Presented by Gurkha
When pairing cigars with spirits, the first thing you think of is probably whiskey – and for good reason. Bourbon and single malt scotch do pair particularly well with a fine cigar; the oak, vanilla, and sometimes smoky flavors complement the complex layering that unfolds with each puff.
But tequila is an ideal spirit to pair with cigars as well, whether it’s a light, un-aged blanco or a richer extra anejo that has spent several years in oak.
“Cigars and tequila might seem like a counterintuitive pairing at first, but agave definitely deserves a place next to scotch whisky and cognac as your cigar complement,” says Antony Sazerac, lead bartender at Felt Bar & Lounge at MGM National Harbor in Maryland. “As with any kind of pairing, you want balance and symmetry.”
“I find that aged tequilas tend to work better with a cigar,” says Craig Schoettler, who is currently working on the cocktail program and tequila/mezcal collection for the new Mama Rabbit in Las Vegas at Park MGM, opening this summer.
“The slight wood influence the tequila gets from the barrels adds a creamy, vanilla and black pepper flavor that complements a lighter bodied cigar.”
Jason Sorbet, bartender at Barrel Proof in New Orleans, takes inspiration from the craft and tradition that goes into making both tequila and cigars as inspiration for pairing.
“These are both handmade and culturally significant products, so your pairings should be made with respect to the quality of the tobacco and the tequila,” he says. “My approach has always been to pick my poison first, then find the right cigar to enjoy it with.”
Here, ten tequilas that pair well with cigars this Cinco De Mayo, as suggested by our expert bartenders. (And as far as fine cigars to smoke with these tequilas, you can't go wrong with a Cellar Reserve, Heritage Maduro or Marquesa from our friends at Gurkha.)
Tequila Ocho Reposado
“When smoking a Claro or natural cigar, I find pairing it with a blanco or a very young, rested tequila is ideal to complement the vegetal, slightly herbaceous and mild flavors of the cigar,” says Sorbet.
He recommends Tequila Ocho, made under the direction of El Tesoro master distiller Carlos Camarena at the distillery his grandfather founded in the 1930s. The reposado is aged in American oak ex-whiskey barrels for eight weeks and eight days.
Roca Patron Reposado
“A baller pairing for a lighter bodied cigar should be reserved for [aged tequilas],” says Sorbet.
He’s a fan of Roca Patron, the higher-end lineup from Patron for which the agave is crushed using a traditional tahona stone. The reposado expression is aged in ex-bourbon barrels and has notes of vanilla, ginger, and oak.
Cascahuin Extra Anejo
For a rich after dinner cigar, Sorbet recommends a tequila you might not have heard of before—the extra anejo expression from Cascahuin. It’s made using traditional methods, and the extra anejo expression (released last year) was aged for four years in ex-bourbon barrels.
"It's important to be cognizant of the flavor that cigar will have through the duration of the smoke and how long the stick is gonna last you," says Sorbet.
“For a cigar with thick, creamy smoke, and dessert-like flavors that go on for days, I'm pouring Tequila Fortaleza Anejo,” says Sorbet.
Full of caramel and butterscotch flavors, this tequila spends 18 months in oak barrels.
Casa Noble Anejo
“If you’re lighting up a spicy and dense smoke with earthy flavors, [a bottle] I recommend cracking open is Casa Noble Anejo,” says Sorbet.
Unlike most other tequilas, Casa Noble uses French oak to age its tequila. In the case of the anejo, it rests for a full two years.
Siembra Azul Reposado 12 Year Anniversary Edition
“I wanted to pair a cigar and tequila that truly play off of each other and complement each's taste,” says Josh Prewitt, general manager at La Condesa in Austin.
“What makes Siembra Azul Reposado 12 Year Anniversary Edition distinct is that it is actually a blend of añejo and extra añejo tequilas. What they end up doing is bottle as a reposado to bring awareness to the ambiguity of tequila laws. The result is a phenomenal product to be had at a great value.”
“A great blanco tequila, like Espolon Blanco, will pair perfectly with a lighter cigar that has more bouquet to it than body,” says Sazerac. Espolon is an affordable tequila brand that is part of the Campari America family of spirits.
“The flavor profile is almost exclusively from the agave, a perfect everyday tequila to pair with your favorite everyday smoking cigar.”
Sazerac has an affinity for George Clooney’s popular tequila brand, Casamigos, which was sold to Diageo for nearly a billion dollars in 2017.
“We love Casamigos Reposado to pair with [a cigar]. There is still a prominent backbone of agave, but the time spent in the barrel gives it some of the same notes of spice and cocoa found in [a quality cigar].”
Don Julio Añejo
“For an even more sophisticated and complex pairing we recommend Don Julio Añejo,” says Sazerac. But he recommends the regular anejo instead of the flashy and much more expensive 1942.
“Añejo tequilas can have as much complexity as even your favorite cognacs… The congeners of wood and coffee from the cigar can also be found and appreciated in the distillate.”
“[Extra anejo] tequilas will have more than enough spine to go toe to toe with even the most robust cigars you may enjoy,” says Sazerac.
“Avion 44 gets its numbered designation from the number of months it spends [in oak]: 43 months in [whiskey] barrels, and then one final month spent in even smaller barrels. The size of those final barrels means that the tequila is basically aging in dog years. The final product is one of remarkable complexity, both of flavor and aromatics.”