Big Ronnie’s Cigar 101: Cigar Etiquette For All

Hello smoke fans. Big Ronnie is back! Last time, we were talking accessories and reviewed some of my favorite tools. We reviewed the different types of cutters and lighters, and focused on style.

Today’s topic, however, is not about the what, but the how. I’m talking about what to do, and what not to do. That’s right, we’re diving deep into our cigar culture and focusing on etiquette. Nothing is sexier than confidence. In the following genius, I’ve laid out how to act “as if” when it comes to cigars. Try to pay attention, as you are about to be armed with knowledge and confidence. Take notes, print the post, whatever – as long as it sticks.

 

Should I light my friend’s cigar?
Do I have to smoke if everyone else is smoking?
Should I bring cigars to parties?

Slow the hell down with the questions already, I’ll get there….a little more soap box first:

First and foremost, cigar culture is awesome. Most cigar enthusiasts are more than happy to tell you exactly what they enjoy and why. Cigar shop staff are friendly and helpful. Ask questions, show interest. Don’t be a wallflower. Embrace being embraced by the culture, and dive right in. Pick up a copy of Smoke Magazine or Cigar Aficionado, try to find what interests you, then ask about it in your local shop. Foundational knowledge about what you like will help you as you go, but be prepared to learn every time you enter a cigar shop. Embrace it.

When starting out in cigars, it’s easy to slip into the deep end and find yourself overwhelmed. The most difficult feeling to shake is that of inexperience. Confidence derives from experience, so if you are a newbie, accept it. Start slow, and take the time to form opinions about what you smoke.

It can be intimidating walking into a humidor for the first time. Step #1, pick something in your price range, then repeat.

Talk about what you like with any cigar shop employee or customer in a humidor. I promise they will be receptive and answer all of your questions.

My recommendations below are targeted towards novice smokers. For those intermediate or advanced smokers reading, keep going, you’ll probably learn something. I’ve broken down my recommendations into 6 categories: (Please let me know if I’ve missed anything. I take suggestions.)

  1. Local Cigar Shop
  2. Club
  3. Outdoor Party
  4. Golf
  5. Hosting Friends
  6. Women

LOCAL CIGAR SHOP
Most humidors are a wonderland of variety, strength and flavor. Take your time, try things out. Remember, you are the customer and need to feel comfortable about your purchase, every time. Here are some general tips about what to do and not to do at your local shop:

Ask Questions – Cigar shop employees always want to talk about cigars, that why they work there.

Ask for suggestions – You will get more than you can handle. Everyone loves to talk about what they like. When discussing Cigars with shop employees, Big Ronnie takes notes, you should too.

Focus on strength first – Mild, Medium, Full. New enthusiasts should start with mild, work your way up. Try several different mild smokes before progressing. Have fun and try as many as possible.

Share when possible – Who doesn’t like to get a free igar? I sometimes buy 2-3 of my preferred cigar so that I can share them with friends when I smoke. It’s always more fun for a few guys to taste the same cigar, as you can immediately compare and contrast different viewpoints on taste.

Tip the employees – If a cigar shop employee is very helpful, ask what his favorite smoke in his humidor is, and buy him one. Now, you’ve got a friend whose brain you can pick anytime. I know, it’s genius. You’re welcome.

Know the rules of the shop you are going to – Do they serve alcohol or are they BYOB? What are their hours of operation? What are the nearby food options? Knowledge is power.

Say “Thank You” and shake hands – Be friendly, introduce yourself, stay a while. Being perceived as nice, friendly and enthusiastic will get you places in this industry, even if it is just a few more minutes with a knowledgeable shop employee.

CIGAR CLUB

Cigar clubs are havens of camaraderie, friendship and good times. They should be viewed as public squares for all who share our interest. Some clubs require membership to receive special benefits, like discounts or members-only events. Here are some general tips about what to do and not to do at your local Cigar club:

Buy from the club you are smoking in – Most Cigar clubs are also shops with full retail inventory. It’s OK to bring your own cigars to enjoy, but if a shop sells cigars, buy one from them. It’s a classy move, especially if the shop does not have a cutting fee.

