Single-malt Scotch whisky and a fine cigar from a Caribbean island nation may be a perfect combination – but certainly not the only one. Cigar aficionados should not limit themselves to the traditional Scotch pairing. While I will never turn down a Romeo y Julieta and two or three fingers of Glenlivet, I have found that a mixed cocktail can also make a fine addition to almost any good cigar.
The time-honored martini
Let’s get one thing straight. A martini is made with gin and vermouth and includes one or two olives on a toothpick. Brightly-colored, fruit-flavored booze put into a cocktail glass and given a foo-foo name with “tini” at the end is not a martini, and such drinks should never be taken with a good cigar.
The bartender at Nicky Blaines in Indianapolis serves up a “Dean Martini” – a very traditional Bombay martini with dry vermouth and a single olive. Nicky’s, my favorite cigar-friendly destination in Indiana, has a cigar sommelier on staff, and I love the intimate atmosphere and friendly vibe – and it goes great with a Montecristo and one of their delicious cheese and fruit plates. The Montecristo “White” Series, a mellow smoke with a pleasant aroma, is a tamer cigar that goes well with lighter accompaniments like Nicky’s assortment of brie, gorgonzola and aged gouda, and the Montecristo White is a perfect pairing with the traditional martini.
Anything with rum
Rum and cigars are another one of those dream combinations. Besides the fact that the best of both come from one of a handful of Caribbean islands it’s just a taste that can’t be beat. I paired my rum drink with a more full-bodied cigar, opting for the Montecristo Churchills, a very aromatic cigar with wonderful chocolate and coffee notes. My order had just arrived from Best Cigar Prices, and I eagerly opened up the box and broke out my best bottle of rum right away.
With my cigar-chomping buddies rushing over to try my Churchills, the question at hand was, will they go with fruity rum drinks? The answer was a resounding “Yes.” A pina colada topped off with a small pineapple wedge doesn’t really seem like a drink that one would enjoy with a cigar, but it works, and the sweetness of the pina colada balanced well with the full-bodied Churchills.
Over at the Lit Cigar Lounge at the Snoqualmie Casino in Seattle, they definitely have the right idea on pairing rum with a good cigar. Their “Old Cuban” – Eight-year-old Bacardi with mint, lime, sugar, bitters, on a float of champagne is pure joy, and their Lit Mojito pairs rum with spearmint liqueur, simple syrup, fresh mint and lime, topped with soda and served with a raw sugar cane stick is the perfect accompaniment, and for a real treat, Lit’s humidor has Padron Family Reserve 45th Anniversary cigars, a great full-bodied smoke with a little bit of spice and cocoa finish.
Vodka and cigars
Having lived briefly in Poland, the idea of a vodka cocktail is quite foreign. Poles and Russians drink it straight, and in large quantities. I found that pairing my Zubrowka with a Cuban cigar – which I could get in Eastern Europe – allowed me to take a break from the rapid pace of vodka toasts that were going on, allowing me to keep up a little better with my heartier Polish cousins.
As for vodka cocktails, not all of them work well with a cigar, which demands something a little more complex. But I did find that a Moscow Mule, or more specifically, the “Santa’s Mule” – a holiday version of the Moscow Mule created by the bartender at the Gaby Bar at Sofitel, New York – was a perfect foil to the balance of my Montecristo Whites. Santa’s Mule is 2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce cranberry juice, a spoon of apple puree, splash of lime juice, topped up with ginger beer and garnished with a lime wedge and fresh mint leaves, and to make it even more Christmasy, a peppermint candy cane. Naturally a Black Russian (vodka and coffee liqueur) is a great complementary drink.
Mixing cocktails is always a little bit of an adventure for the home bartender, and you may find a favorite combination of your own that nobody else has thought of. Try some combinations of your own for your next cocktail party.