Pairing Cigars with Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Mocktails offer some interesting flavor experiences.

Cigars and Mocktails

So far, we’ve looked at pairing cigars with traditional libations containing alcohol, like port wine, cognac, Scotch and bourbon and pairings with cuisine. In this installment we dive into cigar pairing with non-alcoholic beverages. More and more people are forgoing alcohol either some or all of the time. The reasons why vary but combined with the rise of artisanal cocktail formulation it has given rise to the curious creation known as the mocktail. Mocktails capture the inventive spirit and artful balancing of contrasting and complimentary flavors of the trending artisanal cocktail scene, they just leave out the alcohol. They are also a great way to include friends who don’t drink.

Non-alcoholic beverages were once limited to soft drinks, juices and the usual fare, but no more. People who choose to forgo alcohol have a much more interesting array of choices than ever before and lots of them also happen to enjoy cigars. Others might enjoy alcohol in the right time and place but are looking for new ways to enjoy cigars with friends when alcohol isn’t on the menu. Whichever camp you’re in, if you enjoy cigars like we do and find the idea of taste pairings interesting and entertaining, then you will find some unique possibilities below that you’ve probably never experienced.

 

The Rules of Pairing Cigars with Drinks

The truth is that there are no hard and fast rules to pairing cigars with drinks, except two perhaps. One should not completely overpower the other, because that defeats the purpose of pairing in the first place. The other is simple. They should taste good together. Outside of that, everything else is guidelines, suggestions and opinions. The general rule is that you should be able to enjoy the flavors of both your cigar and your drink. If the chemistry is just right, you end up with a new flavor experience that seems to be more than just the sum of its parts. There are plenty of examples of this “flavor synergy” in cuisine, cocktail mixing and, of course, cigarmaking.

 

Compliment and Contrast

If you generally prefer a certain type of cigar, or have one in mind, start there. Do you have a lighter cigar or do you prefer the robust fuller-bodied sticks? In general, lighter cigars will play nice with drinks that have a more subtle flavor that you don’t want to risk overpowering. If you like strong or spicy cigars, then you’ll want to pair with a beverage that can either stand its ground or which cooperates with the predominant flavors of your smoke by introducing complimentary flavors (think about foods with the perfect balance of both spice and sweetness).

The key here is to start with either the cigar or the featured beverage and let it inform the other choices. Don’t just throw things together at random and hope for the best, that defeats the purpose. Sure, you might stumble upon something great, but you’re just as likely not to. Give some thought to your pairing in advance. We think starting with the cigar first and then choosing the drink makes sense, because we’re cigar minded people who know exactly what we like. If you’re newer to cigars or you are planning a get together that will feature a particular drink, then start there and work your way towards the right cigar. Below we’ve made some suggestion of pairings we think work great.

 

Mocktail and Cigar Pairings

Here are some combinations you might try if you’re new to non-alcoholic mocktails or you’re not but you’ve never considered pairing cigars with them. They’ll work for just about anyone really. They are also worth filing away in case you’re a drinker who throws a party and you happen to invite friends who don’t drink. A great host always considers the needs and desires of each of their guests when planning a get together. With that, let’s get into the mocktail pairings.

 

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor and Cranberry-Rosemary Spritzer

We think the sweet and spicy notes of the La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor are the right compliment for tart and citrusy beverages like this refreshing Cranberry-Rosemary Spritzer mocktail from Tasting Table. This is an example of the contrasting flavors we mentioned earlier.

 

Arturo Fuente Hemingway and Virgin Mojito Mocktail

What better way to compliment this alcohol-free version of the classic Cuban mojito than a Cuban style stick? Named for the famous author and cigar aficionado, who also spent a great deal of time living in Cuba. The medium strength, super smooth Arturo Fuente Hemingway features fine, aged Dominican tobaccos in a Cameroon wrapper. It’s a great compliment to the sweet minty bite of this mock mojito blend from A Couple Cooks.

 

Oliva Connecticut Reserve and Mock Margarita

The Oliva Connecticut Reserve is a smooth and creamy milder smoke in an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrap. We think it pairs perfectly with a sweet citrusy drink that doesn’t include any potent secondary flavors like mint. Skip the salt or go very easy on it and we say this virgin margarita recipe from Isabel Eats is a perfect partner for it.

 

Montecristo White No. 2 and Moscow Mule Mocktail

The Montecristo White No. 2 is another smooth smoke with delicate cedar and spice flavors. It’s mellow without ever leaving your palate wanting more. Pair it with this Moscow Mule Mocktail from Eating Well. We think together they offer just the right amount of spice and creamy goodness.

 

Cigar Pairings with Everyday Beverages

Maybe you don’t have time to whip up a fancy mocktail or you’re just looking for some ideas for casual flavor experimentation with your favorite cigars. We’ve got you. Here are a few thoughts about pairing cigars with the types of drinks we have every day.

 

Cigars and Coffee

We usually have coffee in the morning, so we think the best cigars to pair with it are milder smokes that have a little sweetness, spice and nutty flavors. These flavor notes tend to compliment coffee best in our view. The Ashton Classic Churchill or the My Father Connecticut make interesting choices. Cigars with a maduro wrapper can also add a rich sweetness if you’re in the mind for something a little stronger.

 

Soft Drinks and Cigars

When to comes to soft drinks and cigars, there is some controversy. Some find mixing the two undignified or feel that soft drinks strong flavors and sweetness can unduly affect the flavor of the cigar. We agree it’s potentially precarious territory taste-wise.

But we also have a sense of adventure and we say if you are cool with mixing top shelf liquor with a soft drink, maybe combining a nice cigar with one isn’t a cardinal sin. Ultimately, it’s your tastebuds, so do your thing. If you want to give it a try, consider colas, ginger ale or even Dr. Pepper. Follow the same guidelines for contrasting and complimentary flavors as above.

 

Smoke Inn is Your Cigar Shop

We hope you’ve enjoyed our series on cigar pairing with food and drink. We have tried our best to cover a fairly broad cross-section of territory to give everyone something to pique their interest. Our Cigars With series has one more installment to go. The final article will cover not food and drink, but activities. Things we like to do while enjoying cigars. It’s a bit different than our usual take, but since we see cigars as an experience, it made perfect sense to us to talk about what else we like to do while we smoke. Look for that story within the next two weeks or so. We will also be writing about the annual PCA Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas soon.

By the way, 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.

 

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