Sunday, September 19, 2010

Atmosphere is everything. Drink up!

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." - Neslon Mandela

The world we find ourselves in today is changing and moving at an unbelievable pace. 

How many of you had an e-mail address 15 years ago? Owned a cell phone ten years ago? An IPOD eight years ago? A facebook account five years ago?  Or a KINDLE/IPAD 1 year ago?

Information is moving at a constant pace.  Ideas are being exchanged instantly across the globe.  One's reputation can be tarnished one minute and absolved the next with a simple posted apology on Twitter.

Who cares, right?

Well, whether you do, or whether you don't really isn't want I want to discuss.  My point is, however you feel in today's fast paced society today, I believe everyone will agree it is beneficial to slow down and take it all in.

I get asked quite a bit, "Bear, what do you enjoy most about cigars?"

That's simple.

I enjoy the lifestyle and the moments it creates.  Don't get me wrong, I believe cigars to be delicious treats and do enjoy a number of other things about them.  However, I love what cigars create and force and individual to do. 

Someone once told me, "Stogies are great, they force you to sit down and have a conversation."  I couldn't agree more.  For centuries, cigars have been a symbol of class, wealth, elegance, dignity, and celebration.  Today, most cigar enthusiasts enjoy the camaraderie it brings with other aficionados. 

A cigar is important, but what and how you pair it with determines a lot about your experience. 

Ambiance is important.  Are you comfortable?  Inside? Outside?  In your car? Is the lighting overpowering?  Is it dark?  Are you alone?  In a large group?  Are you having a drink?  Is it a cocktail?  Is it affecting the cigars flavor?

All of these questions may seem tedious and a bit ridiculous, but whether you know it or not they are already in your head.  Your choice of surroundings is what can often make or break a cigar. 

A friend of mine and also a fan of this blog, Paul, recently commented that he enjoyed when I offered up how my drink paired with a cigar I was reviewing.  And since I find it to be a good decision to pair your favorite cigar with a good beverage, I've decided that will be the topic of discussion for this week's entry.

Before I start, let me hit with some ground rules:
1) Never choose an accompanied beverage solely because you've heard or think it will pair well with a cigar.
    - What I mean is, if you don't like a drink without a cigar, no stogie in the world will make that drink taste
2) Never choose a cigar solely because you've heard or think it will pair well with a certain beverage.
    - The same a rule #1, no drink in the world will change your mind about a cigar.
3) Never dip your cigar into accompanied beverage.
    - I know you saw your grandpa do this.  Trust me, it is a bad idea.  As I have stated in the past, direct contact with your cigar and the liquid will damage the cigar's integrity, construction, and overall flavor.  If you'd like to smoke a flavored cigar (ahem, loser) then there are some available.

Ok, now that the rules are set, here are some opinions and insights into accompanied beverages with your selected cigar.

     Beer can be a great partner for your stogie.  I usually would lean towards something with a little more body to hold up and balance out more mild to medium cigars.  Stouts and porters would fall into this category.  A good time for this would be late afternoon or early evening.  I usually enjoy a brew on Sunday afternoons with my cigar.
     Try this: Grab a hefeweizen to counter a spicy, heavily bodied smoke to change your smoking experience into a complex world of great flavor.  It's a meal you've dreamed of, but have never had

     Along with port and cognac, brandy is a very popular after dinner beverage.  So, of course, it would a great choice to accompany your favorite puro.  I find that Brandy really opens up the nose and one's sense of smell, so it goes great with cigars that have a very pleasant bouquet.
     Try this: Let the brandy sit for a bit before you light your cigar or ask your bartender to warm it a bit.  The temperature really brings a lot of flavor from your cigar to the front of your palate.

Bourbon Whiskey:
     This drink can typically be very rich and sweet.  Like brandy, it can open up one's sense of smell, but it usually dominates on taste.  With maple, oak, and vanilla notes dominating a lot of bourbons, it pairs well with  full bodied and spicy stogies.
     Try this: Try not to cut this liquor too much and allow the flavors or your cigar and drink to co-mingle.

     This is probably my favorite partner to a good smoke.  Especially after a great meal, coffee and/or espresso goes great with every cigar.  Mild to Full bodied or spicy to sweet, each cigar can benefit alongside a good cup o' joe.
     Try this: Pair a heavy/full bodied/spicy smoke with a cappuccino and enjoy the creaminess mingle with earthy spice. 

     Much like brandy it can really open the nose and pair well with cigars that have an affluent aroma.  I beg you, please do not add ice or anything to cut the cognac.  It kills me when I see this.  Lime, coke, ice or Sprite do not belong in the same glass as cognac, especially when pairing with a cigar.  When too much complexity is added to your personal ambiance it can distract and one part will be a relief for another.
     Try this: Heavy dinner + Cognac + cigar. 

     I enjoy a great port and find it to be a great balance and partner to a cigar.  Next to coffee I'll go for a port.  I will say this having a port during any part of the day besides late evening is not a good combination.  Just trust me on this one.
     Try this: A tawney port, 10 year+ vintage with your favorite go-to stogie.

Scotch Whiskey:
     An old stand by for centuries and this pairing does not disappoint.  Unlike bourbon, the sweet notes in scotch are usually subdued in favor of good, hardy flavor that really is wonderful in the early evening. 
     Try this: If you enjoy smoking before dinner, grab two fingers of your favorite scotch and mild robusto to open up your palate for supper.

     I have very mixed feelings about wine being paired with cigars.  If done, I would prefer a rich, robust red.  I have had white wine with a cigar in warm summer afternoons, but overall I try and stay away from white wine and cigars together.  Even most reds don't pair well.  I'd rather enjoy wine with my meal and then enjoy a cigar with another beverage post eating.
     Try this: Actually, just don't.

Wild Card:
     A lot of sweetness and a certain spiciness can go well with some cigars, in particular heavily bodied smokes. 
     Try this: Give your favorite full flavored stogie a whirl, pairing it with your preferred cola.

As always, I welcome comments and added thoughts.  But, with this entry, I am really looking for some.  I want to know what you enjoy and perhaps add to some of my thoughts.  Keep smoking and remember that there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best!




  1. I love this blog, Bear! Great insight on pairings. I wonder what would taste good with a hot chai tea latte? :)

  2. That would be interesting. Chai Lattes have that earthy and creaminess to them. They probably would pair well with either mild or fuller bodied cigars. A nice try would be a spicier cigar to add some complexity.

  3. Bear,

    Scotch on the rocks earns my vote for best pairing with any smoke. The drink is honest, cold, bright, and tough; which contrasts nicely with a spicy, dark, and smokey cigar.

    Scotch is meant to be lazily sipped through, much like how its best to take your time with a good cigar.

    Also, has anyone branded you with the moniker, "Smokey the Bear"? Because I would be remiss if I did not bring it up.

    Cheers my friend,

    Paul H.

  4. You're the lawyer- draw up the paperwork. We'll make it legal.

  5. Great write up as always sir. I am definitely the port/stout type.. though I do enjoy JW Black from time to time. :)