How to Choose the Perfect Cigar For You

Cigars – along with martinis, brown liquor and BBQs – are a staple of manhood.

Whether you’re moving out on your own, joining the military, getting married or having a baby, a cigar is the ultimate way to celebrate.

But how do you choose a good cigar? For the uninitiated, selecting the right cigar for them can be daunting.

Fear not . Like beer, everyone has their own preferences… and in this post we’ll examine how to find that perfect smoke for you.

The 4 Parts of a Cigar

#1. The head: This is the side you put in your mouth. It’s also the side you’ll need to cut (assuming the guy at the shop hasn’t already).

There are three ways to cut it:

  • A guillotine: Simple, effective and cheap. Buy one at the cigar shop. It’s worth it.
  • A sharp knife: Doable, but not as good as a guillotine.
  • Your teeth: This will make you look like a schmuck. Don’t do it.

#2. The foot: This is the side you light. Usually, the foot is already cut for you.

#3. The filler: The inside goodness of the cigar. Filler consists of both dried and fermented tobacco, which helps bring out different flavors and aromas.

#4. The wrapper: The outside of the cigar (duh). Surprisingly, most of a cigar’s flavor comes from the wrapper, which is a major reason why Cuban cigars are held in such high regard (more on Cubans in a minute).

Now let’s talk about…

Choosing the Right Cigar For You

How to Choose CigarsYour first stop should be the local cigar shop. Here you’ll find a variety of well preserved cigars and a professional tobacconist who can help answer your questions.

Once there, you’ll enter the humidor (named for the constant level of humidity) and browse their selection of cigars.

Why the humidity? Simple. Too much moisture will rot cigars, too little will dry them out.

Now it’s time to choose a cigar. As I mentioned before, it’s all a matter of taste. Here’s what you need to consider:

Body

“Body” in this case refers to the strength of flavor. While experienced smokers enjoy full-bodied cigars (usually with dark wrappers), beginners should try a mild or medium bodied cigar to start with (lighter wrappers).

Size

Size refers to two measurements: the length (measured in inches) and ring gauge (circumference), which is represented in 1/64ths of an inch.

For example, a cigar that is 7 x 48 means it is seven inches long and 48/64ths of an inch.

Size does affect flavor. Larger ring gauges allow for a more complex blend of tobaccos, which can enhance the flavor.

Rating

Like most good things in life (beer, wine, scotch, etc.) cigars have independent ratings. The most popular rating is from Cigar Aficionado, which ranks cigars on a scale of 1-100.

Here’s how they describe their rankings:

95 – 100: Classic

90 – 94: Outstanding

80 – 89: Very good to excellent

70 – 79: Average to good

Below 70: Forget about it.

How to Inspect a Cigar for Quality

The first thing to inspect is a cigar’s construction. Roll it between your fingers and note any bumps or empty spaces. The more evenly distributed the tobacco, the better.

Why? Because it affects the smoothness of the cigar. Any empty pockets or rough textures will result in a harsher smoke when you puff.

The second thing to consider is the tobacco quality. Unfortunately, it’s near impossible to judge just by looking at it, so this is where the rating system (and a brand’s reputation) comes into play. When in doubt, ask a tobacconist for help on this.

Lighting a Cigar the Right Way

Be sure to use wood matches or a butane lighter. Paper matches or gas lighters produce chemicals which negatively affect the flavor of your cigar – avoid them!

Before you light your cigar, run the flame under the foot (the end you light) and rotate the cigar a few times. Don’t actually touch the flame to the cigar; at this point, you just want to warm up the tobacco first to ensure it will burn smoothly.

Then, hold the flame in front of the cigar (but again, not actually touching it) and gently rotate the cigar while inhaling a few times.

And that’s it!

Now before we close, I’d like to touch on a very important debate which is…

Cuban Cigars: Are They Really That Good?

In a word: yes.

The Cuban government takes cigar making very seriously, and stringent regulations ensure they’re of the highest quality. Plus, Cuban cigar rollers – called “torcedores” – are possibly the best in the world. Many roll cigars for their entire lives.

But if you’r e in the US, the 1962 embargo pretty much prevents you from buying them. And if someone is offering “Cuban” cigars in the US, they’re probably fake (and you’re getting ripped off).

So if you do want to smoke a real Cuban, you’ll need to head to Canada or Mexico first.

Got any extra cigar tips? Let us know in the comments below! Find the perfect cigar accessories for your smoking hobby over at our men’s gifts website GreatGiftsForMen.com.

