Cigars and Cocktails: A Pairing Guide

People are serious about their cigars. The growing popularity of cigars is evidenced by the growing numbers participating in the Cigar Smoking World Championship. Whether you are as serious as those in attendance at that event or simply someone who enjoys relaxing with a stogie, the enjoyment from these activities can be greatly enhanced by knowing which cocktail pairs best with which cigar. While the list of common cocktails is extensive and the choices of tobacco equally vast, even a novice can find the way in the unfamiliar territory by following a few rules of thumb.

The first thing to consider is knowing what you like in a cigar. Do you prefer the mild, smoky flavor? Or maybe a spicy, robust blend is more your style? Cigars typically are divided into three categories – mild, medium and full bodied. Knowing which category you prefer can help narrow down which cocktail will enhance and pair best with your choice.

Mild cigars can have more of their subtle notes brought out by serving a lighter cocktail. Any cocktails made with lighter-colored spirits are usually a complementary match for the milder cigars. You want to enhance the flavor of the cigar without overpowering the underlying notes, which can be tricky with the mildest class of cigars. Most cocktails containing cream or milk are excellent choices, as the mildness of the drink allows the flavors of the cigar to shine through.

The medium class of cigars has a wider variety of cocktails that pairs nicely with it. These cigars can hold their own weight with a bolder, more robust flavor, allowing you to add more of the darker spirits to the mix. Cognac, port and rum drinks are exceptional when accompanying the strongly-flavored choices of cigar included in this class.

The final class of cigars houses the strongest, most full-bodied flavors. These cigars deserve an equal when it comes to choosing a cocktail to match. Choosing cocktails containing bourbon, scotch and whiskey will bring out the complex, thick and smoky character of cigars that fall into this category. Choose a bold cocktail to match your bold cigar and you will not be disappointed.

If you feel overwhelmed when it comes time to decide which cocktail to pair with which cigar, just remember your preference of what cigar you like to smoke and what cocktail you prefer is really all you need to know. Trial and error and experimenting with different combinations will allow you to discover what brings out the nuances in the cigar you most want to experience. This can be a fun, versatile activity in tailoring the combination of cigar and cocktail to your specific taste. There is no wrong answer, and the combination you create is uniquely your own.