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- More from Where to Smoke
Ashton Cigar Bar, Philadelphia
Posted: October 7, 2013
Philadelphia is one of my favorite cities in the world. I could not have said that even five years ago, but now Center City, the revitalized and constantly improving downtown area, is a beehive of activity virtually all day. There's good reason for that. People are moving back in. New restaurants with chefs who have grown up locally and some who have returned to open their own places make for a culinary wonderland. The musical and live theater offerings have generally been strong, not to mention the excellent art museums and top-ranked universities.
If the Philadelphia that a cigar lover could enjoy was missing anything, it was cigar bars, and the purported brotherly love. Up until 2007, there might have been a few restaurants and patios where one could enjoy a cigar. The antismoking law took effect that year and basically banned smoking everywhere indoors, and a lot of the outdoors. One exception was always the bar above Holt's Cigar Co., the city's preeminent cigar store owned by Robert Levin, the same man who established the Ashton cigar brand.
Click Image to Enlarge
Until last year, the bar was called Mahogany on Walnut. That's now gone. In the same space, but expanded, above Holt's (which has its own area for smokers) now is the Ashton Cigar Bar. The bar (as well as the building) is owned by Holt's and is a galactic improvement over what was there before.
"It was a natural," says Levin. "People need a place to smoke. The people before weren't doing the job, so we took it over. We want this to be the signature for our brand."
The space is now sleek, modern and warm at the same time. Floors and walls of different exotic woods complement distressed brick walls. Get to the top of the stairs and you'll see a bar topped with Venetian Carrara marble (the one with the veins). What's behind the bar is even more alluring: 200 whiskies, 300 spirits, 20 specialty craft cocktails, 6 draught beers, 20 bottled beers and more than 50 wines. And so little time!
The best-selling cocktail so far is the Ashton Martini. This is a signature concoction of "Grey Goose Vodka or Bombay Sapphire Gin served ice-cold, seasoned with Balvenie 12-Year Old Doublewood Scotch and garnished with sharp provolone stuffed olives." Yes, now bring me my cheesesteak, please.
The food menu is a work in progress, presently offering only cold dishes like a cheese and salumi plate and mixed nuts. The bar will not get a full kitchen, but there's talk of partnering with local restaurants to get food delivered should a guest want.
In the back is one of the most complete and impressive humidors in any cigar bar in the world with more than 200 different smokes. As you might imagine, there's a lot of Ashton, San Cristobal and La Aroma de Cuba. Further, some of the free world's finest are available, from Alec Bradley to Tatuaje; with La Flor Dominicana, My Father and Padrón in between. Prices are only slightly more than in retail stores. (See the current list and prices at www.ashtoncigarbar.com)
"We act like a private club," Levin says, "but we're open to the public."
Comments 8 comment(s)
Peter Baenninger — Tierra Verde, FL, USA, — October 7, 2013 6:39pm ET
Eric Schwenk — October 8, 2013 8:49am ET
William H. Magill — October 8, 2013 10:50am ET
LES MANN — East Providence, Rhode Island, UNITED STATES, — October 9, 2013 9:47am ET
joe sarcone — staten island, ny, usa, — October 9, 2013 5:57pm ET
Alejandro Benes — Newbury Park, CA, USA, — October 9, 2013 6:08pm ET
Eric Schwenk — October 9, 2013 7:04pm ET
Bj Marchese — January 28, 2014 7:11pm ET
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