Cigar Industry

My Favorite Drink

What the insiders of the cigar world are sipping this holiday season
| By David Savona | From America’s Most Notorious Mobsters, November/December 2020
My Favorite Drink
Portrait by Peter Garritano
The Levin family in Philadelphia at their Ashton Cigar Bar, holding their favorite drinks. From left, Sathya with Tequila, Robert enjoying a fine Scotch and Meera drinking a Tequila cocktail.

The end of any year is always a time for a fine drink, a time when we relax, celebrate and reflect with good libations. The end of a year such as 2020 calls for many of them.

Some people pull the cork on a bottle of good wine, others mix up a cocktail and many simply pour a few fingers of well-aged whiskey. But what do famous cigarmakers like to drink? To find out, we reached out to many of the industry’s biggest names to see what we might find in their glasses at the end of a long day, and during a holiday celebration.

Robert Levin

Scotch

“Basically I’m a Scotch guy,” says Robert Levin, who owns the Ashton brand and the luxurious Ashton Cigar Bar in his hometown of Philadelphia. “I don’t like the really peaty stuff, I like the Highlands. Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year old, and any Glenfarclas is excellent.” He sometimes moves from single malts to blends. “When I go out—when I used to go out,” he says with a laugh, “it’s Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks. And in honor of Carlos Fuente Sr.—Chivas 18.”

Sathya Levin 

Tequila neat

“I’m a lover of fine spirits, but I’ve really been enjoying Tequila a lot lately. Don Julio 1942—and it pairs great with cigars,” says Sathya Levin of Ashton. “I like it as a nightcap.”

Meera Levin 

Tequila with lime

Like her brother, Ashton’s Meera Levin is a Tequila drinker, but she likes hers with a bit of a kick. “Tequila, on the rocks, with lime. Sometimes with a splash of club soda. I like to add some muddled jalapeño into the drink. Spicy makes everything better, in my opinion. Some of my go-tos are Casa Noble, Casamigos and Don Julio Blanco. At home, I’ve been making a quasi-Margarita, which has helped me through this pandemic. Tequila, fresh squeezed orange or grapefruit juice and fresh lime juice shaken, on ice.”

Alan Rubin

Whiskey

The owner of Alec Bradley Cigar Co. is a whiskey fan, moving between Scotch, Bourbon and rye. “It’s pretty much exclusively brown spirits,” he says. “My go-to Scotch, especially with a cigar, is Glenfiddich 15 year old. On the American whiskey, I’ve really been sticking with Michter’s 10-year-old rye, and maybe some of the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon.” Rubin has passed on his passion to his sons Alec and Bradley, for whom his cigar company is named. “My boys, Alec and Bradley, are into whiskey. They both like to collect. It’s really a great time for my sons and I to sit down for a few minutes in my office and spend some time together over libations and a cigar.” 

Javier Estades

Sherry and Rum 

Javier Estades is the CEO of Tabacalera U.S.A. Inc., the company behind the non-Cuban versions of Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo and many more. He drinks old rum, but he has a particular affinity for Sherry from his home country of Spain. He prefers such varieties as amontillado and palo cortado, drinking Tio Pepe and Ximénez-Spínola. “These types of Sherries are fantastic,” he says. “They have a complexity that marries very well with a cigar. I like it to be a little bit chilled—a little bit—but not crazy cold.”

Carlos Fuente Jr.

Vodka Martini—Very Dry

“My favorite drink at a great old-school bar, lounge or restaurant before dinner is a very dry vodka Martini,” says Carlos Fuente Jr., the maker of all Fuente cigars. He drinks them in the reverse of James Bond. “Stirred, not shaken,” he says, “with cocktail onions or seeded green olives. I prefer Beluga vodka but normally enjoy Belvedere, as it’s more available.” 

Pete Johnson

Tequila, Wine

“I’m all over the map,” says Pete Johnson, owner of the Tatuaje brand. “I enjoy wine, whisky, Tequila, rum. It depends on my mood and the cigar. Lately I’ve enjoyed a lot of Extra Añejo Tequila,” he says, naming such brands as Dos Artes, and Cuervo Reserva de Familia. He also likes wine, especially when smoking. “Most of the time I’m enjoying a well-aged bottle of Bordeaux when enjoying a cigar.” He usually sticks to Saint-Émilion and Pomerol.

