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The ritual of the Cigar Dinner: how to pair the cigar during a dinner

One of the consequences given by the ban on smoking in closed rooms is certainly the decline of the “Cigar Dinner“, special dinners where, in addition to being served food and drinks, cigars are freely smoked.

This typically American custom was intended to create a particular environment where the taste of good living was celebrated, enjoying a cigar in complete freedom and relaxation, accompanied by food and wines of excellent quality. The ritual involved preparing for a formal meeting wearing a smoking, which automatically raised the standard of the evening; according to some, the black tie was a must because it strengthened the elegance and importance of the event. Some dinners were designed to pair a different cigar for each course, however not everyone preferred to smoke and eat at the same time, the choice in this case was arbitrary.

The evaluation criteria of the food-cigar pairing
The evaluation criteria are the same used for the pairing between food and wine, in the specific case reference will be made mainly to the structure of both food and cigar: a light and small-sized cigar should be combined with not very complex and structured dishes, while a body cigar with a more important format must be paired with more structured dishes.

Here are some general tips on how to make pairings for a dinner:

  1. It’s good to avoid oily or acid condiments in the preparations as these elements can ruin the flavor of the cigar.
  2. The limit of cigars to be smoked during a dinner should not go beyond three in order not to excessively stress one’s palate.
  3. If provided, the aperitif should be accompanied by light cigars.
  4. Pasta-based first courses should be paired with medium-bodied and medium-structured cigars.
  5. Second courses based on grilled meats such as steaks and chops should be paired with medium-bodied and medium-structured cigars.
  6. Second courses based on fish such as lobsters, mussels, shrimp and clams should be paired with medium-bodied and medium-structured cigars.
  7. Second courses based on game and smoked meats should be paired with strong, full-bodied and full-structured cigars.
  8. The combination between cigar and dessert is somewhat difficult; the flavors are too contrasting. If you are going to smoke a cigar at the end of dinner, dessert should be avoided. Simpler combinations are made with dark chocolate, fruit and sorbets.

Below is a hypothetical menu with several cigars paired:

Aperitif based on fish snacks, olives and sandwiches accompanied by a glass of Charmat method sparkling wine.
Cigar pairing: La Ley Mareva or Por Larrañaga Petit Coronas.

First course based on spaghetti cacio e pepe accompanied by a medium-bodied and medium-bodied young red wine.

Second course based on cinghiale alla cacciatora accompanied by a full-bodied and structured red wine.
Cigar pairing: Davidoff Nicaragua box pressed Robusto or Alec Bradley Connecticut Robusto.

Coffee
Digestive based on an Aged Grappa or Reserve.
Cigar pairing: Italian tuscan cigar Tornabuoni Affinato or Nicarao Exclusivo Robusto.

Conclusions

When it comes to pairing a cigar with a meal, there are basically two schools of thought: who believes it and who doesn’t.
Regardless of which school is the best, Cigar Dinner must be purely seen as an exaltation of good taste and good living.
In this article we introduced the topic of the Cigar Dinner through a series of tips on how to best combine the cigar at the table. Finally we proposed a hypothetical menu with matching cigars.

Mirko Pastorelli

Mirko Pastorelli è il primo Sommelier italiano e il secondo al mondo disabile in sedia a rotelle, vincitore del premio Donald and Karen Larocca all’evento Wine on Wheels a New York City nel 2019 “per il suo duro lavoro e la sua dedizione nel cambiare la percezione delle persone con disabilità in Italia”. Fa parte dell’associazione ASPI (Associazione della Sommellerie Professionale Italiana) presidiata da Giuseppe Vaccarini (Miglior Sommelier del mondo ASI 1978), suo maestro e mentore.

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