Mark Twain once said, “I never smoke to excess – that is, I smoke in moderation, only one cigar at a time.”
This is indeed a pivotal commandment to follow for the cigar-smoking lifestyle. And from who better to take advice than from a cigar bar that shares the insights of Mark Twain?
Enter Merchants Cigar Bar, the ultimate retreat for the cigar smoker. This hotspot is where you take your sweet time and enjoy a supreme smoke, pairing a complementing drink to boot. General manager Arsham and head bartender Yasmin gave the Twilloryman the inside scoop on some of the world’s best cigars to be found in New York City, and the appropriate drinks to pair with them.
Yasmin: We’re going to go over three of our best cigars: the Ashton Churchill ($28), the Padrón 3000 ($20), and the Davidoff #2 Turbo ($45). Before that, however, I need to teach you how to properly handle a cigar. First off we use cedar sticks, which allow you to more evenly light the cigar, as opposed to a direct flame like people do with a lighter or “torch”.
Yasmin: Some people taste the cedar in their cigars and say it adds to the overall flavor, similarly to if you were aging the cigars within cedar boxes. So that’s why they, and we, prefer this method of lighting.
Yasmin: Now this is our Aston Churchill cigar, a very popular cigar as well as a very well known one. It’s a churchill of 7 1/2 inches, and it’ll give you about 45 minutes of smoke. Ashton’s have a very mild flavor, albeit they’re known for smoking with three notes, meaning that they give off three distinct flavors. The flavors are mild, however, and that correlates with the fact that they’re not too harsh on your lungs. They give you that “Godfather” feeling.
TwilloryMan: The Godfather, right!
Ashram: In this sense, cigars are as intriguing as wine…they offer a wide palette of origins and flavors, and origins of flavors. The Churchill is a cigar that’s been around for a while. It’s a large cigar, but it’s nice and comfortable in your hand and to smoke. So it’s definitely a man’s cigar. It’s mild to medium-bodied, so it’s not going to be a heavy smoke, but something to smoke for a while. Guys come get this cigar mostly for the size, since it’s one of the biggest. The only ones longer are called Partagas Presidentes which are 9 ¼ inches. They’re usually thinner, a 48 Gauge…but 9 ¼ inches nonetheless.
Yasmin: It’s a really substantial cigar and you’ll really impress people if you order it. Now to light the cigar, you first have to cut it.
TwilloryMan: Are there any traditional ways to cut cigars?
Yasmin: It’s all a matter of preference. Some people prefer a straight cut, some like a v-cut, others favor a punch cut. On Torpedos, the ends already come in, so you would do a v-cut- it’s like a point. The cut would be right at the edge of the cigar, as opposed to a cigar with a rounded edge that has to be shaped into a v-cut.
Yasmin: I’m going to give this to you to put in your mouth, and I will light it for you to demonstrate. Don’t be scared by the flame. Slowly twirl it.
Yasmin: A little more. …And you slowly take a couple of puffs, inhale to really get it going, and slowly exhale to feel the flavors.
TwilloryMan: You’ve done this before.
Yasmin: I’m a cigar smoker myself. It’s one of the reasons I know and prefer the Churchill as one of my favorite cigars. It’s really impressive to smoke. And you’re not killing yourself while you do it since it’s not heavy or pressuring on the lungs. It makes you appreciate your time since it smokes for about 45 minutes. The Churchill is also the biggest length of cigar you can have…there’s not much out there that’s bigger than that. So would you like a drink that?
TwilloryMan: I would absolutely love a drink with this.
Yasmin: Since you’re having a very long smoke, you want a drink that you can sip along with it. So I’m recommending a Bookers Old Fashioned.
TwilloryMan: Great choice. Big fan. I love bourbon!
Yasmin: Me too. Brookers is 130.6 proof, so you want to take your time drinking something as robust and flavorful as a Bookers Old Fashioned. See how it’s very mild, but a great match to pull the notes from the cigar as you slowly smoke and drink? This is how you can easily pair a bourbon drink to a cigar like the Ashton. Now an Old Fashioned is usually made with rye whiskey. But here at Merchants we can handle our alcohol, so we love Bookers since it’s our favorite tasting bourbon that complements a wide range of our cigars.
