Cigars and whiskey are a classic combination, like public health laws and extortionate fines. With smoke bans 86ing lit stogies from drinking establishments and stogie establishments 86ing lit drinkers, finding a decent place to puff and partake can be an urban scavenger hunt. Fortunately, there are still islands of peaty, sooty civilization, where you can indulge on a summer evening. These are our favorite spots in smoke-free cities.
589 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn
Weather Up may not have a sign, a well-heeled crowd, or bartenders with modern dress sense – rockabilly dominates – but this place is not a hipster speakeasy. The cocktails are as strong as the whiskey selection and the back patio, a two-tiered bit of rustic half-assery, makes lighting up feel like the right thing to do. Lean back and watch the crowd or lean in and order a Tijuana Drugstore made from mezcal, ginger syrup, and a dash of citrus. Think of it as a Oaxacan Rob Roy.
Redhead Piano Bar
16 West Ontario Street, Chicago
Yes, there is a piano inside, but your destination will be the covered patio, where it’s de rigeur to puff the Padrons, Arturo Fuentes, and Ashtons on sale. Redhead attracts a friendly, unpretentious crowd and also ranks with lovers of high-end hooch. The bar stocks 45-plus different single malts – including Macallan 25 and a passel of Glens – along with a dozen premium bourbons. Done smoking? Go enjoy a Marshall Nelson set. He tours with Kool and the Gang and brings what can only be described as an appropriate amount of funk.
Wolf and Crane
366 East 2nd Street, Los Angeles
Chill out on the patio while sipping a highball or of-the-moment whiskey like Yamazaki 18 at this Little Tokyo watering hole. The place is designed in a Japanese minimalist style and attracts a cool crowd of downtown LA homesteaders. Cigar lovers gravitate to the wraparound banquette outside, nicely set off by metal fencing. If you happen to get hungry, munch on bar snacks or call in for a pie from the excellent Pitfire pizza down the block. DJs spin music on the weekends, which is all well and good, but distracts from the simpler pleasures on tap and in your fingers.
115 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin
Austin is a great city for music and Brass House brings it with nightly jazz shows that run the gamut from traditional to modern to Latin. Owned by a pair of war veterans, the place boasts a small patio specifically designed for cigars smokers who sideline in serious drinking. A tobacco license is in the offing and Brass House will soon partner with the local Four Seasons’ cigar shop to keep good smokes in stock.