Cigar newbies trade sophistication for a good time

People who smoke cigars are tough and not to be messed with.

At least that’s the impression I had from the movies. I don’t remember seeing a cigar being smoked in real life, because my social circles do not include mobsters who glower from behind backroom poker tables or spies who breakfast on balconies overlooking famous European cities. If there were categories of cigar smokes besides these, I didn’t know about them.

What I did know is that I wanted to see if smoking a cigar would make me feel as cool as it makes these people look. So a few years ago, I gave it a try.

The answer turned out to be no.

The two things you need in order to look cool smoking a cigar is a cigar and a friend. The cigar is for smoking, and the friend is for noticing and appreciating your coolness. The cigar was not hard to find, though it was difficult to locate my pride after the bemused look I received when requesting help at the cigar counter. I would have to work on looking cool at the cigar store another day.

The friend was harder to find. It turns out most people scrunch up their face and say, “Ew. Why?” when you invite them to smoke a cigar with you. But I am lucky to have a friend who shares an appreciation of ridiculous shenanigans, and so we made a date to smoke a cigar and sip moonshine (we figured we should check that off the list too, while we were at it) in her husband’s shop one cold night in February.

Had we sold tickets, it would’ve been a great comedy show. We had the cigar and a cigar cutter, but we didn’t know what end to cut. Or how much. Or why. We figured out the answer to the first question at least, you cut the end you put in your mouth. We saved the other questions for another day. Lighting the cigar was another challenge, probably not helped by the fact that neither of us are very experienced in smoking techniques.

We eventually figured it out (after a few “Is it going now?”s, “Am I doing it right?”s and “Wait, is it supposed to be like this?”s) and passed the cigar back and forth. We tried our best to look like experienced cigar smokers. That’s hard to do when you’re doubled over laughing or grimacing at the sensation of acrid smoke in your mouth.

In other words, it was a total blast and we couldn’t wait to do it again.

We’ve smoked a couple of cigars since. The truth is, we still have no idea what we’re doing, we just have fun doing it from time to time, even if we have appeared neither tough, nor cool, like the people in the movies at any moment in the process.

Here’s what we’d recommend to new cigar smokers:

  • Lemon juice helps cut the cigar aftertaste. Homemade mints have too. We’ve also eaten apples while smoking, which is said to “cleanse the palette.” Who knows if it worked, but they were good apples.
  • Spend a little money. The cheapest cigar we tried was awful and left a biting sensation in our mouths. We’ve decided to only smoke those when we are doing something super shady.
  • Flavored cigars are not bad. We tried a vanilla one once that surprised us with its sweet and strong flavoring.
  • A recent smoke was a Catch 22 in a dark maduro wrapper. Some maduros have a stronger flavor, but this one was smooth and pleasant. It was a bit more spendy, but it convinced me to stick with a mid-range price option the next time I select a cigar.

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