Cigars and Bourbon Bars

My Rouses Everyday, July & August 2018

We are living in the golden age of bourbon. Opportunities abound for bringing bourbon into the wedding, from a well-stocked, carefully considered bourbon bar, to newlyweds giving their wedding party engraved “thank you” flasks along with the bourbon to fill them.

In terms of bartending, there are four ways to enjoy bourbon: neat, on the rocks, straight up and in cocktails. Each has its pleasures. Neat is the easiest. (And some say the best.) Just pour your bourbon into a glass and drink it. “On the rocks” is neat plus ice. Enjoying bourbon “straight up” means shaking or stirring it with ice, and then straining it, serving it cold but iceless. And cocktails mean enjoying the bourbon with mixers.

When stocking your bar, here are a few of the best bourbons humankind has yet conceived, and what you can expect from them.

Buffalo Trace If you have a mouth, you will love Buffalo Trace. When you close your eyes and think of bourbon, this is what you are thinking of. It is the Platonic ideal of Kentucky whiskey, noted for its vanilla on the nose, brown sugar on the palate and toffee on the finish.

Benchmark This is a good go-to bourbon — the daily drink whose bottle you replace most often because it’s so easy to imbibe, and punches above its price point. Benchmark is caramel all the way, with a soft vanilla finish.

Woodford Reserve If you’re looking for a good introduction to the world of bourbon, you could do worse than Woodford Reserve. To make a mint julep, add one teaspoon of sugar and a few fresh mint leaves to your glass, and press slightly on them to release the oils from the leaves. Add two ounces of bourbon. Stir. And sip…and sip…

Gentleman Jack The Jack in question is Daniel, refined. Jack Daniel’s is filtered through sugar-maple charcoal before going into the barrel. Gentleman Jack is filtered a second time before being bottled, taking off the edge found in its ruffian cousin and enhancing its sweetness. The easiest way to start a bar fight is to take a hard, public stance on whether or not Gentleman Jack is a true bourbon, or whether it is a Tennessee whiskey.

Old Forester Born in the 1870s, Old Forester is the oldest bottled bourbon in America. Not even Prohibition could stop it from flowing; it was declared a medicine and remained in lawful production throughout enforcement of the 18th Amendment. It has vanilla and brown sugar on the nose, and a spiced follow-through.

Eagle Rare Before it reaches your glass, Eagle Rare has been aged for at least 10 years. Known for being both subtle and distinctive, it will reward you with honey and hints of leather on the nose, a rich brown sugar on the palate and a sweet, dry finish.

Blanton’s Single Barrel Save this one for the wedding guests you actually like. Single barrel is the hottest thing in whiskey, and Blanton’s is the hottest thing in single barrel. You will find a perfectly balanced bourbon here. Skip the rocks — just pour two fingers and enjoy.


Cigars reflect a glamorous past — John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill and Orson Welles — and “the good life” that every marriage promises. Ways one might incorporate cigars into weddings and the surrounding festivities include the bachelorette and bachelor parties, a “cigar bar” at the wedding reception and cigars as gifts for your wedding guests.

If you are going to have a cigar bar at your reception, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that many of your guests may have never smoked a cigar. When choosing your offerings, stick with something light and accessible, with a couple of options available for the more experienced smoker. Give guests guidance on what they are smoking and why you chose it. Rouses Markets has gone all in on its cigar offerings, and at its in-store humidors you’ll find a solid selection of smokes at all price points and flavor profiles. Currently, most Rouses Markets carry such stately and elegant brands as Montecristo, Cohiba, Punch, Partagas and Romeo y Julieta.

There are a few essentials necessary for the cigar bar at your reception. First, don’t count on the caterers for this one; the wedding party will probably need to do the heavy lifting here. Make sure your reception venue will allow cigars, and if it does, make sure you know where

When setting up the cigar bar, you should place it at some distance from the main party to keep the kids from going full-on Pinocchio-on-Pleasure-Island, and because some stiffs at the party might not want to smell like a Vegas casino in 1954. But! If you followed the champagne guide in this endeavor, your guests will be warm and friendly, hospitable to a little stogie adventure and unlikely to make too much noise. Consider placing the bourbon bar between the reception and the cigar area, and you can try pairing Central American leaves with North American whiskey.

When choosing what to stock at the table, keep it simple. Petit coronas — shorter versions of the standard corona — are a good idea because they take less time to smoke; you don’t want guests pulled away from the main party for too long. If you are looking for an easy and accessible cigar, one particularly light option is the CAO Flavours Gold Honey petit corona. It is a mild, Dominican cigar whose flavor description is right there in the name. On the more sophisticated end are Montecristocigars, a very traditional and very celebrated premium brand. It tends toward a medium-bodied smoke, creamy with great complexity and an even burn throughout.

If you are a known cigar enthusiast — and especially if they have played some significant role in the celebration — cigars are a dignified touch as gifts for your wedding guests. An easy choice here might be Cohiba Blue — they certainly have brand name recognition. It promises a medium body with creamy notes and a hint of cinnamon. Rouses Markets also carries cigars from Drew Estate, a relatively young, one-time cult brand and now a major mover in the industry. Their Undercrown Shade cigar is a standout blend, smooth and peppery. Pair your parting gift with personalized matchbooks marking the occasion, and your guests can later relive memories of your posh celebration. The love shared by bride and groom will linger in the smoke drawn from that well-enjoyed cigar.