Category Archives: cigars

Baker’s Bourbon

bakers bourbon

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to meet Bobby “G,” Beam’s Master Mixologist, and we talked about whiskey and cigar pairings briefly. If you’d like, you can hear that interview on the podcast.

Bobby suggested that Baker’s Bourbon is a great cigar pairing, as the aging for Baker’s puts their barrels higher up in Beam’s rickhouses, creating a rich, bitter and quite spicy bourbon. Baker’s is a 7-year-old, 107 proof bourbon, too, bold enough to pair with even the boldest cigar as well.

Baker’s is shockingly smooth and easy to drink for being 107 proof. I’ve tried it with a bold cigar (Gurkha Red Witch) and a mild cigar (Arturo Fuente Dominican Seconds), and really enjoyed the interplay Baker’s had with both. The Red Witch is flavorful and Gurkhas tend to have lots of smoke output, so it was richness that was the stand-out in this pairing. The Fuente was a milder and earthier smoke, highlighting Baker’s nutmeg flavors. Alone as a nightcap, Baker’s spiciness is exceedingly clear: pepper and nutmeg are the standout flavors.

Baker’s is definitely a cigar smoker’s bourbon and those who prefer their whiskies spicy, like rye drinkers or even Four Roses drinkers, may want to give this bourbon a shot as well.

Cigar Pairing: Creme Cocktails


Last month, I did a seminar at San Antonio Cocktail Conference about cigar and cocktail pairing. The gist of the seminar was this: cigars are typically paired with similar-tasting drinks (smoky scotch, spicy rye). If, however, you pair a cigar with an opposite-tasting cocktail, like a creamy or sweet drink, the pairing can enhance the flavors of both the smoke and the drink.

To be quite honest, the attendees weren’t totally convinced that cream-based cocktails were a good fit, but a recent conversation I had confirmed that a creamy cocktail actually pairs quite well with a stogie. The following are some cream-based cocktails I recommend pairing with a cigar, including a Puerto Rican cocktail that’s basically their equivalent of egg nog:


  • 12 oz coconut milk
  • 12 oz evaporated milk
  • 12 oz cream of coconut
  • 4 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup spiced rum
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • blend ingredients in a blender until well mixed, then bottle and refrigerate until cold
  • serve in small glasses and sprinkle cinnamon on the top

Brandy Alexander

  • 1 oz of brandy or cognac
  • 1 oz dark creme de cacao
  • 1 oz cream (half and half)
  • shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with nutmeg on top

White Russian

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz coffee liqueur
  • 1 oz cream (half and half)
  • shake well with ice and strain into an ice-filled old fashioned glass

Simple Cocktails at SACC!


Happy New Year everyone!

Now that we’re coming back from the holidays, we’re thrilled to announce that we’re going to be heading to Texas next week for the San Antonio Cocktail Conference. We will be hosting a seminar on Cigar and Cocktail pairing – cost is $55 for attendees and we’d love to see you there!

There in the midst of cocktail enthusiasts, we’ll be recording interviews which we’ll use for a special podcast episode just like we did at Tales of the Cocktail last year.

For those who can’t attend, we’re sure you’ll love the podcasts and for now, you can read our blog post on cigar and cocktail pairing! Cheers and we’ll see you in San Antonio!

Hennessy Cognac

hennessy ryan mcginness bottle

This is one of the few cognac reviews you’ll find here at Simple Cocktails, but that’s not really intentional. It’s just that cognac can be pricey and is mostly intended for sipping, not cocktail-making. Hennessy is really one of the big names in cognac and has released a limited edition bottle to celebrate 250 years in business, designed by American artist Ryan McGinness.

