By John Pullo
Maybe you just polished off the last course of a top-notch meal at a Brazilian steak house; maybe you just got home from a 4-day stretch of work travel, visiting clients from here to Hot Springs. Whatever it is you’ve just finished, you’re ready to reward yourself by kicking back with a good cigar. But maybe…that folding chair on your patio isn’t quite lending the appropriate “oh yeah” factor to your cigar smoking experience. If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to venture outside your comfort zone and engage the rewarding social experience that is the cigar lounge, your time is now.
Enjoying a smoke at a cigar lounge is a conclusive investment: you get out of it what you put into it, though you often garner a little more in return. In addition to that satisfying after-dinner cigar
, you have a chance to meet some new people – and who knows, one of them might end up a soon-to-be-important business connection. Cigar lounges are inherently social places, meaning it wouldn’t be odd to find yourself deep in discussion with total strangers about your great football obsession, or share your addiction to Netflix. Even if you’re on the hunt to try a new (or new to you) cigar - where else could be better?
Conversely, you may just want a place to unwind with a good smoke, and not be forced to pay attention to anyone, or anything. Your only need is to completely immerse yourself in the experience of smoking your cigar: hyper-focused, looking to pinpoint each and every flavor – no matter how nuanced – and focus on it exclusively without distraction. While it’s one of society’s great meeting places, don’t rule out the lounge if you want to get away from it all…there’s the right kind of lounge for you, too.
To help you pick a good cigar lounge, we’ll shy away from the members-only clubs, as you may not be a full-time enthusiast who wants to pony up a fat membership fee. But these rules should still apply to a place like that, as well. And it’s worth your time to judge any place before you go, to determine if it’s the right mood for you. We can break these down into two general types: a library lounge, or a sports lounge.
A library lounge is pretty much what it sounds like: quiet, subdued and relaxing. Without an un-fun looking schoolmarm to shush your every sound, it’s self-policed atmosphere here – but if you’re looking for that quiet place to escape with just your cigar, a lounge like this will suit you perfectly - often offering light music, something to read and a well-stocked bar to enjoy with your smoke.
By contrast, a sports lounge leans more towards an old school social club: light music is replaced by the game on tv (and probably more than a few screens), the chatter is louder, the mood is lighter and the whole scene is much more lively, with (of course) a good selection of adult beverages to help wash things down.
Whatever place matches your mood, immerse yourself in the atmosphere.1. Good Ventilation
There’s nothing worse than strolling in the door, only to be smacked in the face by a low hanging haze. You’re going to a cigar lounge, not 25¢ draft night at the VFW. Probably the most important requirement, a good cigar lounge has an excellent ventilation system; the best have an HVAC system that provides fresh air several times an hour. Yes, people are smoking cigars, and yes, you’re going to smell it – but that doesn’t mean you should come walking out of there like you rolled around in one of the ashtrays. And if the front door is propped open to “air it out”? Pass.2. Separate Area for Cigar Storage
While ventilation is key to the cigar lounge experience, if you get a bunch of people sitting and smoking in one place long enough – there’s going to be a residual effect (that’s why good cigar bars have professional cleaning services come by from time to time). But you expect to have a tidy environment in which to smoke, and the same goes for the cigars, if the lounge sells them. A good cigar lounge should offer a walk-in humidor that’s sealed – not just to keep smoke and odors out, but to keep proper humidity and temperature conditions in. If the tobacconist keeps the thermometer and hygrometer in a place where you can see them, even better: you’re more easily assured that the cigars for sale are in good smoking condition.3. Comfortable Seating
You’d think this is a no-brainer...but I’ve had a few good lounge experiences end up less than rewarding thanks to décor that was more enjoyable to look at, than to sit in. Some lounges pride themselves on interesting seats like old barber chairs (reasonable comfortable for a little while) and antique dentist seats (as comfortable as you’d expect). A couple of inviting chairs or recliners are enough – you’re not going to fall asleep in them, but you shouldn’t need to see a chiropractor the next morning, either. 4. Drinks
Whether they’re served, or it’s a BYOB situation – pairing cigars and spirits
can be a very rewarding part of the cigar lounge experience, and a good place will allow for it. A good pairing intensifies the flavors in both your drink and your cigar and offers your taste buds a little extra excitement. And if you hit on something tasty, you’ll have something else to talk about with your new friends at the lounge. Some places do food, too, though it’s something I can live without - especially if I’m there for an after-dinner cigar. Plus, I don’t smoke while I eat. But if you’re in need of a bite in between smokes, a good cigar lounge will often have a basic pub food menu. 5. A Knowledgeable Tobacconist
This one is key if you’re in search of your next “great” smoke. Like a cigar Sherpa, a sharp tobacconist will help you navigate the walk-in humidor to find a good cigar you may have overlooked in the past, or will help guide you to something new that’s also worth your time. Be prepared to answer a few key questions about what you like to smoke – this will help him or her make recommendations about other cigars you might like to try.
Also a must: Good Etiquette Followed by Fellow Patrons
We’ve written extensively about this at Cigar Advisor
; and while there are rarely any hard and fast rules at a cigar lounge, good etiquette is appreciated by staff and patrons alike. In lounges with a paid membership, it’s understandable that members feel that the lounge is “their place” – so be sure to brush up on good lounge etiquette (and maybe their dress code) before you enter their club. A little respect goes a long way. For lounges open to the public, the regulars might feel a little entitled. Don’t let it get to you – break the ice and have some fun. But if it doesn’t seem like a very warm or welcoming crowd, or they’re the ones who are showing poor decorum, find another lounge that doesn’t allow for such obnoxious personalities. It shouldn’t be tolerated, and you shouldn’t have to endure it.
Good luck on your cigar lounge adventure – if you enjoy it, I’ll bet you a Padron 3000
you’ll be headed back for more.About the Author
John Pullo is Managing Editor at Cigar Advisor & Famous Smoke Shop
John Pullo is an occasional low-fi musician, and gentleman of professional leisure. Due to his need to maintain anonymity after the "Collins Incident," he is rarely seen in public without his beard – which is also where he stores useful cigar knowledge. And smelling salts. Interestingly, his Social Security number is all ones.