice beverage or two. As a certified tobacconist fully immersed in the cigar world, it is very common to be asked “what drink would go best with this cigar?”
There are some generally good rules of thumb out there, and many people’s answers to this question will be different. Despite the variety of answers, brands, and unique pairings you’ll receive from whoever you’re asking, one thing is for certain: cigars and alcohol generally enhance the flavor of one another, and when combined in the same experience, do a lot to elevate the flavor profiles of one another.
Finding Your Perfect Cigar Pairing
It is a bit overwhelming to start pairing your cigars and drinks together, with so many brands, varieties and flavors to consider both in your cigar and drink of choice. Where does one start when attempting to find a pairing that works for their palate? We are here to help you learn the fundamentals, explore some tried-and-true and established pairings, and learn how to find the perfect cigar and drink to make your day (or night) as relaxing and engaging for your senses as possible.
If you were to search on your own to find out how to best pair cigars and different bourbons and whiskeys, you will find a lot of conflicting information based on the vast amount of resources that exist in both worlds. The pairing process varies greatly by your palate and specific taste, and it certainly helps to have experience with smoking cigars and drinking good whiskey to help identify what works and what doesn’t.
The general rule of thumb is as follows:
- Stronger the cigar, more specific the pairing: The intensity of a cigar’s body and flavor dictates the specificity of its drink pairing.
- Harmony is key: Select a cigar you enjoy and find a drink with complementary notes.
Starting with Mild Cigars
When asked about pairing from someone just starting to explore combinations, I always advise that you start with a cigar that has easily identifiable flavor notes and a mild to medium body. This is easy to start with because it is important to avoid having the cigar and the drink “compete” for attention on your palate; we need the cigar and the spirit to work together to create a heightened flavor.
Some excellent starting points for mild cigars with a large amount of pairing options are:
- Davidoff Signature 2000
- Oliva Connecticut Reserve
- My Father Connecticut, all available on SwissCubanCigars.
These are easy starting points because they feature exquisitely aged Nicaraguan tobaccos, which is generally the most complex and evolving tobacco on the market. Additionally, these three cigars feature buttery, creamy and thick smoking experiences that add to the experience with your preferred spirit.
With a mild cigar such as these, it is easy to find a spirit that you have enjoyed before that melds well with one of these cigars.
Pairing Davidoff Signature 2000
Starting with the Davidoff Signature 2000, the best pairing for this cigar is going to be some sort of creamy spirited drink, such as an Irish coffee, to take advantage of the added cream in the flavor profile of this cigar. The dairy-like notes in this mild cigar will create a very thick, milky and mild taste that combines with the drink to provide a large amount of mild flavor with 0 pepper.
When pairing, it is important to consider which flavors and notes could be similar between your two choices, because accentuating the flavor notes in the cigar or spirit with its counterpart containing similar flavor notes will elevate your experience to new heights.
It should also be noted that a very slightly-peated whiskey, like Old Pulteney or Benromach, will provide a smoky taste and mouth-feel that will make the cigar smoke feel even thicker, which will accentuate the creamy note found in the Davidoff Signature 2000. This is a good example of how a similar flavor profile and an opposing flavor profile can lift the experience of a particular cigar.
Try a Davidoff Signature 2000 with both of these choices to see for yourself!
Pairing Oliva Connecticut Reserve
Moving toward the Oliva Connecticut Reserve, this is a cigar I have smoked hundreds of and can appreciate for the consistency in construction and draw in each one. There are a variety of sizes on the market that can complicate your choice, so here is a guide to help you understand each specific size that many brands offer.
It is very rare to have a poor experience with an Oliva cigar, and as a company that has been around for over 130 years, they are at the top of the cigar world as far as consistency goes. An Oliva Connecticut Reserve features a small amount of punch as you reach the end of the cigar, which slightly changes the smoking experience as you work your way through the body of each one. This makes it different from the other cigars already mentioned, yet still a versatile pairing choice.
