When it comes to pairing cigars with food, there are generally two schools of thought: those who believe it in, and those who don’t. We’re not here to settle that debate. But if you’re one who happens to think a fine cigar can enhance almost any experience—including fine dining—then we have a few tips to help you get started.
When choosing a cigar to go with your meal (or a meal to go with your cigar), pair like with like. The two should complement one another. You want the flavors to enhance one another, as opposed to having one overpower the other. The goal is synergy and balance.
For example, a Corona or Petit Corona with a Connecticut wrapper is a great pairing with a setting sun and Mediterranean tapas. The zesty flavorings of olives and cheese and vegetable spreads, along with a simple grilled fish with capers and tomatoes, are beautifully offset by the brief and mellow smoke with a chilled beverage. Perfect for a summer evening.
On the other hand, a fuller-bodied cigar like a Maduro or Oscuro would balance nicely with a heavy meal of steak and potatoes or a slow-roasted shoulder of lamb with a rich and creamy side of gratin dauphinoise.
In this way, pairing cigars and food tends to follow the same general rule as pairing wine and food. White wine complements lighter dishes; red wine enhances heavier dishes. But there are no hard and fast rules. Wine is as full of subtleties and complexities as any quality cigar. Remember, the goal is to not only enjoy both experiences—but to enhance them.
What about dessert? With the possible exception of dark, bittersweet chocolate, cigars and dessert don’t generally mix well because the flavors are too opposing.
The most important rule to remember is this: there are no rules. Start with a cigar you like, and then experiment from there. That’s half the fun! At the end of the day, the best cigar pairing with your food is the one that tastes best to you.