Setting Up a Home Bar

So you’ve grown up a little bit. Not enough to quit having fun, but you’ve moved on from frequenting a bar to having friends over for drinks. What now? Set up a home bar!

Do Your Research

To have an enviable home bar, research is key. Planning ahead will eliminate headaches later on, except the ones caused by over indulging the night before.

Think back to the “research” you did at your favorite pub.  What did you like about it?  Why did it feel like home?  What kept you coming back?  What were your favorite drinks? Knowing what you like will help you plan your bar. The style of your bar area is an extension of your personality. Do you want replicate your favorite Irish Pub in your basement? Pick colors and decor that match your style. It’s much easier to paint at this stage of the game! Maybe you are going with a Man Cave theme in the garage? You might want to add wheels when building a bar for this space. Bars can be heavy so try to do as much decorating as you can before it is installed.

Now, a fun homework project.  This weekend, grab a bite to eat, then go visit a restaurant bar where they charge way too much for a steak.  These places usually have a decent cocktail menu. Take the seat right in front of where the bartender makes his drinks.  Stay focused, you are gathering intel for your in home bar! Order a drink off the menu and pay cash with a nice tip, not a beer or vodka tonic, but something special.  Watch closely how the bartender makes the drink, what bar tools are used?  While you are enjoying the drink, watch what items he uses over and over, where does he keep them?  If you see something new, like an intriguing drink or some strange tool, ask questions.  Don’t worry, the bartender likes you because you already tipped well.  Learn as much as you can without doing so much “research” you forget it in the morning!

Use this research to optimize your space so that it fits your personality and has easy access storage for the bar tools you will be gathering. A well planned bar is a much better alternative to frantically looking through drawers and cupboards for a bottle opener!

Gather the Essential Bar Tools

Now that you’ve got your space, it’s time to pick up the essential tools for your in home bar. 

The Recipe Book: Not only is a guide like this needed for the cocktail recipes, it is an invaluable conversation starter. Imagine your friends picking drinks off this “menu” as you become a bartender. The possibilities are endless.

The Cocktail Shaker: There are opportunities here to show your personality. Go classic with a stainless steel shaker that twists to reveal recipes or go wild with  zebra stripes. Or maybe start a collection so you can make more than one drink at a time! You might also try a Bartending Set that has the shaker plus other tools of the trade.

A Cutting Board and Knife: It may sound simple, but where are you going to slice up your citrus and the makings for the best Bloody Mary? Surely not your bar top!

Bottle Opener & Corkscrew: The opener is another item that is easily overlooked in home bars until you can’t open the bottle! You can go high tech with an electric wine opener or simple and elegant with an engravable combination corkscrew and bottle opener. A wall mounted beer bottle opener is a great choice, no matter how rowdy it gets, you can always find the opener!

Armed with these essentials, you can serve almost any drink! To get started, you can grab some glasses and utensils from the kitchen, a towel for spills and something to hold ice.  You are ready to invite some friends over, have them bring a bottle! You’ve put so much time and effort in making a great place for them to hang out, why should you foot the bill? If they balk at the idea, let them know that a good bottle of liquor is cheaper than a night out, and more than they can probably drink in a night. Get each friend to bring a different kind of liquor, and keep track of what they are bringing, so you can learn a few drinks you can make with each one.

Stock the Mixers and Garnishes

A well stocked home bar has the mixers needed for a variety of mixed drinks. Look up recipes for the cocktails you plan to serve and grab the mixers and garnishes needed.

Water: Grab some bottled water or filter your tap water to add to Scotch or Bourbon. Aficionados say it opens up the flavor.

Cola: This mixer is great for rum and whisky drinks. Don’t put this in a shaker! Instead, use a spoon or some swizzle sticks to mix your drink.

Tonic and/or Club Soda:  Used mostly for gin and vodka drinks, but can add a touch of greatness to a Margarita as well.  Don’t put this in a shaker either, stir it in later.

Sweet and Sour Mix:  From margaritas, whiskey sours, to the classic tom collins, many mixed drinks call for sweet and sour in their recipes. As you grow as a bartender, consider making your own!

To Make Enough Sweet & Sour Mix for a Pitcher of Margaritas (8 glasses) :

You Need:
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
5 Lemons
8 Limes

Directions:

Stir – Sugar and Water in Sauce Pan over medium heat until dissolved. Allow to cool. (Congratulations, you’ve just made Simple Syrup!)

Combine – Simple Syrup and the juice from the lemons and limes.

