Confession: Though I can't recommend having one on a frequent basis, enjoying a cigar has turned into a guilty pleasure of sorts. And I'm not alone if the crowded lounges and patios at area humidors are to be believed.
When the San Antonio Cocktail Conference announced this year's lineup, I was most intrigued by Cigar Pairing: Cocktails and Otherwise set for Saturday, January 16 from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. Held on the rooftop of the newly renovated St. Anthony Hotel (300 E. Travis St.), because you can't smoke cigars inside the hotel suites, silly, the event will feature Greg Mays of simple-cocktails.com, a blog that specializes in making bar experts out of home bartenders. In case you're not able to make the seminar (priced at $55, but how can you beat that view, amirite?), Mays offered a few tips on how to make the most of your cigar-smoking and spirit-pairing experience.
For the Newbs: Spend some time with your local tobacconist (yes, this is a real word). Share your likes, dislikes and what you'd like out of your smoking experience — whether it's a mild cigar with strong flavors or rather a strong cigar with mild flavors.
"Have your tobacconist recommend a handful of different ones, then take them home and try them. Note which are your favorite and why," Mays said via email.
What to Avoid: Sorry gin fans. This herbal spirit usually doesn't click with our stogies — same for some vodkas and licorice-laden absinthe.
Seminar attendees will taste cocktails that will pair with cigars and others that won't.
Try New Things: It would make sense if one were to take a drag of a Cuban cigar to pair it with an island rum, right? According to Mays, aged rums with their medleys of spices should be making an appearance in your rocks glass.
"Some smokers know this already, but it has a long way to go to catch up to scotch and cognac," Mays said. This also applies to sweet and/or creamy cocktails and liquors — think White Russians, Averna and vanilla-forward vodka on the rocks to start.
Stick with Sweet Wines: This one's kind of a duh. Think Port and Cognac and avoid rich, buttery vinos (such as oak-aged Chardonnay).
"There are some red wine-based cocktails that go well with cigars, too," said Mays.
Get to your nearest humidor.