So what is cognac exactly? Cognac is brandy (distilled from grapes) that is specifically distilled and aged in the Cognac region of France. Like brandy, there are 3 common types of cognac:

  • V.S. – very special. The youngest type of cognac.
  • V.S.O.P. – very special old pale. An older and more expensive cognac.
  • X.O. – extra old. Cognacs in this range usually start at $100, though they can command thousands or tens of thousands of dollars if they’re old or unique enough.

hennessy ryan mcginness bottle

Hennessy has chosen accessibility with this limited edition bottle, it’s the V.S. blend, which retails for the usual $30-40. V.S. is a blend of dozens of cognacs and is aged 8 years. Cognac has long been the preferred accompaniment to a cigar, and this one has the subtle flavor of sweet red wine, and the barrel notes of vanilla and a little bit of caramel. Definitely the right flavor profile for a cigar.

Cognac is not particularly appealing to the younger drinking crowd and I imagine this bottle art is a way of generating interest from them. It glows under a blacklight, a particularly cool effect in a nightclub. The artwork is modern and beautiful too, and if you’re looking to pickup a moderately-priced cognac, there’s not reason not to grab this beautiful bottle with quality cognac inside.

Cigars and Cocktails

oliva cigar and old fashioned cocktail

While cocktails are my primary focus around here, I like to pair my drinks with a great cigar from time to time (evidence of this is on my Instagram profile). Brown liquors are usually a better fit with a cigar than the clear ones, though I’ve also found some vodkas that work with a stogie, too. Here’s what I like to drink with my cigars:

Tallarico on the rocks. A spicy rye vodka fits well on a hot summer night with a nice mild cigar.

Phraya Rum. I’d call this the best cigar rum I’ve tried yet. Rum is usually a good fit with a smoke, especially aged rums like Zacapa or Thomas Tew.

Old Fashioned. If you’ve read this blog much at all, you’ll realize this is my favorite cocktail. A bourbon Old Fashioned is great with a cigar because it’s usually sweeter than rye, or you can use rum (see above).

Aged tequilas. I don’t drink a lot of tequila outside of Margaritas, but Don Julio is an amazing tequila. Buy the most expensive one you can afford, and enjoy it neat in a snifter while you smoke.

Lastly, I’ve discovered that Martinis – which I love to have before dinner – don’t work so well with stogies.

So what do you like to drink with your smokes? Leave a comment below.

Phraya Rum

phraya rum

Phraya is an aged rum from Thailand that’s packaged in a eye-catching golden bottle. Pronounced with a silent h, Phraya Deep Matured Gold Rum is a blend of Thai rums that are aged from 7 to 12 years.

At $40, Phraya falls at an inbetween price point, not cheap and not so expensive that I’d call it “luxury.” This rum is certainly smooth, though, because at 80% ABV, it’s on the lower spectrum of alcohol strength. When you smell it in a glass, you don’t smell any alcohol at all, just almond and brown sugar. Phraya finishes in a really pleasing way that I’d describe as sweet, though not sticky, syrupy, or overwhelming.

Two things hit me as I drank my first glass of Phraya:

  1. The ice I that I initially added (see photo) was a mistake. This rum is smooth and flavorful, and it’s really best served neat (no ice).
  2. I wanted a cigar to smoke as I drank it…badly.

I called up Thompson Cigar and they graciously sent me a Flor de las Antillas, which Cigar Aficionado gave 2012’s cigar of the year. This rich and earthy cigar was a great fit with Phraya, which is flaky-pastry-sweet. Since I got this bottle of Phraya, I’ve taken it out in the backyard with me every time I smoke – I’ve found it the perfect cigar companion and very easy to drink on a hot summer evening.


Father’s Day Gift Ideas

father's day gift ideas

Father’s Day is coming up! As a father myself, I think the best rules of thumb are: know what dad likes, and get something creative and interesting. How about Scotch, cigars, coffee, and sweets for a start? If you caught my segment about this on The Morning Brew, welcome!


Scotch. A bottle of booze for dad! If he’s not a Scotch guy, try a rye or Tennessee whiskey. Suggestions: Dewar’s Highlander Honey, Speyburn, or Balblair.

  • How much: starting at about $20 for blended Scotch. Single malts will be more like $70.
  • Where: your favorite local liquor store.
  • Buy for: the dad who loves a tasty glass of whisky.
  • Buy because: dad will appreciate the addition to his home bar.

cigars for father's day

Cigars. If dad’s a smoker, you can’t go wrong at your local cigar shop. In fact, there are so many options you may have a tough time deciding what to get him. Consider things like: a multi-pack of cigars, a torch lighter, a cutter, a leather case, a beefy ashtray, or a classy humidor. And these will go well with the bottle of Scotch you buy him, too.

