Pairing Cigars with Food
In part one of this series, we looked at some of the most popular pairings of cigars with alcoholic drinks like Scotch Whisky, bourbon, cognac and port. In part two, we dive into non-alcoholic pairings with meals. Fine cigars offer such a complex arrangement of flavors that it’s no wonder that people have been using a bit of imagination to purposefully pair them with other taste experiences for many years. The pairing tradition is without a doubt one of our favorite qualities of cigar smoking.
Cigar smoking has been thought of as one of the finer things for centuries. That has given the practice a great deal of time to evolve alongside other indulgences. Time for people to discover what other sensory experiences pair well with their favorite cigars and vice versa. It was only a matter of time before cigar aficionados noticed how a honey-rich cigar like the Ashton Aged Maduro No 60 compliments dessert after a fine meal. After all, people who smoke cigars embrace the unhurried. We’re people who stop to smell the roses. So taking the time to not only smoke after dinner, but to choose what we smoke with care, just makes good sense.
Setting the Table for a Cigar Dinner
The after dinner or dessert cigar has been a tradition for centuries. But, if you’re really into cigars, they can be a part of the whole dining experience. Why not consider the cigar when preparing your next dinner party? It’s much easier than it sounds and it’s the kind of attention to detail your guests are sure to appreciate. Taking the time to ponder what you’ll smoke and how it will pair with what you’re serving is well worth doing, we promise!
Planning Your Dinner:
- Be sure there is adequate ventilation is available where you’ll be smoking.
- Have a cigar cutter and lighter on hand. (we like the Alec Bradley Mega Burner)
- When you will smoke. With drinks beforehand? Between courses? After dinner?
- Choosing cigars for your guests which pair well with what you will serve.
Cigars Before Dinner
Our previous installment covered the art of pairing cigars with popular liquors like Scotch and bourbon. But aperitifs like Campari, a gin and tonic or even a Pimm’s Cup also play nicely with cigars. The key here is complimentary flavors. If you know your cigars well, then trust your instincts. The key is flavor notes that won’t battle each other for the attention of the palate.
We think lighter, citrus-tinged or slightly floral cigars are great with certain light, before dinner drinks. The Oliva Connecticut Wrapper Reserve Churchill is one smooth smoke with a hint of citrus and floral notes you might want to offer at a pre-dinner cocktail party. It’s flavorful without dominating the tastebuds. Mild and creamy cigars like the Espinosa Crema No. 1 are also fantastic with many cocktails and not too heavy before a meal.
Some Thoughts About Before Dinner Smokes:
- Consider what you’ll be serving if a particular cocktail is the featured attraction.
- Look for lighter cigars with mild citrus or floral notes to pair with gin, Campari or vermouth.
- Mild, creamy and/or nutty cigars play well with many drinks and they have wide appeal.
Between Courses Smokes
Smoking in the midst of a meal or between courses isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely been known to happen. This is worth thinking about if you’re planning a more elaborate dinner with more than two or three courses. Always consider your guests proclivities first. For example, are you inviting a bunch of old college buddies or work colleagues who you know are cigar aficionados? That might make a mid-dinner smoke more likely.
Whereas a dinner party with newly introduced couples that you’re less familiar with might make mid-dinner smoking feel out of place. If you do decide to offer cigars between courses, then pairing them thoughtfully with the main course is the kind of detail that can make you a famously great host. Again, the trick here is matching similar flavors or complimenting them. In the case of the main course, the cuisine should determine the cigar, not vice-versa.
Pairing with the Main Course:
- Steak and Barbeque will overshadow a milder smoke. Avoid sweet, creamy or floral cigars here. Go for something robust. Think leather, spice and wood. Look no further than our Smoke Inn Exclusive, Red Meat Lovers by Dunbarton T&T. This custom made sticks dark, oily maduro wrapper is magic with a juicy steak or smoky, spicy barbeque. Incidentally, if you’re looking for barbeque ideas, there are some masterful recipe ideas here.
- Seafood Main Courses like a light to medium-bodied smoke with a more neutral flavor. Think wood, earth or (light) umami flavor tones that don’t pull the tastebuds too hard in a certain direction. The idea is to be noticed without taking away from the flavor of the meal. The cigar is the costar in this ensemble.
- Pasta Entrees depend a bit on the sauce, but a cheesy pasta dish, like Fettucine Alfredo will play nice with a sweeter, nutty or creamy smoke. The best rule of thumb here is to pay attention to the sauce you’re working with and choose a cigar that won’t trample it’s flavors. For example, don’t pair a strong, spicy cigar with a spicy arrabbiata. Instead you want something sweeter and creamier that will offset a bit.
After dinner or dessert cigars are probably the most significant category of pairing. A cigar after dinner or with dessert appeals to even casual cigar smokers. Smoking also seems to aid in digestion and it’s relaxing. To cigar smokers anyway, it’s the most natural thing in the world to enjoy a cigar after a fine meal. It also helps that there are some truly amazing smokes that have flavor profiles that compliment popular desserts beautifully.
The Ashton Aged Maduro No 60 is a favorite dessert cigar of ours. We think it pairs really nicely with creamy desserts like crème brulée, tres leches or crème caramel (flan). The Drew Estate Tabak Especial Dulce with its coffee and creamy milk chocolate notes is a beautiful dessert cigar that should not be missed too. The Joya De Nicaragua Antano 1970 Robusto Grande is one more fine après-dinner smoke that manages to carry strength without sacrificing smoothness and that’s not an easy feat to pull off.
Finishing the Meal:
- We think sweeter cigars are usually best after dinner, but you don’t have to stay on the mild side.
- Use your imagination here, just follow general guidelines and remember your audience.
- Maduros are a good go-to for after dinner cigars, but also consider the flavor profile if you’re pairing it with a dessert.
Smoke Inn is Your Cigar Shop
That’s our take on food pairing with cigars. We could probably write 3 more articles on that topic alone, but this story should give you a lot to work with. We hope it inspires you to plan a great dinner with friends that affords everyone the opportunity to savor the leaf. Our next installment of Cigars With is going to explore the world of non-alcoholic ‘mocktails’ and pairing them with cigars, so be sure not to miss it. After that we will discuss things other than food and drink which pair well with cigars. That final segment will round out the series and, we hope, leave you with some great ideas and inspiration.
If you’re local or happen to be visiting South Florida, be sure to reward yourself with a visit to one of the country’s best cigar shops in person. We’d love to see you.
Our South Florida Locations:
- Smoke Inn Palm Beach Gardens
- Smoke Inn West Palm Beach
- Smoke Inn Delray Beach
- Smoke Inn Boynton Beach
- Smoke Inn Pompano Beach
- Smoke Inn Tequesta
- Smoke Inn Port St. Lucie