These days, there are sacred few places left to fellowship with friends over a great stogie. Enter the cigar bar, a magical place where you can hang out, have a drink and a smoke, all while avoiding the judgmental scowls of non-smokers. Hopefully you are lucky enough to have one in your town.
Laid-back bastions of freedom though they may be, even cigar-friendly bars require a level of decorum – so here are some ground rules of cigar bar etiquette. Observe them, and you’ll find yourself in the good graces of both the proprietors and regulars. Flout them, and you’ll earn yourself the stinkeye, if not a one-way ticket back out into the street.
Visiting a cigar bar for the first time is a little like visiting a strange country where everybody can still smoke, relax and have a drink in peace (the operative phrase here being “in peace”). Most cigar bars are pretty calm and relaxing places, so unless you’re regulars, you’re better off taking your rowdy fraternity brothers or drunken bachelor party to another establishment.
The company you keep says a lot about you, so for the love of Cohiba don’t drag non-smokers to the cigar bar. This includes your significant other! Nothing-AND I MEAN, NOTHING-harshes the vibe faster than a snotty non-smoker talking about how awful the air is, and how they are going to fall over dead from second-hand smoke. Seriously, nobody wants to hear it, so if they insist on joining you, just stay home.
Cigar smoking has always been a social indulgence, and we have all made some great friends by virtue of our shared passion. Still, resist the urge to jump into a conversation just because you all happen to be smoking. Imagine being at dinner and having people a couple of tables over jump into your conversation. Exactly…try to control yourself.
Likewise, you may find yourself tempted to whip out your cell phone and posting pictures to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Don’t. I get it: cigars are cool, and it sure beats posting pictures of fish tacos or bacon cupcakes or whatever. In reality, few people want to show up in your social media stream just because they were trying to enjoy a cigar and a bourbon in peace.
What about the actual cigar: do you bring your own or purchase in house? Cigar bar etiquette varies on this one, and it really depends on the establishment. So this is a good time to open your eyes or open your mouth and ask. Many cigar bars don’t mind if you bring your own, although there may be a small cutting fee. Think of it as the “corking fee” of cigars: you get to enjoy your own stock, and they get a fair payment for providing you with a nice place to smoke it.
Still, it is a good thing to show some love and purchase a stick from the cigar bar from time to time. If you’re buying drinks it is more acceptable to bring your own cigar, but if you’re not drinking, then you should definitely ring the register with the purchase of a stick or two. Remember that you are in a business, not your buddy’s basement.
Of course, etiquette is imperative, but we’re not all a bunch of snobs who are going to dock you points for every infraction. Elitism isn’t the name of the game here. Still, nothing makes you feel like you are an awkward teen in high school than an unpracticed hand. A little effort on your part goes a long way, and makes you a part of the club.
Cigar Advisor ran a poll not too long ago, and offered up an invitation to their social media communities to chime in with our “biggest pet peeves on cigar bar etiquette and behavior.” Combining those with a healthy dose of first-hand knowledge and experience, here are some basic cigar bar etiquette DOs and DON’Ts:
Hold the cigar in your hand however it feels natural
Go over the basics of cutting and lighting your cigar (recommended even for veterans)
Graciously accept a gifted cigar, and be sure to return the favor at some point
Pace yourself – it’s not a race to the nub
Enjoy your smoke, drink, and the company around you
Keep your ashes in the bowl, and off the furniture and floor
Be afraid to ask for help cutting or lighting your cigar
Stub our your cigar like a cigarette (Trust me – it stinks)
Cut off too much (just the cap!)
Smoke like a chimney (nobody likes a greedy cigar smoker)
Dip your cigar in liquor – it’s just kind of weird to do in public.
Lick the cap before using the community cutter
Lick the entire cigar (Seriously…just don’t)
Smoke cigarettes, cloves, or pipes, until you know it’s OK
And most of all, don’t bitch about others’ smoking habits (Ironic? Sure. But that’s half the fun of writing this stuff.)
Bottom line, bring your courtesy and common sense A-games and you’ll quickly realize how much you really enjoy your new favorite cigar hangout. Keep your friends close and your cigars closer – you will have a great time at any cigar bar!