Diamante’s Brooklyn Cigar Lounge is a worn, comfy place, ensconced in the first floor of a Fort Greene brownstone, just a few blocks from the brand-new Barclays Center, the new home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets basketball team. It looks to be about a century-and-a-half old, with its unvarnished wooden flooring and copper ceiling, leather furniture, old fixtures and ancient photos of owner David Diamante’s family.
One picture goes all the way back to 1911, a group shot in front of another brownstone just a few blocks away, which includes his great-great grandfather, great-grandfather and great-uncles, all in suits, all gripping cigars.
“This place is my place,” Diamante says. “I’m not going to sell a bad cigar—my name is over the door.”
Yet his place is not as old as it looks. In fact, back when Diamante first bought the building in 2009, the walls had holes punched in them and were painted pink; overhead hung three florescent lights, and the floor was plywood. He chose to lay unfinished floor boards and filled the room with antique fixtures and ancient woods, giving it its turn-of-the-last-century ambiance. And, of course, the framed family photos.
There are other photos as well, boxers like Muhammad Ali, Carmen Basilio, Tony DeMarco and a few other fighters from the '40s and '50s. See, Diamante, with his waist-length dreadlocks and flat cap, announces fights for HBO, Showtime and ESPN; he’s also the voice of the Brooklyn Nets and hosts his own daily morning television show on the NBC Sports Network.
An inveterate traveler of fairly dangerous places—he's hitchhiked across Somalia and recently returned from Ethiopia—he’s also logged time in Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, learning about cigars. “It’s one of those things that you need to know the nuts and bolts to talk about it from an educated perspective,” he says.
The glass humidor above the bar is packed with name brands like Padrón, Tatuaje, Dominican versions of Cohiba, Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta, and the most expensive, the $34 Fuente Fuente OpusX.
“We try to cover all the main brands,” he says. “They’re not cheap, and they’re not expensive.” The shop normally charges a $10 cutting fee, but this is waved with the purchase of a cigar.
Every Wednesday is ladies night with special discounts for women. Tuesday is classic fight night. Occasionally they have a DJ or live jazz. “We are happy to be a part of the fabric of the community,” he adds.
Diamante’s pride is stacked inside the glass-and-Spanish-cedar humidor on the bar; his own brand of handrolled cigars separated into mild-, medium- and full-bodied. From the humidor he selects two pyramid cigars with a shaggy foot, and we sit back and relax in two leather chairs and fire them up.
Like all the other cigars from Diamante's cigar line, they’re rolled in the Dominican Republic. They’re pretty cigars, smooth and flavorful—yet fierce.
“Cigars should be smoked for one of three reasons: conversation, contemplation or celebration,” he says. “Life is too short to smoke bad cigars.”
Brooklyn Cigar Lounge
108 South Oxford Street
Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Monday - Thursday: 5 p.m. - midnight
Friday: 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Saturday: 1 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. - midnight