TwilloryMan: Delicious! I’ve never enjoyed a cigar in my life the way that I’m enjoying this one! And the drink is delicious too! …Really, really good!
Yasmin: And just a quick note for a new smoker: make sure you drink some pineapple juice after smoking a cigar. This will help with the smell and any lightheadedness you may feel. There’s something about the sweetness and acidity of pineapple juice that people, especially girls that have never been to a cigar bar before, feel helps them with the smoky smell. Just have a glass of pineapple juice and a ton of water until you get used to the smoke.
TwilloryMan: Let’s move on, we’re doing three cigars, smoking three kinds!
Yasmin: Right you are. So this next cigar is a Padrón 3000. It was founded in 1964. Padrón is a very well known cigar brand. This is your easygoing full-bodied smoke that lets you actually taste the cigar — that’s what Padróns are for. You have a Maduro wrapper here, so it’s the darker wrapper from Nicaragua. I personally think Nicaraguan wrappers are better than Cuban wrappers. You see at first that it’s a bit bumpy and toothy, but that just adds a bit to the edge of it. The smoke starts out very peppery and leathery, with a woody taste to it, but it ends up earthy with some spice dedicated to it. And it lasts about 15 to 20 minutes.
TwilloryMan: So the tobacco and the wrapper do not necessarily come from the same place?
Yasmin: No, they’re blended. The wrapper is different from what’s actually in your cigar. The Padrón is my favorite cigar and is what I’d get if I were to order here. I love the flavors in there, the spiciness and woodiness of it. Ashton was smooth, but I think we’re going to give you a bit of a kick now. Be careful when you’re cutting it though.
TwilloryMan: *cuts* Too much? What happens when you cut too much?
Yasmin: When you cut too much you can still smoke it but you get much more of the tobacco in you, and that’s when the nauseous feeling comes about. So that’s why we want to have it aerate a bit more.
TwilloryMan: Ok I light the match…
TwilloryMan: …and then the cedar…
TwilloryMan: …and then slowly turn the cigar with the cedar under it. *turns cigar and puffs*
Yasmin: Make sure you have a good amount of flame on the cedar, and puff as you turn, a little faster on your second and third turns, and then you can start your puffing process.
TwilloryMan: I can feel the leathery flavor, and it’s nice and not overbearing. Now onto the drink?
Yasmin: My next favorite complementing drink is an Islay Scotch from Scotland. In Scotland there’s an island called Islay that has a bunch of scotch distilleries there; there’s Caol Ila, Laphroaig, and then there’s Lagavulin. We’re going to go with Laphroaig 16, which is a single malt, aged sixteen years. It has a very smoky taste to match the Padrón so you’ll get that out of your scotch as well. But the Laphroaig is a bit strong and condensed, so you can put a giant rock cube in it to make it last longer and aerate it. Or you can always put in a drop or two of water the same way that you would open up any scotch.
TwilloryMan: Just a drop of water? Because I always see large ice cubes with scotch.
Yasmin: A lot of people do that, because the point is to water it down a bit. If you add a drop or two of water to it, it brings out the acidic flavor of the scotch and takes it to a whole other level. That’s why most people ask for a water back — essentially a water chaser — and they take a straw to put a few dots of water into their scotch.
TwilloryMan: Very cool. Smells great.
Yasmin: The aroma is perfect, I agree. It’s a perfect pair with the cigar.
TwilloryMan: Now for the third?
Yasmin: Yup. This is Davidoff, one of the most popular and luxury brand cigars ever known. If you’re ever looking to impress someone, get them a Davidoff #2. It’s very well known and high end.
TwilloryMan: What’s the price for this cigar?
