So I’m sitting at a table at Club Macanudo, and it’s like clockwork. It doesn’t matter who I’m with.
“She works for the company. Ask her.”
“Ask me what?”
“What should I drink with this cigar? How do you pair cigars and drinks anyway?”
If I had a dollar for every conversation that started like this, I’d have a lot more shoes.
There are a few schools of thought when it comes to pairing cigars and drinks. First, some background. Before joining General Cigar many moons ago, I worked in the wine and spirits business. So it’s safe to say I know my way around a drink.
Back when I was breaking into a male-dominated business and wanted to come in with some knowledge under my belt, I reached out to my dear friend, Richard Carleton Hacker, author of The Ultimate Cigar Book, for a crash course. Needless to say, that crash course served me quite well.
Richard taught me the golden rule of pairing cigars and drinks: Match the body of the drink with the body of the cigar. Pretty straightforward, right? Not so fast. What if you don’t necessarily know how to classify your cigar, or if you want to try a new whiskey or wine and aren’t sure how strong it is? Or what if you’re at a cigar club with someone you want to impress and don’t want to ask for help?
Fear not, my friends. Let me give you some advice.
Ultimately, the hard and fast rule is that there are no hard and fast rules. You are already an expert on pairing. If you like a certain drink and you like a certain cigar, they will automatically pair well because you already find the taste of both to be pleasing.
If you’re still concerned about how the drink will pair with the cigar, take out one variable. Start with a drink you already know and like. Then, before you light the cigar, take a good, deep inhale of the foot. That will give you a general sense of the flavor, and it should help you decide if the pairing you’re considering will work well for you.
If all else fails, go with an Irish whiskey, Speyside or Highland Scotch, bourbon, or rye. Full-bodied reds work, as do most classic cocktails like Sidecars and Sazeracs. Don’t discount the beloved martini just because the juice is clear. Sinatra knew the pleasures of a gin martini and a great cigar, and you should, too.
Ask your cigar-smoking friends about their favorite pairings. Try them and then develop your own. Exploring what works for you and what’s not to your liking is half the fun. After all, variety is the spice of life. Smoke, sip, and savor every drop of it, my friends.
Story by Victoria Jaworski; photo courtesy of General Cigar Company
Now that you know how to pair your cigars and drinks, find out how to cut and light your cigar.