Down on New York City's 42nd street, the throng of summer tourists jammed the sidewalks, but 16 floors above, a group was gathered at the new Nat Sherman rooftop cigar lounge, enjoying premium smokes, cocktails, and a bird's-eye view of Times Square.
Last Wednesday night was the official opening night for the new lounge, and I was there along with two other members of the Cigar Aficionado team: executive editor David Savona and senior editor Greg Mottola. About 75 guests attended, including some members of the Nat Sherman Townhouse, as well as company patriarch Joel Sherman and his son and daughter, Bill and Michele. At one point Joel even helped relight my Nat Sherman 1930 Gran Robusto, and I couldn't help but feel a little honored by the kind gesture.
Located atop the newly refurbished Knickerbocker Hotel, the open-air lounge actually occupies a corner of the hotel's 7,500-square-foot rooftop bar called St. Cloud, which is a Charlie Palmer property. It's rung by plush outdoor couches, and there's a small square area fenced by seamless glass that will be used for reserved seating. From the roof, one can clearly see the New Year's Eve ball, which is so close that when it lit up after the sun set, its light reached the revelers who were smoking and drinking in the lounge.
For now, the lounge is stocked with a selection of Nat Sherman cigars, with vitolas from lines that include Host, Metropolitan, Sterling, Timeless Nicaragua and Dominican, Epoca and the one-sized Joel Sherman 75th Celebration (a personal favorite of mine). The list is impressive in that guests will be able to find a smoke from mild- to full-bodied.
While the idea is to eventually pair all the cigars on the menu with cocktails from the St. Cloud bar, for the opening night there were only two official pairings that will be on the menu, and two that were done just for the party. The two permanent pairings being offered was a Nat Sherman Sterling Corona Gorda with a cocktail called the St. Cloud, which is comprised of Citron vodka, St. Germain, grapefruit and a brandied cherry. The other is a cocktail called New Amsterdam, which is a Bols Genever base mixed with Carpano Antica and Amaro Nonino; the recommended pairing is a Nat Sherman 1930 Gran Robusto.
Not in the mood for a cocktail, I was excited to see what St. Cloud offered for beer. Expecting a nice stock of craft beers to choose from, the menu is (sadly) dominated by Anheuser-Busch InBev brews such as Budweiser and Stella Artois. It's fair to say St. Cloud is definitely more of a spirits bar. They did have Goose Island IPA on the menu, so I enjoyed a few bottles with my 1930. With any luck this will change, the beer list will be extended some time in the future, but I won't hold my breath waiting.
Despite the lack of beer, the party was still a lot of fun. The view is spectacular, and there's a certain excitement to being able to smoke atop a rooftop that not only allows cigars, but embraces them.