Cigars are tightly-wrapped pillars holding up the ceiling of the hazy, brassy room of our masculinity. But, to be perfectly honest, there just aren’t that many occasions that call for a cigar unless you’re a South American drug cartel potentate, or an old-timey railroad baron.
Which is, really, too bad. Not only is the taste and general ambiance of smoking a cigar something that a truly Made Man can happily embrace, but the rituals surrounding it are equally calming, NSFW leisure activities. So, if you’re a little short on the how-to part of how to smoke a cigar, read on for the basics.
Start small, cheap and mild
Cigars are an aquired affinity, and, like beer, wine and spirits, the stronger tasting ones take a little while to truly appreciate. You’re going to want to start with milder cigars for two reasons. The first is that you’ll think the strong-tasting cigars taste like butt. And burning butt at that. The second, though, is that they are cheaper, so if you smoke or cut them incorrectly, you won’t be out that much dough.
Give her a squeeze
This is a good section for beginner smokers to read carefully because it’s going to make you look much more pro than you likely are. When you get your mitts on a cigar, you want to gently squeeze it up and down the length looking for either hard or soft spots. These represent inconsistencies in how the tobacco was packed, and mean that the lumpy cigar in question is going to smoke like shit. If you’re at a reputable shop, point out the lumps and the shopkeep will definitely replace the cigar free of charge.
Nip the tip
The end of the cigar you’re ultimately going to have in your mouth is, at this point, all wrapped up. You need to cut the tip off of that end (called the cap) so that you can smoke it. But be careful, if you cut too deep, the cigar will unwrap. If you don’t cut deeply enough, you won’t be able to draw any smoke through.
You should have a cigar cutter (we told you to at the beginning, remember?), but if you don’t you can use scissors or a sharp knife. Biting the end off looks kind of cool, but will definitely ruin the way the cigar actually smokes. So unless you’re doing it for a movie, go find a sharp instrument.
So, place your cigar cutter flat on a table and set your cigar in the guillotine hole. Squeeze the blade down just enough to hold the cigar, then pick it up and snip it. Depending on the cigar and the cutter, this should work most of the time as you want to cut about 1/8 of an inch down the cigar (the width of most cigar cutters).
Or, just ask Aria Giovanni.
Suck and spin
Or don’t suck. But definitely spin. Theories divulge slightly about how to light a cigar. We’re actually inclined to believe the movie Hellboy because it was totally awesome.
Use a wooden match or a butane lighter because you don’t want the smell of lighter fluid to taint your cigar. Butane burns clean and works best out of doors. But wooden matches have a certain, undeniable panache to them. Whatever you like, really, is fine.
Hold the flame under the tip of the cigar, but don’t let it actually touch the cigar. You don’t want to overhead the tobacco because it’ll taste burnt and charcoal-y. Gross. Hold it slightly under the tip so that the tobacco is indirectly heated, then rotate the cigar so that the circumference of the tip is equally heated.
Some people say you should suck, some people don’t. The danger of drawing on a cigar while you light it, is that it will heat too fast and change and/or ruin how the cigar is supposed to taste. Our advice is to suck only if you’re having trouble getting it to light, and to do so lightly.
Take an even draw
Once you’ve got the tip warmed up, you need to keep it hot, but not too hot. If you suck too fast, it overheats the tobacco. If you don’t suck fast enough, you’ll have to continually re-light your cigar and risk looking like a tool. Smoke evenly, calmly, and consistently to keep your burn mild.
Have a drink, fella
To extend the analogy between liquor and cigars from the beginning of this article, you’re going to want to start with something pretty mild. Kahlua drinks, late bottled vintages, or a particularly hoppy beer are all beverages that, typically, go fairly well with cigars. As you smoke increasingly bolder cigars, you can move to increasingly bold drinks like martinis and neat scotches which will hold a nice balance against strong-flavored cigars.