Oliva Connecticut cigars are cigars I often take to weddings for the sheer fact that they pair fantastically well with champagne, or a sparkling wine like Prosecco. The earthy sweetness of these spirits mesh well with the toasty cedar, hay and citrus notes that can be found in an Oliva Connecticut.
If champagne or wine aren’t your thing, we encourage you to try an Oliva Connecticut with a single-malt bourbon or scotch. Single-malts are good pairing choices because there is often already a combination of spirits inside of a blended whiskey that are already working in tandem with each other, which could overpower the flavor notes of the cigar.
When sipped and smoked slowly, both of these should provide some earthy, grassy notes with hints of vanilla and cedar when combined. It’s a go-to combination for many and definitely a big reason why Oliva cigars have stood the test of time as a stand-alone cigar or one that pairs with a lot of different drink choices.
Pairing My Father Connecticut
Moving toward the My Father Connecticut, this cigar was chosen for pairing because it offers some interesting tasting notes not often found in milder cigars, and those notes are chocolate and baking spice. These notes are often found in stronger, full body blends with Maduro or Habano wrappers, and this Connecticut cigar is one of the few on the market that features these notes.
The thing that sets the My Father Connecticut apart as a good choice for pairing is the fact that it contains all of these notes that are normally found in stronger cigars without any of the pepper, bite or strength that non-Connecticut wrapped cigars sometimes bring with them. It is an extremely popular cigar for that reason, and along with the chocolate and baking spice, you also find plenty of sweet cream in this one.
As far as bourbons go, my go-to is always Jim Beam. It isn’t too imaginative or unique, but it gets the job done for me. When I am looking outside of Jim Beam, Angel’s Envy has always been good to me as far as a spirit to enjoy while smoking. It just never interferes with the natural flavor notes of any cigar I’m smoking, whether it is a milder or stronger choice.
The baking spice notes combine with the oaky notes brought forth by these spirits to create a toasty sensation in your nose and mouth while you enjoy them simultaneously. This is a pairing I go back to again and again when I want a smooth combination.
Venturing into Full-Bodied Cigars
Don’t get me wrong, pairing cigars is also something you can easily do with some full-body choices as well. Cigars such as the My Father Jaime Garcia and the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua (the #1 Cigar of the Year in 2019 and both available here at SwissCubanCigars) are traditionally looked at as some of the strongest cigars you’ll find on the market.
Cigars like these often have notes of oak, earth, leather, pepper and spice, and while it is usually advised to be careful when pairing these cigars to spirits, there are definitely partners to be found on the open market.
Pairing My Father Jaime Garcia
When smoking a My Father Jaime Garcia, opting for a larger size, such as a Gordo-sized or Toro-sized Jaime Garcia, is usually preferable to choosing a smaller size like a Robusto. This is because the larger size helps to smooth out the flavor and bite of the cigar, masking some of its strength and pepperiness. The reason for this is the higher ratio of filler tobacco in larger cigars, which slightly dilutes the impact of the core blend tobacco, tempering the cigar’s overall power.
This is actually a really great thing when pairing because you are taking an additional step to ensuring that the spirit and the cigar are harmonizing together and not trying to overpower each other.
Next time you grab a Jaime Garcia, pair it with your favorite rye whiskey. Rye whiskey is most notably known for its hints of black pepper or clove notes, which will add to the tasting notes found inside of the Jaime Garcia.
The best rye whiskey I’ve found to pair with this full-body blend cigar is Whistlepig 15 Year Straight Rye. The combination of strength and power in the Jaime Garcia features leather, espresso and some hints of sweet cream, which melds beautifully with the features of rye whiskey’s hint of clove to create a very heavy, very rich after-dinner experience.
It should be stated that these two examples of a full-body cigar and a rye whiskey are probably best left for those who are experienced both in smoking full body cigars and drinking some pretty stiff spirits, and this combination is certainly a far cry from some of the sweeter, lighter pairings you can find earlier in this post.
However, if you are in search of a combination that will entrance all of your senses and really make you slow down and savor the experience, then a My Father Jaime Garcia and some Whistlepig (or any rye, really) will be a combination to reach for if these sensations are what you are in search of.
