Cigar Aficionado

Club Macanudo, New York City

Manhattan's first and foremost cigar bar.

I was a bit concerned about Club Macanudo. The owners of the bar, General Cigar Holdings Inc., answered our reporter's queries about the current smoking status with a wall of "no comments," as did lounge staffers who answered the phone. Surely Mayor Michael Bloomberg's smoking ban didn't reach here. If Club Mac wasn't a cigar bar, one of the very few places exempted from his sweeping New York City ban, which went into effect on March 31, then what was?

Joined by my coworker Jack Bettridge, I walked into Club Mac last week just a few minutes after five o'clock, opening time. A couple was already at the bar, which had an array of fancy ashtrays. Three gentlemen walked in on our heels, one carrying a doggie bag from '21.' I pulled cigars from my suit pocket; the other men did the same.

Jack and I each ordered Manhattans, and I clipped my cigar. As I brought flame to the Churchill's foot, the bartender placed my dose of chilled Bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters before me. "Is this OK?" I said, showing him the cigar.

"You can do anything you want," came his reply.

Sweet salvation.

I was happy to see that things appeared to be unchanged at good old Club Mac, and it seems that I'm not the only one who knows of this superb cigar bar. There was hardly a seat to be found at the bar proper by 6 p.m., even though the rest of the club was largely empty. Very impressive, given the early hour and the fact that it was a Tuesday night.

For those who haven't been to Club Macanudo, it's a haven for cigar smokers, with humidified lockers available for rental; rich, darkened woods and fancy artwork cover the spots without humidors. You can sit around the compact, high bar in the shape of a horseshoe, which is well stocked with fine spirits from Scotch to Bourbon to Cognac, or settle into comfortable chairs and couches arrayed in the lounge areas, or sit around a table if you so desire. A selection of cigars are available for sale, including Partagas, Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey and, of course, Macanudo.

Jack and I puffed on our cigars while sipping our Manhattans, and snacked on a Cuban sandwich, which was done in traditional fashion and served with sweet potato fries that should come with a warning label due to their addictive quality.

All was right with the world.