The Unbidden Ashtray

Apr 8, 2015 | By David Savona

It happens in so many places in Havana that sometimes I don't even notice. But when it happened at El Rum Rum de la Habana, a skinny, bright and clean paladar located on the narrow streets of Vieja Habana, it made me think about how special it is, so I began writing.

El Rum Rum, a new paladar located a few steps away from the famous Cuban bar La Bodeguita del Medio, is one of the many fine restaurants you'll read all about in the June issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine, hitting newsstands two weeks from today. I enjoyed my meal, and you'll read all about the cuisine in Gordon Mott's story about Cuba's rapidly evolving dining scene.

Back to what caught my notice. Our appetizers had just been cleared, a second cerveza was on its way, and I took a cigar from my leather case. Pigtail tip, uncut foot, a cigar without a band rolled on a farm in Pinar del Río, given to me by a friend who lives in Havana.

Without a word, as my cigar was revealed, the waiter brought over a simple black ashtray. My fellow diners paid no mind as I put flame to the foot of the plump cigar. My smoke joined the breeze and moved toward the open doors, and two men in caps standing near the well-stocked bar began to play their guitars and sing.

The unbidden ashtray. I never asked for it, but the waiter knew it was something I needed. No one questioned my cigar, no one paid mind to the smoke as it drifted away.

Moments like that are a welcome sight to any cigar aficionado visiting Cuba.

"Ah memories. I recall MANY years ago now when Tellers Chophouse, Long Island NY was able to allow smoking. At the Gold Bar which is still there today you could sit in a lounge chair and pull out your cigar and unsolicited you'd have the bartender come over with matches, a cutter and an ashtray. Sipping a single malt and watching the smoke float overhead was pure pleasure. I long for those days again and can't wait to visit Havana and take part. Nice piece David, you brought me back to a fine time. " —April 13, 2015 19:18 PM
"Great point that is simply how it should be. Sadly this does not happen often enough here in the U.S. whether it is a cigar I produce or if my drink needs attention. However I always commend and tip for attentive service that anticipates my needs before I need to ask." —April 9, 2015 17:57 PM
"I've been in your situation in Havana and always welcomed the ashtray and being able to smoke without getting a lecture. I even remember lighting up in the Havana airport and no one flinched! That's since changed beng a airport and all." —April 8, 2015 19:07 PM
"I think Cuba will saty the same, only the tourists will complain, and then I am sure someone will straighten them out." —April 8, 2015 16:12 PM
"I take it that businesses in Cuba are free to allow cigar smoking. Businesses in the US are not. It is fascinating that a totalitarian regime doesn't feel it necessary to outlaw simple freedoms, while dictatorships of majority impose their will on the dissenters." —April 8, 2015 16:08 PM
"Great article David. This is the exact felling I feel every time I light a cigar in Cuba." —April 8, 2015 15:52 PM
"I know what you mean. I've experienced this plenty of times in Havana. Pull out a cigar, ashtray is either there already or presented as needed. No one bats an eye or cringes at the sight and aroma of a cigar. It's part of life down there. There's nothing like partaking in a 3 - 4 hour meal, enjoying the food, drinks and cigars amongst friends and accommodating hosts. I fear that this is one of the things that will be lost should Cuban/US relations keep improving. " —April 8, 2015 15:24 PM

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