Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Pusser’s Rum

Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Pusser’s Rum
Date: May 2024
Author: Inspector X

Cigars and alcohol. Two luxury products that go hand in hand, and sometimes even meet on business level. Aging tobacco in whisky, rum, or cognac barrels is a practice several brands do to achieve extra flavour to the wrapper for certain lines. The famous bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has their own cigar, sold in tubes with the signature wax coating. Drew Estate works with Pappy van Winkle and used to make Kahlua cigars. Mombacho used to have the Diplomatico series. General Cigars works with Sazerac, which resulted in Fireball cigars, Weller by Cohiba and collaborations with Buffalo Trace. And there is the Diesel Whisky Row, a collaboration with Rabbit Hole Distilleries. Fratello Cigars also sells craft beer. Most famous are probably the Cuban collaboration between Martell Cognac and Cohiba. Dominique London, the European retailer with more than 20 shops in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and the Canary Islands takes it one step further. They bought a distillery in Wales and produce whisky, gin, rum, vodka and liquors.

Pusser’s Rum

Navy Strength, a term that we see on rum and gin and the name suggests that it is an ancient thing. But no, the term was only invented thirty years ago by the marketing team behind Plymouth Gin to sell their higher proof spirit. Navy Strength now means a gin or rum, British style, with an ABV over 57%. But it does have a historical meaning as the spirits brought on navy vessels had to be high proof. So high that it was flammable. In case a cask leaked, the alcohol needed to be so high in proof that it would not render the gunpowder unusable. Pusser’s refers to that on the label too, mentioning that the rum is gunpowder proof. Pussers uses the history with the navy even in its name, as the pursers on the ships were called pussers.

Pusser’s rum was founded in 1979, oddly enough 9 years after the British Navy banned alcohol from their vessels. Pusser’s prides themselves in making the original recipe Royal Navy by blending five West Indian rums. In 1989, Pusser’s Rum Ltd. filed a US trademark for the name and recipe for the Painkiller, a cocktail from the Virgin Islands made with rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, and orange juice. When a Tiki bar named Painkiller opened in the Lower East Side of New York City in May of 2011, Pusser’s sent a cease and desist order to owners Giuseppe Gonzalez and Richard Boccato, both for the bar’s name and for selling Painkiller cocktails made with rums other than Pusser’s. Gonzalez and Boccato reached an out-of-court settlement with Pusser’s, which included them renaming the bar to PKNY. In response to the news, numerous bartenders organized a boycott against Pusser’s. On the other hand, Pusser’s donates a portion of its proceeds to the Royal Navy Sailor’s fund each year.


The nose gives away the high alcohol content. It’s strong and with plenty of ethanol but also raisin, earthy aroma of molasses, and burned caramel. The viscosity is thick, the mouthfeel is almost like syrup. There is a salty caramel flavour, dark liquorice but mostly it’s prunes and figs. I did not dilute the rum with a drop of water, as some experts recommend, but that most likely reveals more sublte flavours. I like the sweetness and the strength, but this is not a rum to drink several glasses as it would kill me. Pair this with a nice, full bodied cigar with a wooden profile and I’m a happy man.


On the nose this cocktail is pure tiki. I mean, pineapple and orange, not even a hint of alcohol even though it has 2 ounces of booze, one with an ABV of 57%. But the alcohol is in the taste though. You can taste this cocktail is potent with the characteristics of the Pusser’s rum and then a well-balanced fruit cocktail. The sweetness of the pineapple, the tart of the orange and the slight bitterness of the cranberries. Maybe this Belladonna and the Zombie should change name as the Zombie doesn’t contain cranberry juice, but when I hear cranberries, I immediately start humming zombie. There is an underlaying hint of liquorice and an earthy tone, with a complex bitterness that works amazingly well as a base for a cigar pairing. Something strong and bold, with dark flavours would work well. Montecristo #2 comes to mind, or Alec Bradley’s Prensado Churchill for example.

And now for the Belladonna recipe:

1 ounce or 30ml of Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof Rum
1 ounce or 30ml of El Rumba white rum
1 ounce or 30ml of Pineapple Juice
1 ounce or 30ml of Orange Juice
1 ounce or 30ml of Cranberry Juice
Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain into a hurricane glass over fresh ice and garnish with little umbrellas and fruit of your choice.

Rum Runner

This cocktail looks spectacular. But then again, most tiki style cocktails do. The shape of the hurricane glass, the crushed ice, the garnish, the colour of the drink. The brandied cherry takes up most of the smell, with some sweetness from the grenadine. The first sip makes me think of sour plum juice. The sweetness is confusing, is it pineapple? Berries from the grenadine and the crème de mure? Or even the banana? There is a lot of sweetness though, but it’s not overly sugary sweet and the lime juice is just enough to balance the sweetness out. The white rum is actually stronger in the flavour than the Pussers, even though the Pussers is stronger in ABV. I would not pair this with a sweet cigar nor a mild, or mild to medium cigar. Medium full to full would be a better choice and something with a woody, earthy or nutty flavour profile. Ashton ESG or VSG would be a nice pairing, VegaFina 1998 would work very well too. This cocktail also requires a robusto or toro, not a thin cigar and I say this as a fan of the classic sizes such as corona, lancero and Lonsdale.

And now for the Rum Runner recipe:
1 ounce or 30ml of Pussers Gunpowder Proof Rum
1 ounce or 30ml of El Rumba white rum
1 ounce or 30ml of Banana Liqueur

½ ounce or 15ml of Crème de Mure
½ ounce or 15ml of grenadine
1 ounce or 30ml of Lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 ounces or 60ml of pineapple juice

Garnish: brandied cherry and pineapple wedge
Add the liquids into a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a hurricane glass over fresh ice and garnish with a brandied cherry and a pineapple wedge.


A mild aroma of pineapple with quite some nutmeg as expected. I made this cocktail before for with Diplomatico rum, but since Pussers owns the trademark for this cocktail, it feels right to make this cocktail again but then with this rum.  My wife, who is my Guinea pig when it comes to cocktails, was very happy that I made the Painkiller again. The pineapple sweetness, the richness of the rum, the creaminess of the coconut and the tartness of the citrus all work together so well. This is a very nice and balanced tiki cocktail, with quite a frothy, creamy mouthfeel that would go well with a lot of cigars. But I’d stay away from creamy cigars as the cream would be an overkill. I wouldn’t go for a peppery cigar either but something medium to medium full bodied with a nice profile of wood, spice and coffee. A simple yet sublime Padron Hermoso Natural

2 ounces or 60ml of Pusser’s rum
4 ounces or 120ml of Pineapple Juice
1 ounce or 30ml of Orange Juice, Freshly squeezed
1 ounce or 30ml of Cream of Coconut (not coconut cream)
Garnish: nutmeg and a pineapple wedge
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a glass hurricane over fresh, crushed ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg and the pineapple wedge, serve with a straw.

Inspector X

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