While cigarettes have long ceased to seem sexy, cigars still have a certain mystique. For one, they smell and taste better and, be you male or female, their macho charisma is endlessly alluring. If that tumbler of Johnnie Walker blue label doesn't make you feel manly, try drinking it with one of the stellar, sometimes hand-rolled stogies sold at any one of the city's remaining cigar bars. The following are our picks for the venues that make that George Burns-smell somehow sexy.
Circa Tabac This SoHo hangout has a kind of modern speakeasy feel, with music ranging from '20s jazz to '90s grunge. There are more than 10 types of cigars, running between $14 and $28 each and 100 types of cigarettes at about $9 a pack. Unlike some of its brethren, Circa Tabac is more laid back than stuffy. (32 Watts St., between Sixth Avenue and Thompson Street; 212-941-1781)
The Carnegie Club If you want to feel like one of the big boys, give this cigar lounge a visit. The lounge is full of plush armchairs, hand-carved bookcases and poshly dressed waitresses, who will gladly bring you a glass of port by the fireplace, where you can light up one of 20 or so cigars the house offers. It's the type of place where you could easily picture Howard Hughes making a business deal back in the day. There is live jazz most nights, and there is no cover on Sunday, during the open jazz jam. (156 W. 56th St., at Seventh Avenue; 212-957-9676; $30 cover)
Florio's Grill and Cigar Bar There is probably not a more congenial bar in Manhattan than Florio's, which has maintained a welcoming, Little Italy vibe. The Three Little Indians cigars store
is located inside the restaurant, and patrons can choose from several cigars from around the world. As an added bonus, you can light up in front of a huge plate of pasta or some of Florio's freshly made brick-oven pizza.
Velvet Cigar Lounge Though the vibe may be very much all-boys club (it bills itself as a cigar lounge, after all), cigar aficionados will not be disappointed by the selection of 20 or so hand-rolled and aged cigars. The bar serves wine and liquor, and tends to get crowded, so you'll probably want to get there early to get a seat. (80 E. Seventh St., between First and Second avenues; 212-533-5582)
Hudson Bar and Books Though the decor has all the classic, haughty, cigar-bar staples, such as a well-stocked bookcase, plush lounge chairs and a full-page whiskey list, it attracts a decidedly younger and hipper crowd. The cigar menu runs 16 long, and ranges in price from $12 to $35 per cigar. James Bond wannabes can order $15 007-themed cocktails, like the Vesper, supposedly based on Ian Fleming's original recipe. Ladies are also welcome, and are given a free cigar on Monday nights.