Frederik Vandermarliere

Beer

The man who owns Oliva Cigar Co. has a variety of drink interests, but beers—especially those of his native Belgium—are his favorite. “Belgian specialty beers are fantastic to enjoy at any given time of the day,” he says. “After a bicycle ride at 11 a.m., at 5 p.m. pre-dinner and 11 p.m. postdinner.” He tailors his choices by the time of day, staying “rather blond” earlier and going heavier later. “After dinner it will be a St. Bernardus Abt 12,” he says, describing a robust, heavier brew with a recipe that dates back to the 1940s.

Nestor Andrés Plasencia

Rum and Scotch

“My favorite drink is Nicaraguan rum,” says Plasencia, who oversees (with his father, Nestor Sr.) Central America’s largest cigar-tobacco growing operation. His rum of choice? Nicaragua’s Flor de Caña. “I drink it neat when it is 18 or 25 years old,” he says. He also enjoys the occasional Scotch. “I also love single-malt whisky,” he says. “Great pairing with cigars. 

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo

Hot chocolate and coffee

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo is a big fan of coffee, as well as hot chocolate. “Dark, thick, chocolate,” he says.  When he drinks it during breakfast, he does a peculiar thing. “I put gouda cheese in it,” he says. “You dip your toast with butter in it. It’s incredible.”

Jorge Padrón

Single Malt and Blended Scotch

“I love Scotch. That’s what I drink when I’m having a cigar,” says Jorge Padrón, the maker of Padrón cigars. “My dad used to drink Pinch,” he says, referring to the blended Scotch that comes in a distinctive, three-sided bottle. “I like Macallan, Glenfiddich and Pinch.”

Rick Rodriguez

Bourbon, One Rock

The blender of CAO Flathead and other brands for General Cigar Co. is a Bourbon drinker. “Right now I’m enjoying and learning about Bourbons, and Woodford Double Oak is the one that I’ve been enjoying lately,” he says. He adds just one ice cube to his drink. “One rock, to open up the flavor. And I only drink when I’m smoking a cigar.”

Rafael Nodal

Straight Rum

The blender of the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Maestro, Cigar Aficionado’s 2019 Cigar of the Year, is a rum drinker. He prefers to sip his rum straight, and reaches for Diplomatico Ambassador, as well as the Cuban Havana Club Selección de Maestros. “I don’t like to add ice, even in the heat of summer, because unlike with whisky I think the ice dilutes the essence of the flavors.”

A.J. Fernandez

Rum

“I enjoy a good rum,” says A.J. Fernandez, one of the busiest cigarmakers in Nicaragua.

Rocky Patel

Italian Red Wine, Scotch

Rocky Patel, pictured here at Burn in Naples, Florida, enjoys Scotch, but his favorite drink is big, red Italian wine, particularly Casanova di Neri. “I like Super Tuscans and Brunellos,” he says. He learned to appreciate wine from his father. “He was a big collector, and early on we started drinking wine.” 

Nick Melillo

Coffee

“My favorite drink to have with a cigar is coffee,” says Nick Melillo, the owner of Connecticut’s Foundation Cigar Co. “Rich, tasty, flavor-country coffee. I’m not a huge drinker, so coffee to me is a perfect pairing with a cigar, just because it complements a lot of the natural flavors in the tobacco.”

Jaime Garcia

Scotch, No Ice

Jaime Garcia, the son in the father-son-daughter team behind My Father cigars, is a big Scotch fan. “My favorites are Macallan, Glenlivet and Glenmorangie,” he says. “When I’m celebrating I go 18 [year old] and above. Always neat, never ice.”

Litto Gomez

Rum and Coke

The man in the hat, who makes La Flor Dominicana cigars, is a rum drinker, particularly Atlantico and Santa Teresa.  “Normally, at happy hour, it’s Rum and Coke, and a twist of orange. That’s my drink of choice. And after a dinner I’ll sip a good one.” Although Gomez is a spirits drinker, he will be looking for bubbles for the New Year. “There’s not enough Champagne to bring the New Year in,” he says with a laugh, “and get rid of this fucking year!” 

Manuel Quesada

Single Malt Scotch

The man behind Quesada Cigars in the Dominican Republic drinks a variety of libations, but Scotch is his go-to. “I drink, mostly, single malts,” he says. “Macallan, Aberlour, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glenmorangie and the Glenrothes. Nothing peaty or smoky. I [also] can, and do, [drink] rums and Tequilas, and I drink many other things.”

Eric Newman

Bourbon Old Fashioned

As the third generation Newman to oversee J.C. Newman Cigar Co., his family business, it’s rather fitting that Eric
Newman’s drink of choice is a classic. “I am now enjoying Old Fashioneds,” he says, describing a cocktail made of Kentucky Bourbon, Angostura bitters, a bit of sugar and a touch of water. His pour of choice is Makers’ Mark 46. 

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