Bloody Mary Mix:  This is another mixer that you can buy or make on your own ahead of time. Be careful how spicy you make your mix, more heat can be added on a per drink basis. 

Juices:  Orange and Cranberry are versatile drink additives, so make sure these are constantly in stock!

Garnishes: Check your recipes, but always keep limes and olives on hand. Consider adding lemons, oranges and cocktail onions. Fresh citrus can be squeezed to substitute  sweet and sour mix if you add a little sugar or simple syrup to your drink!

You’ve done your research,  built out your space, got your essential bar tools, and stocked up on the mixers. Congratulations you’ve set up a home bar!

Wine for Beginners

If you have a real passion for wine, then you can be considered a wine enthusiast. But to be a real enthusiast, you need to have the relevant knowledge about wine when it comes to storage, serving and tasting practices. These days, wine adventures are not just for the wealthy and elite members of society, the ones with the passes to the country clubs and such. Basically anyone can decide to participate in wine endeavors and build up a large base of knowledge about wine. A true wine enthusiast will never get enough of the knowledge that comes with understanding certain unique facts about wine.

You can learn how to make your own wine from home, or you can also learn how to acquire and store the great wines that you will purchase or come across. Also, you might decide to engage in wine tasting endeavors. This will involve learning more about wines from other regions across the world. In fact, wine endeavors are considered an art unto themselves. There are some very dedicated wine lovers who will build their own cellars, store their own wine and travel the world in search of wine that can be stored.

If you want to start off in this world of wines, which is large and interesting, you will have to begin with the basics and build up your knowledge bit by bit. Learning the finer points of the elegant world of wines takes time. Read everything you can and attend wine tastings when you get the chance.

Vintage wines are something you will want to learn about as you set off to acquire knowledge. Vintage wine refers to the particular type of wine made from grapes that were grown in the same year. When the wine is produced, the company will label it with the year it is associated with. However, the choice of what will be considered vintage or not will vary from country to country.

The whole point of vintage wine is that they offer great but subtle differences in flavor, body, texture, and palate. This is especially so if you understand that different wines will age in different ways. For a good quality wine, being stored over a long time will actually improve its quality. This time period can vary from a year to over twenty years.

Vintage wines are produced in one major run. This is done in order to keep the bottles in the batch with the same taste. There are numerous factors that can affect the taste of wine. These include soil type, climate, region and also the amount of sunlight and rain that gets to the growing grapes. In essence, the vintage wines are supposed to set standards for the rest of the line that is going to be produced. This way, the producers can maintain consistency while at the same time showing off the highest quality product that they are capable of producing.

Actually, there are some producers that choose to bring out the vintage wine only when the grapes of that year are of a certain quality. This is also a way of increasing the demand for the wine through decreasing the availability of the vintage wines in certain years. The procedure of creating a vintage wine causes each bottle from that run to be more expensive and more sought after.

Vintage wines in the US are given an AVA label. This means that the wine was made from grapes of which at least 95% were grown in a certain region for that year. Even if the wine does not have am AVA label, it can still be labeled as vintage as long as about 85% of the grapes were grown in the same region at around the same annual period.

For the wines that are not of vintage quality, they are composed of a blend of grapes, or even a blend of vintage wines from previous years. This enables the producers to continue production even when the harvest is not good.

Of late, there has been a lot of questioning about the actual quality of vintage wines compared to bottle varieties that are blended. Many people seem to think that these blended varieties are actually just as good as the vintage wines. Others say that vintage wines are much better, since they reflect consistency in the wine industry. Wine tasting competitions seem to support both of these arguments.

Many people wonder why red wine is red in color. This is actually because of the color of the grape skins. Types of grapes vary, with colors as different as purple, maroon, deep red, light red, black and white. Each variety brings a different shade of red to the wine. The color of a specific wine depends on the type of grapes that were used in making it. It also depends on how long the skin was left in the juice before removal.

A dark red wine will have been created by leaving the dark purple or black skins in the juice for a long period of time. When the darker skins are removed earlier, a lighter red or pink wine is produced. White wines are produced from white grapes and no skin left to soak in the juice. The amount of time skins remain in the juice increases the flavor depth as well as the color.

Wines are also categorized as light bodied, medium bodied or full bodied depending on their demand on the mouth and taste buds. A wine’s body can be compared to the varying textures of milk. For example, a light bodied wine may feel like skim milk while a full bodied wine would feel like cream. Full bodied wines are generally higher on the alcoholic content.

After that introduction to wine, head over to our wine accessories category here and find some great supplies to start your wine hobby.