Cigars are best shared among friends, but introducing a friend to your passion is a delicate undertaking that requires a certain amount of finesse and some planning. Doing it the right way will maximize the likelihood that your friend will enjoy himself, and perhaps even pursue the hobby. Doing it the wrong way may turn your friend off of cigars forever.
From selecting the perfect setting to choosing the perfect cigar, the details matter, so here are a few points to keep in mind.
Setting matters. You may be tempted to take your friends to a cigar bar or your local smoke shop, but both of these options can be overwhelming for the novice. You don’t throw someone learning to swim into the ocean; rather, you start in the shallow end of the pool. The same applies to cigars. A comfortable, familiar environment such as a patio, back porch or man cave is a great place to share your first smoke with a friend. No one wants to be scrutinized or embarrassed, so ensure your friend’s comfort by choosing a setting where they are free to be themselves and they know their surroundings.
Occasion matters. Find a reason to invite your friends over for a smoke: a new job, a new home, a marriage, a divorce. Celebration gives people a reason to let go. Anticipate the event and plan it ahead of time. Give your friends notice and let them know that to celebrate their life event you want to invite them over for an evening of cigars and drinks. Remind them that it will be casual and easygoing, and that you want them to enjoy themselves and relax.
Numbers matter. If you get a large group of friends together to share cigars, you risk ending up with several problems. A large group of friends will have varying degrees of cigar knowledge and experience, which may make the newbies feel self-conscious. If you end up with a large group of newbies or novices, you may not have time to help each person get the most out of the experience. It is a good idea to keep your group size to two or three friends. It is also a good idea to stick with a group of friends that know each other well, so no one feels like the odd man out. Conversely, you could also bring together a group that doesn’t know each other well, and use cigars as a bonding experience to bring the group closer together.
Etiquette matters. Don’t go overboard giving your friends the do’s and don’ts of cigars. Stick with the basics. First remind them to not inhale but rather hold the smoke in their mouths and experience it. Demonstrate to your friends the proper way to cut and light the cigar, and then be friendly as they do their own. Hopefully your friends will love their experience and want to join you in a more public setting in the future. Teach them how to hold the cigar, reminding them you don’t hold it like a cigarette, and how to draw on the cigar. Your non-smoking and cigarette-smoking friends will need to be told how often to draw on the cigar and how to let it rest. Teach them to savor the complexity of flavors and the experience of the smoke. Remind them it is a pleasurable experience, not a race.
Cigar selection matters. Although you may be tempted to get an impressive ring gauge and length, it is a good idea to stick with something manageable. You want an experience they can enjoy, not an all night marathon. You also want to select a complex and medium bodied cigar. Too mild of a cigar, and they may not experience the complexities a perfectly blended cigar can offer. Too strong of a cigar may result in some friends with green faces and queasy stomachs. With all that said, remember to give them the good stuff. Don’t go with a bundle stick – that may not be the best experience – but you may be upset if you pass out $15 sticks that nobody finishes. Pick a cigar you are familiar with and that hits the $5 price point.
Pairing matters. You should select a great beverage to go with your cigar. A great bourbon or craft beer that complements the flavors of the cigar is almost always a winner. Good music that everyone can enjoy will often set the mood and help people relax and experience the cigar. Your friends won’t feel like they need to constantly talk. Remember they may be nervous and feel like they are walking on the wild side, so set the mood with music and ease the nerves with a great drink.
You have a fun hobby that you are passionate about. Things are more fun when you can share them with friends. Cigars are no exception. Size, strength, setting, etiquette and pairings: remember these basic guidelines, and you’ll be sure to end up with at least one new regular cigar buddy you can share smokes with for years to come.