Although the Aspiring Gentleman fully endorses Scotch Whisky as the drink pairing of choice with any of your favourite cigars, the realities of workplace, dinner table, time of day and other factors may warrant another beverage option. I’ve presented here what I consider to be the best pairings, but please let us know what your ideal pairings are.
The roasted earthy notes are an intuitive match to pair with cigars. Many cigars already are loaded with these same notes, and therefore you should exercise some restraint when making this pairing. If you’re looking for a big whack in the head in the morning, strong black coffee with a rich full bodied cigar will do just that. The resulting head rush is a bit much for me. I prefer a full flavoured but mild Connecticut wrapper cigar, and an Americano with a splash of cream or whole milk. With a stronger cigar try instead steamed milk with cocoa, or even cold chocolate milk.
Food and wine are a natural pairing. Many restaurants offer tasting menus with a progression of dishes matched with appropriate wines. The current fashion in wine, namely strongly fruity, woody and alcoholic wines (praised by influential critics), are not the best for pairing food with. Fortunately for us cigar smokers, these inky oak cocktails are the best wines to drink while smoking. Oaky white wines can also work, and dessert wines can be a revelation.
In my experience the fuller flavoured the beer, the better it pairs with cigar smoke. Strongly hopped beers like India Pale Ale and beers made with dark roasted malts like a Stout both qualify. Lite beer drinkers will probably want to stick with cigarettes.
Water should probably be on hand every time you smoke cigars. The fluid helps your body process any toxins you might be ingesting and keeps you hydrated. Smoking cigars can fatigue the palate, and a splash of lemon in sparkling water has the great effect of refreshing your mouth and can even lessen the aftertaste of a bad cigar.
Nothing complements your cigars like a fine scotch. The slow aging process in barrels and high alcohol give scotch the ability to cleanse your palate between puffs and heighten the flavours of both the scotch and the cigar. Matching the intensity of flavour in one to the other is always a good bet. Similar aged spirits can work on their own level, such as anejo tequila, dark rum or cognac.
Beverages to Avoid
In my opinion most beverages outside of those I’ve outlined just don’t highlight the smoking experience. Soda and fruit beverages tend to have sweetly tart flavours that overwhelm and clash with fine tobacco. If you’ve noticed that orange juice after brushing your teeth creates a strange sensation then stay away from fruit juice and smoking: the sensation is different but equally foul. Dark rum and cola isn’t the best either in my opinion but can work.