I have a confession to make. For three seasons now I have been hooked on what is essentially a soap opera: Masterpiece Classic’s “Downton Abbey,” produced for British television, but shown here on PBS.
Sure it’s very classy and all, telling the fictional story of a noble English family during the last days of the great manor houses in the early 20th century, but still—I admit—it is a soap opera. And I’m hooked at the gill—addicted to this show that is more the kind of thing my wife would watch than my smoking buddies. Even while I was performing the manly rite of watching the Super Bowl on Sunday I was secretly recording “Downton Abbey” on DVR for later viewing. (No! I didn’t forsake my beloved Ravens during the brownout.)
I’m sitting atop 666 Fifth Avenue, gazing out across glorious Central Park as the sun goes down in the full flush of midsummer and I think, “What would make this scenario even better?
I’ll kill the suspense right now and just say it: a cigar and a cocktail.
Some invitations you don't turn down—so I didn't. Jimmy Russell, master distiller of Wild Turkey and a Bourbon titan, visited New York from Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, last week to pour some American Honey at Blue Smoke, the Danny Meyers barbecue joint in Murray Hill. You get the picture. This wasn't something I was going to miss.
It's no secret: pairing cigars and spirits is my thing. But I don't regard the actual mixing of the two a particularly palatable proposition. That is, I don't dip my cigar's head into a brandy snifter before smoking it and I don't feature tobacco that has been flavored with whiskey—even the Maker's Mark cigar that has been aromatized with one of my favorite Bourbons; it smells and tastes rank when you light it.
We place a lot of importance on the age of things. Age generally confers quality on old whiskeys and wines. However, when it comes to seafood and athletes, we usually prefer them fresher. Ever think about the words you’re using and how old they are?
Everyday life is so full of doublespeak that I’m always surprised to encounter straightforward speech. George Orwell shined a light on deceptive bureaucratic wording in the novel 1984, in which the Ministry of Truth is actually busy falsifying history and the Ministry of Love is where you go to get tortured. Today, in real life, the concept is more pervasive. For instance, we have such institutions as the “employment bureaus,” which are really unemployment facilities designed for those who have been laid off only to be told they were “downsized,” or some such euphemism. And the examples go on and on.
I know a lot of guys are flummoxed about what to give for Valentine’s Day tomorrow. You don’t want to buy some jewelry that might not go with her other accessories and you certainly don’t want to fatten her up with some expensive chocolate.
Over New Year’s a friend told me he resolved to give up cigars in 2012—except on special occasions. So I wondered what such a regime would look like for me, so I decided to craft the following smoking calendar for the next month, starting today, that would indicate special occasions on which I could smoke:
A popular line around our office is to refer to a cigar as a good “breakfast smoke." That means it's an admirable cigar, but mild-bodied—the kind of thing you light to wake up your palate in the morning. Every New Year's I'm reminded of what the best "breakfast drink" is. You can toast with whatever you want to when the ball drops the night before, but in the harsh light of dawn it has to be the Bloody Mary.
Not much gets a rise out of me in the way of smoking paraphernalia anymore, but I have to confess to being knocked out by one Christmas gift this year. It's handsome, it's clever, it's diabolical, hell, it may even be illegal.
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