Pairing a cigar with a tumbler of fine whiskey or a snifter of brandy is common. In fact, it’s a bit of a cliché. But whiskey and brandy are not everybody’s, er, cup of tea.
A growing number of people are choosing to abstain from alcohol at least some of the time, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they’re the designated driver, they’re participating in Dry January, or it’s simply a weeknight. Or, they just don’t drink—and there doesn’t need to be a reason.
The great thing about cigars is that they can be just as enjoyable whether booze is part of the picture or not. Flying Cigar Company has compiled a list of six non-alcoholic options that pair well with a smoke. Some of them might surprise you!
1. Mocktails and Copycats
These days, it’s hard to find a bar or restaurant without at least one non-alcoholic cocktail on its menu. Mocktails of all varieties mimic the flavors of the real thing so well, you might not notice the difference.
Likewise, companies are using traditional distilling and brewing methods to tap into the dry market with zero-proof spirits and non-alcoholic beers that taste better than ever. There are a few zero-alcohol wines on the market, and it’s probably just a matter of time before they are common, too.
So, if you like the taste of alcoholic drinks but don’t want to partake, give the non-alcohol equivalent of your favorite cigar-pairing drink a try. (And check out Ritual Zero Proof brand’s long list of mocktail recipes.)
Coffee is a great way to finish off a big meal, and so is a cigar. It makes perfect sense to pair the two. Coffee shares identifying characteristics with cigars like body, strength, and aroma, which makes it easy to choose one that works well with your favorite smoke.
Iced coffee can also complement a cigar. Because it is typically served with cream and sugar, it can bring those flavors to the forefront.
Look, you have to drop the mental image of your grandmother doing her crossword or knitting with a cup of tea close by. Tea has gotten much more street cred these days, especially given the overwhelming varieties out there, and exotic flavors like tumeric and hibiscus.
So yeah, it will take some experimentation to find what pairs best with your favorite cigar. But that variety also makes it likely you’ll discover something that is fantastic.
Like coffee, tea can be enjoyed hot or iced. Or, another favorite non-alcoholic choice is an Arnold Palmer—half iced tea and half lemonade. The mix of sweet and tart could really make an interesting partner for the right cigar.
Some cigar lovers like carbonated beverages in general and find them a refreshing partner for their cigars. So, whether you’re Team Coca-Cola or Team Pepsi, try pairing your stogie with a sweet, icy cola. We can’t think of anything more American to balance out a cigar made abroad—can you?
And as a bonus for the calorie-conscious, most colas’ diet versions do not detract from the overall flavor combination of cigar and drink.
That said, those who like a sweet cigar and/or a non-diet cola might find the mix a bit too sweet. Most colas might be best suited for a more robust cigar choice.
5. Other Distinctive Sodas
Not technically “colas,” both root beer and Dr Pepper are also on the sweet side but have distinctive flavors. If you don’t like them, you probably won’t like them with your cigar either. If you do like them, however, they can be surprisingly good options. Dr Pepper in particular has a complexity of flavors not found in most sodas. It just might bring out the subtle notes in a complex cigar.
Ginger ale and ginger beer have a unique bite that can be a great choice to bring out spicy notes in cigars. Ginger ale provides a lighter choice and ginger beer is more robust, making them two good options, depending on the type of cigar you prefer.
6. Good Old H2O
That’s right. Water. Whether flat or sparkling, many cigar smokers always have a glass nearby. For someone who simply wants to enjoy the flavor profile, bold and subtle notes, and finish of their cigar and just the cigar, water is perfect. There is nothing to distract or take away from the smoking experience. And no guessing about what beverage “works” and what doesn’t.
What to Look for in a Cigar-Beverage Pairing
The basics of finding non-alcoholic drinks to pair well with your cigar are not that different from choosing a whiskey or wine to go with it. The method used to make a choice, however, is less important than the individual person’s preference.
You can try matching the flavor profile and body of the cigar and drink. For example, try a full-bodied cigar with stronger flavors with a full-bodied drink, like espresso. Or, you may prefer the way a rich, earthy cigar contrasts with a sweet drink like cola.
Pairing is a matter of personal taste, and everyone’s taste is different. There is no right or wrong answer—it’s just important that it tastes good to you. The only rule of thumb is that neither the cigar nor the beverage should overpower the other. Instead, the pairing should elevate and enhance the flavor of both the smoke and the drink.
Experiment with Flying Cigars
Things like whiskey and cognac will always be there to sip with your cigar. But if you don’t drink or just want to take a break, consider trying a non-alcoholic beverage when you smoke. Have some fun experimenting with different flavors, carbonation vs. flat, and sugary vs. bitter or sour.
Or if you have a favorite soda or coffee drink, try a cigar sampler to find the perfect smoke to go with it. Whether you are just beginning to learn about the world of cigars or are a seasoned aficionado, you might just discover the perfect combination.