Yasmin: We sell it for $45. It’s one of our top brand cigars. We recommend it to any business group, or to someone looking for a birthday present or to gift something in celebration. Davidoff is the cigar to have.
TwilloryMan: What type of smoke is this?
Yasmin: It’s going to be on the smoother side. Its vanilla with a bit of wood and earth to it, but it’s silky. It has an Ecuadorian wrapper so its oils are silkier on your mouth. And ironically enough, it has a Dominican origin. The Davidoff would be a good cigar to end your night with. You’ve had a great night on the town, you want to celebrate, you wanna have a very enjoyable smoke and you want to feel good. That’s what makes the Davidoff great. You’re never going to feel bad after a Davidoff, you’re only going to love it more. Davidoff actually just came out with a Nicaraguan wrapper, and you just had a Nicaraguan wrapper on the Padrón 3000 so it comes back to the peppery leather feel on your tongue. Davidoff was voted #3 out of all the cigars in cigar magazines around the world, so it’s a top of the line product. I’ve had the pleasure of tasting the Davidoff and immediately became a fan. Plus, you’re always going to look cool smoking a Davidoff.
TwilloryMan: I’m trying to cut this myself… *cuts perfectly*
Yasmin: Look at you, so pro now! Light the cedar, get it going while keeping the cigar in your mouth. A cigar is one of the best accessories for men, especially when trying to impress a woman. And what woman doesn’t love accessories? Use the torch instead of the matches, you don’t have to light it as much, because a torch is a lot more powerful.
Yasmin: It’s a very classic smoke. Welcome to the business world.
TwilloryMan: *Laughs* Is that how you greet customers?
Yasmin: Of course! Cigar smoking is on the finer side of things in life. As for the drink, the Davidoff requires a high end, luxurious cognac to match the high end, luxurious cigar. This is a Courvoisier XO Imperial. There’s regular cognacs like Remy Martin and Courvoisier, but then there’s the XOs which are aged. This one is aged 20-25 years, so it’s rich, creamy, and has a bit of a caramel flavor that will pair well with the vanilla notes coming off your Davidoff.
TwilloryMan: It’s really good! So on point!
Yasmin: Exactly, there’s not anybody that doesn’t like Davidoff paired with the Courvoisier XO…you’d be crazy not to. It’s a very floral match. It almost feels like a good night’s rest is going to come right after your smoke and drink. Great for the celebratory events like a baby or engagement, or just if you want a good smoke and drink.
TwilloryMan: This is awesome. Thank you very much.
Yasmin: You’re welcome. Now you see what all the hype is about, both with the cigars and the matching drinks. Final thoughts?
TwilloryMan: I still have to say, I loved the Churchill best even though the Davidoff and Padrón are great, but the size is a little too big on the Churchill. The gauge is a little unnatural.
Yasmin: Ashton actually makes smaller-sized cigars, the Churchill is just their largest, most popular, and impressive cigar. That’s something we really love about the cigar culture. There are many different sizes and people with many different preferences, just like yourself. Some have torpedos and some have robustos- there are so many details to cigars suited to each individual smoker. There is no ‘one cigar.’ Once you get into it, it’s a whole different world.
TwilloryMan: I was never into cigars, but after this I can taste the difference in the cigars and their flavors.
Yasmin: And once you start pairing cigars, you really start feeling the various flavors depending on your matching preferences. You’ll want to delve into the process and learn everything you can.
TwilloryMan: I can definitely see why and completely agree. Thank you so much for this experience. It’s been fantastic!
The Twillory Team learned that there is a cigar and drink pairing out there for every man, from men who prefer a spicy kick to those who consider themselves mild or subtle. We divulged in the learning process of how to appropriately cut a cigar, and we found that almost all cigars are never manufactured in just one place. Most importantly — to some of us — we found out what liquors are most perfectly paired with the finest of cigars. So bottoms up with your classiest of drinks, Twillory men. Pay our brilliant bartender, Yasmin, a visit at the Merchant Cigar Bar at 1125 1st Avenue, and let her guide your ultimate smoking experience.