Pro Tips on Cigar and Spirit Pairings
BY OMAR SOMMEREYNS
If you’re ambling around Wynwood and happen on a harlequin warehouse flanked by striking murals, you might surmise it’s yet another art gallery. But upon entering, you’ll find the unexpected: plumes of smoke wafting freely as deft rollers remain poised at their stations and other employees conduct business, surrounded by myriad works of street art. This is the recently opened Wynwood Cigar Factory.
“I’ve always been a big believer in this neighborhood,” says cofounder Robert Caldwell. “And I’m all about the power of what I call ‘the Apple Generation’—people who generally like to go off the beaten path.”
A connoisseur whose other business, The Hotel Humidor Company, supplies fine cigars to high-end properties such as the Four Seasons and Soho Beach House, Caldwell joined forces with industry vet Christian Eiroa (formerly the president of Camacho Cigars) to create quality smokes made with product from Eiroa’s Jamastran Valley tobacco farm in Honduras. Additionally, they’re packaged in boxes hand-painted by Miami artists, highlighting how cigar manufacturing is itself an art form. And, as both Caldwell and Eiroa point out, there’s also an art to pairing cigars with beverages.
Emphasizing that one’s tongue and throat must be dry to extract optimum flavor, Eiroa says, “Anything that has water or ice will affect the taste of a cigar. I often ask my friends to have a sip of water and then take a puff to make them understand. You’ll see—it makes the cigar taste harsh. Moisture is the enemy!” He adds that mixers like Coca-Cola can ruin a cigar altogether, so it’s best to serve your drink neat. Dry spirits work best, whether it’s whiskey, tequila, or rum.
“Dewar’s Scotch is a natural pair, and spice or smoky flavors are good,” Caldwell opines. “Vodka would need work, although a Stoli Vanil can be the exception because of the creamy tones. Your drink should pair just under your cigar in terms of flavor. It should complement it in that sense.” For example, it would be difficult, he says, to match a cigar with a sweet liqueur like anisette.
For his part, Eiroa doesn’t particularly opt for wine—except for American Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, Rutherford, Oakville, and Russian River Valley—or beer. “Even if I have many friends who swear by [beer], I think it’s too cold to make a cigar enjoyable,” he says. “Whiskey is my favorite. It’s very strong and dry and makes for a perfect combination.”
Regarding the ideal procedure when settling down to relish a drink and a cigar, Eiroa adds, “I like to take a sip first, get my throat ready, and then take in the smoke. Since you should never inhale and instead taste it on your palate, your drink needs to prepare your palate to help you appreciate the cigar.” 101 NW 24th St., Miami, 786-233-9653
photography by gary james (eiroa)
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.