NFL Post Season: Food, Drink, and Cigar Pairings
As the play-offs zip past, we here at Ralphs are spending more and more time watching the games. We find our habits shifting, and with that the cigars we smoke. There are a few different foods and drinks that we are consuming, and the perfect cigar is going to change based on what we pair it with. It’s likely that if you are reading this you are also looking for some good pairings, so we thought we’d share with you our choices, and the tricks to a good pairing.
While cigars are traditionally associated with harder alcohol, like a barrel-aged bourbon or a peaty scotch, as Football season draws to a close we tend to reach for a lighter brew to share with friends in front of the tv. But the good news is that cigars pair just as well with a cool bottle of beer as they do with a dark liquor! In fact, with the right pairing, you may find that both halves create an even more harmonious whole.
The key to a successful pairing lies in understanding the unique flavor profiles of both beer and cigars. Just as beer ranges from hoppy IPAs to rich stouts and everything in between, all with their own sets of flavors, aromas, and characteristics, cigars have their own range. They can be mild, medium, or full-bodied and have notes of earth, spice, sweetness, and dozens of other unique or subtle flavors.
Generally speaking, complementary flavors are going to be your objective. This is the classic way to enhance your drink and your cigar- pairing a lighter beer and lighter cigar or darker and darker. For example, a malty beer will beautifully compliment a cigar that has coffee or chocolate notes. You will likely want to avoid pairing a full-bodied cigar with a light beer that will be overpowered by the smoke. However, a contrasting pairing can create a delightful and unique balance if done properly, such as pairing a hoppy beer with a milder, creamy cigar. Here at Ralphs, we recommend drinking an ale or a malt with The Judge from My Father or or the Drew Estate Papas Fritas for a dark and bold combination. If you're feeling something milder, we recommend smoking the Macanudo Inspirado Orange Label with a light pilsner or gently hoppy pale ale.
Since you’ll be so busy watching the game, you likely won’t want to leave for any extensive meal. This means game-time food like tacos or nachos, both perfect Super Bowl fare. With their abundance of salt and spice we recommend a traditional pairing of complementary tastes. No need to overcomplicate it! To match their complexity we recommend a medium-bodied cigar with floral notes, and tones of citrus and pepper that will enhance and marry all the delicious flavors. Our personal mealtime favorites are the Oscar Valladares, with its spicy Mexican San Andres wrapper, the fruity and floral CAO Colombia, the tangy and sweet RomaCraft Intemperance, and the Highclere Castle from Foundation- a milder smoke that still retains a complexity of nuttiness, citrus, and smooth cream.
If, while watching the game you still want something a bit stronger in your hand, the same pairing rules apply! Whether your drink of choice is scotch, bourbon, whiskey, or anything else. A smooth whiskey that falls on the lighter side will complement an earthy or woodsy cigar with a medium-body perfectly. A richer and slightly fuller cigar with notes of caramel, cocoa, and spice calls for a full barrel-aged bourbon. For our money, that whiskey pairs well with a cigar like the Rocky Patel Number 6, with an aged sweetness that just barely blankets a cedar burn. Montecristo is a classic, well-loved brand, and their Chicago Connoisseur Edition is a full-flavored smoke with a coffee and cocoa taste that is sure to elevate your bourbon. Another harmonious pairing with whiskey is Ralph's Kentucky Bourbon Barber Pole– A delicious long-filler Dominican blend wrapped with an alternating Ecuadorian Habano, Ecuadorian Connecticut, and Cameroon Maduro wrapper. Infused with Kentucky Bourbon that's been aged for 5 years with bold notes of earth, fruit, honey, and a touch of spice!
Moving past tacos and nachos to heavier fare, any self-respecting barbeque savant needs a full-bodied cigar with a killer personality. Rich and juicy grilled meats deserve a stick with a Maduro or Oscuro wrapper, something with some full, natural sweetness to complement that tangy barbecue sauce. A dark espresso taste, smooth leather, or cedar, earthy notes give that smokey complement the grill needs. At Ralphs, we’ll be smoking one of three sticks. Either the Connecticut Broadleaf Bolivar Cofradia, with its slow fermented espresso and savory spice, the Asylum 13 Maduro, with medium body and notes of caramel and espresso and slow-roasted chestnuts, or the Plasencia Alma Del Fuego, a fiery smoke with the taste of Nicaraguan cashews and guava wood.
Cigars and Football go together like peanut butter and jelly, and are only made better by a bit of careful pairing. A complementary pairing is sure to go well, with similar notes, strength, and flavor profile, but at times a contradicting pair can enhance and contrast the flavor for a whole new combination! Whatever you choose, we will have a cigar ready for your game day.