Singapore. It's two degrees north of the equator. For the humidity to diminish it has to rain. And it's hot. At night, you hope for a refreshing breeze to blow across this tropical island city-state, but instead, as you venture out of your hotel onto Orchard Road, you're on concrete, brick and cobblestone that spent the day soaking up the sun. It's an oven and you're the pizza. Only mad dogs, Englishmen or someone in need of socks would be out right now. Walking.
Orchard Road is Singapore's main shopping district. Think Rodeo Drive, Michigan Avenue and Bal Harbour combined and on steroids. What they call the "Great Singapore Sale" is in session, and a lot of tourists, most of them Asian, are out looking for bargains. There are none to be had, and no socks for a traveler in need, at least, none without a designer logo as a motif. Give it up. Time to get a cigar.
Walk into the refreshing, cool comfort of the Hyatt Hotel, also known as the Grand Hyatt, and spy the Davidoff shop to the left. If you're not packing, stop in and buy a cigar. It'll cost you a bit less than upstairs at the Mezza 9 Bar, a fine place to find shelter from the heat.
Mezza 9, which is also a restaurant, has a pair of impressive wine rooms with windows as walls. Back towards the Scotts Road side of the hotel is the bar. There's a good selection of cigars: lots of Avo XO, a full line of Davidoff and Cuban Bolivar Royal Coronas and Corona Gigantes, Romeo y Julieta Cedros Deluxe and Churchills. The big Romeo is about $24. A rare Trinidad Fundadore goes for roughly $31.
All the cigars can be paired with a selection of single-malt Scotches, or a couple of Japanese offerings. The bar is short on good rum, but has plenty of Ports, Cognacs and Armagnacs, as well as a specialty Martini menu.
On a recent visit, a very smooth Chateau de Laubade XO Armagnac complemented an H. Upmann No. 2 (which was not for sale at the bar on that particular night). An order of spring rolls, bathed with sesame-rice vinegar, made for a tangy appetizer. Don't miss the cashews coated with black pepper.
On this Tuesday night, Mezza 9 is humming with a pre-dinner crowd and those seeking a refrigerated oasis from the oven outside. This is mostly a business crowd on the road with a heavy expat contingent, largely from Australia. Some are having drinks and some are having cigars. The room is friendly and casual.
Mezza 9 is an oasis. If the bartenders don't know you by name, they call you "chief" or "boss." It's one-stop shopping when it comes to drinks, dinner and cigars...you can probably even find a pair of socks somewhere in the lobby shops.
Alejandro Benes does business around the world, and generally packs enough socks.
The Grand Hyatt Singapore
Weekdays, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Weekends, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.