Pairing Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua
Last, we move toward the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua. This cigar is one of the most heralded and revered cigars on the market, reaching as high as earning the distinctive Cigar of the Year award from Cigar Aficionado in 2019.
Aging Room skyrocketed into people’s awareness as a result, and now, proudly displaying Aging Room cigars in your humidor is a mark of distinction and credibility across the world. In addition to that, the cigar is actually delicious!
The Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua features flavor notes that include espresso, chocolate, pecan, caramel and leather, meaning it has the potential to be a favorable choice across a spectrum of smokers with varied palates.
These notes also make it a versatile partner when choosing a spirit to enjoy with it. It is simply a perfectly balanced combination of being peppery, rich and thick, which creates quite a few options when choosing a partner for it.
We remain in the single-malt scotch whiskey realm with this one, and that is because there is such a vast amount of options as far as single-malts go, which makes experimenting fun. One of the most diverse brands in this realm is Crown Royale, and while it is a bit mainstream, the various flavors can introduce some fun and variety to your pairing that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Crown Royale features different flavors like apple, maple, honey and several more, but the original blend is what I turn to when creating recipes to pair with a cigar. With a cigar like the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua, I like something that has a little sweetness to combine with the classic “strong cigar” flavors in the cigar (classic “strong cigar” flavors are often espresso or black coffee, earth, leather and spice, and you can learn more about strengths here.)
An “Old Fashioned Cigar Session”
A tried-and-true drink that I turn to time after time is an Old Fashioned, made with Crown Royale. I’ve included a recipe below, which would be perfect to pair with the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua or the Jaime Garcia:
- 2 ounces Crown Royal (I like a stiffer drink when smoking a cigar; it forces me to slow down and savor both.)
- 1.5 spoonfuls of sugar
- 2 dashes chocolate bitters
Give this one a try! It will work famously with either of the stronger cigars I’ve discussed earlier, and remember to take your time, search deep for some of the buried flavor notes, and allow the smoke to coat your mouth before taking a sip or two of this one. It’s a beautiful combination best served after a steak dinner, fit for a king.
Embarking on Your Cigar Pairing Adventure
So, we’ve looked at some really delicious and popular cigars and we’ve learned how to pair them with some fantastic spirits, so now it’s time to grab some for yourself to try all of the combinations outlined here. Visit https://www.swisscubancigars.com/ where the cigars have been consistently stored and shipped with utmost care. You’re able to smoke cigars from SwissCubanCigars immediately upon receipt, so you’ll waste no time pairing Oliva, Davidoff, My Father, Jaime Garcia, or Aging Room with some of the spirits outlined here.
The world of cigars is vast and up to you to explore. Choosing the right one is difficult, and while this guide might help you, you’ll need to do a lot of experimenting as well. These are not the only cigars you should be pairing; you should be smoking as many different types of cigars as possible, trying them in different sizes and at different points of the day, and seeing which ones work best for you.
There are thousands of spirits and other drinks on the open market, and it is so much fun to explore the world of cigars with different pairing partners each time you go to grab a cigar from your humidor. Take notes, smoke slowly, and learn about which regions your cigars come from. Do the same thing with your spirits so that it is possible to zero in on what you really enjoy about each cigar and spirit.
The fun of the cigar world is in trying many different things, and luckily, at SwissCubanCigars, you have access to the world of cigars at your fingertips. Grab a handful, learn how to store them well, and have them at your fingertips for enjoyment whenever you’d like.
Remember, maintenance is important as well, and there are a ton of myths and urban legends out there as far as how to store cigars so that they age gracefully. We have just the right guide for you as far as maintenance goes, and you can get some helpful tips and tricks here to make sure your storage and maintenance are where they need to be.
At this point, I think you’ve read enough. It’s time to order some cigars online, grab the ones we talked about, and look forward to some amazing experiences in adventuring through the world of cigars, spirits and pairings. Enjoy!