  • How much: $15 and up. A quality humidor will run $125+.
  • Where: your favorite local cigar joint. I got everything above from Monte’s in Albuquerque.
  • Buy for: the guy who loves a good Summer smoke on the porch.
  • Buy because: cigars send a nice message: relax and enjoy yourself, dad.

le creuset coffee set

Le Creuset Coffee Set. If dad loves coffee, get him a set like this one, which includes ceramic mugs, a French press, and a coffee storage container. Available in manly gray (pictured), red, blue, or Le Creuset orange.

  • How much: $125.
  • Where: entire set online at Le Creuset or buy individual pieces from Amazon.
  • Buy for: the dad who loves good, strong coffee in the morning.
  • Buy because: your dad is picky about his coffee.

bourbon marshmallows

Bourbon Marshmallows. If dad’s favorite vice is sugar, order a few boxes of 1″x1″ snacking marshmallows from Wondermade, who’s Father’s Day gift set includes boxes of bourbon (made with Maker’s Mark), coffee, Guinness, and maple bacon ‘mallows. These’ll pair great with the coffee he makes in that French press!

  • How much: $7.50 per box.
  • Where: online.
  • Buy for: the dad with a sweet tooth.
  • Buy because: the thought of eating Guinness marshmallows will put a huge smile on your dad’s face. If you’re looking for creative and interesting, this is the gift to buy.


Zacapa 23 Rum

zacapa 23 rum

A while back, I asked the Cigar Smoking Man what he likes to drink when he’s smoking a cigar, and he mentioned Zacapa.

Zacapa 23 is from Guatemala, a blend of rums that have aged in barrels from 6 to 23 years at 7,500+ feet above sea level. This rum is comparable to a fine bourbon or scotch, and Zacapa recommends drinking it straight or with a large ice cube to cool it slightly.

The scent of this rum is sweet initially, but as you drink, you’ll taste barrel-aged richness and spice. Because rum is distilled from sugar cane, it can be a lot sweeter than a whiskey or brandy, but Zacapa is not so sweet. I found it to be strong and smooth, with faint traces of sugar, spicy chocolate, and toasty wood. I drank it neat – no ice – and found it to have a great and palatable flavor. Zacapa 23 is a quality aged rum that’ll run you about $45. Older brother Zacapa XO, a richer and more elegant variety, is $99.

The Perfect Home Bar

dream home bar

So outside of the right liquor, I suppose the perfect home bar would also actually have a bar. I know everyone’s idea of a home bar is different, but join me while I dream about building the perfect home bar…

Desirable qualities:

  • Warmth. Applies to the quality of the hospitality, community, and also the temperature. Must have a fireplace.
  • Lots of wood.
  • Leather seating.
  • Taxidermy. I am not an outdoorsman by any sense of the word, but I imagine large, horned animals will serve two desirable purposes: adding authenticity to the bar and frightening children away from the bar. Ideas include deer, buffalo, and moose.
  • chalkboard paint wall. For specials and patron messages.
  • Good music. Maybe even quiet, pleasant live music.
  • Separate entrance from the house and a separate bathroom.
  • Cigar and pipe smoking occasionally allowed. No cigarettes.

Undesirable qualities:

  • Neon. Beer signs, jukeboxes, etc.
  • Technology. No computers, no TVs, no video games. Rare exception made for sports-based gatherings.
  • Visible modernities. Stuff like stainless steel, blenders, or microwaves. Those can be present, but preferably hidden below the bar.
  • Overuse of cell phones. They’re allowed, but only barely.
  • Bad attitudes and booze snobbery. People are allowed to drink Jägermeister or Loopy with minimal persecution.

Many thanks to DevonTT on Flickr for permission to use a photo of her home bar. It’s almost word-for-word what I’ve described, and I think we can agree it’s pretty incredible, right?