There are few things more relaxing and enjoyable to a cigar lover than a good during-or after-dinner smoke. Picking out the right cigar based on the meal you are having is actually quite important. So what is the “right cigar”? Well, let’s start by telling you about the “wrong cigar”.
If you are having a heavy meal of meat that was either grilled or smoked, think about lighting up something other than a mild, Connecticut wrapped stick…you will probably find that you just will not get a lot of flavour from it, because your food will simply overpower it. On the contrary, if you are having a lighter meal like chicken, shrimp or pasta in a white sauce or oil, you do not want to spark up a stronger, full-bodied cigar because that is just going to bury the flavour of the food. Your food and cigars should not fight each other, they should complement each other – so, once again, choosing the right type of cigar to pair with your meal is definitely going to enhance the entire dining experience.
There are four different “types” of foods/meals, and I have matched them up with the best “type” of cigar to go with each and some recommendations.
Group #1: Meats Grilled or Broiled (Steaks, Burgers, Chops) – Lean towards a cigar that is medium to full-bodied, something rich with various flavour notes that complement and balance with that juicy grilled protein. A good steak or a flavourful burger seared on an open flame is often seasoned with salt and pepper, and sautéed onion, peppers, mushrooms or garlic to accompany the meat. Lots of great tastes going on there, so you really want a cigar that holds up to all that is happening on your palate. Again, something a bit richer to light up or even a nice Maduro is going to pair so well. You will taste everything that is going on with the food and cigars simultaneously, and you will enjoy them to the max.
Group #2: Barbecue Smoked Meats (Brisket, Pulled Pork, Ribs) – This is definitely the time to break out full-bodied, full-flavored, stronger cigars. These meats are either dry-rubbed or sauced and the flavours are very rich, peppery, spicy and tangy. The cigar you choose has to have the body and flavour profile that will cut through and stand up to those zesty tastes. Dark, full-bodied Nicaraguans, Hondurans and Cubans that have complexity will match up so nicely as a smorgasbord of goodness will dance upon your taste buds.
Group #3: Italian (Pasta with Red Sauce, Meatballs, Sausage) – Italian food mixes tasty seasoned meats with sweet sauces like tomato, scampi, Francese and Marsala. You do not want to choose a cigar that is too strong or very full-bodied: since both Italian food and cigars are all about the diverse mix of delicious tastes, you need to be conscious of not overpowering the flavour of what is on your plate with what is in your humidor. Pick out a medium to medium/full bodied stick with some natural sweetness to perfectly complement the flavours of the meal. There is also a lot of herbs and spices with this kind of cuisine and choosing the right cigar to smoke will greatly enhance all of that home-cooked ethnic goodness.
Group #4: Seafood (Shrimp, Lobster, Clams, Salmon) – While these foods have a ton of flavour, they are not heavy on the palate, so the cigar you pick out should be the same. You should not go full-bodied and strong here as that will seriously wreck the taste of these delicate creatures of the sea. Lobster and shrimp can be very sweet on the palate. Fresh salmon is an oily fish with a sweet profile and clams and mussels are usually accompanied by butter or sweet red sauce. So, the key word here is “sweet”, always pair your seafood with a straight-up medium-bodied cigar whose wrapper gives off a natural sweetness in both taste and aroma. You can also choose a milder Connecticut wrapped stick and try to go with a blend that stands out and holds up well with the dish you’re enjoying.
This is just a guide to help you get the absolute most from your smoking and dining experience. Of course, you can always pair up the food and cigars that you prefer, but I think if you give some of the suggestions a shot, it might open up a new way of approaching your mealtime smoking.