What’s a cutting fee, Big Ronnie?: A cutting fee in a Cigar club or shop means that you will have to pay a small fee (Usually 5$-15$, one time, not per Cigar) if you’d like to smoke what you bought somewhere else.

Make friends – Frequent visits to a Cigar shop will expose you to other Cigar enthusiasts. Be friendly, sit and smoke with them. Ask questions, give opinions. Be a dude.

Dress appropriately – Clothes do not make the man, but they absolutely shape the way you are perceived. Best foot forward guys, you are diving into a culture of affluence and achievement, dress like it. Personally, I loathe wearing neckties, so I usually skip the tie in lieu of a jacket.
Personally speaking, I would never consider going to my Cigar club, The Grand Havana Room in anything less than Business Casual attire. No jeans, no sneakers, no caps.

PARTY (OUTDOOR)

Nothing is better than a Summer party. Horseshoes, Lemonade and Cigars! While this should be a no-brainer to light up, there are some considerations. Here are some general tips about what to do and not to do when at an outdoor party:

Can you smoke? – If you are not the host, be respectful and ask. If you do this in advance, you have the opportunity to ask if there will be other smokers at the party. If there are, you have the opportunity to share.

How windy? – If it’s windy out, a soft flame lighter will not be best. Bring a torch. Most Cigar shops sell inexpensive torches for just this issue (<$10).

Where will you ash? – Think about this in advance and avoid making a mess. Be classy with your cigars whenever possible, and they should be accepted. Act like a jerk, and noone will want you to smoke around them. Don’t be afraid to bring your own ashtray – the effort will be respected.

Be an Ambassador – Offer cigars, engage people in conversation, ask what they like. A great way to learn is through conversation. Don’t be shy.

GOLF

I always prefer to golf with a Cigar. It is a natural fit. Golf and Cigars are natural bedfellows, don’t fight it – embrace the union and enjoy golf that much more. Here are some general tips about what to do and not to do when golfing:

Make sure your course allows smoking – I know this is stupid, but NYC courses no longer allow smoking. I have not heard of any other regions restricting golf course smoking, but who the hell knows. Play it safe and call the course in advance.

Cheat! – I use my cigar as a directional marker before I hit. I lay my Cigar about a foot from my ball, pointing in the direction I’d like to hit. It makes it a bit easier for me to aim, without lifting my head. Of course it won’t make you a better ball striker, but for me, I’ll take any advantage I can get.

Bring enough butane – I find my cigar goes out a little more frequently while I’m golfing, so I typically need relight my Cigar more often. Don’t get stuck without a way to light up. This is especially important if you are the Cigar guy in your foursome who brought the goodies. Also, try to have at least one cutter and torch in each cart in your group, as that’s much easier than running across the fairway for a light.

Tip your caddy – …With a Cigar. They will love it. If they don’t smoke, tell him to give it to someone he knows that does. It’s a golf course, there are plenty of Cigar smokers.

HOSTING FRIENDS

Cigars with friends can be a great time. Sharing your passion with others can be hit or miss, though. Whether it be in a backyard over drinks, on a long walk, or after dinner; Cigars provide the opportunity for conversation, laughter and bonding – just make sure all are willing. Here are some general tips about what to do and not to do when entertaining friends:

Who smokes? Who doesn’t? – Be aware of this, and always remember to cater to the people who do not smoke as much as those whom you are enjoying a cigar with. Non-enthusiasts will find themselves outside of the fun pretty quickly. Try not to alienate those who don’t enjoy Cigars. It’s not their fault, no one is perfect.

Never pressure someone to enjoy a cigar – Cigars and Cigar culture can be intimidating for some. Inevitably, when not forced, people loosen up at their own pace. A novice smoker may feel embarrassed cutting or lighting a Cigar in front of experienced smokers. Let them feel comfortable at their own pace. They will. No pressure.

Ashtrays! – You never have enough ashtrays when several people are lighting up. Prepare in advance and make sure that your guests are comfortable. Also, just having ashtrays is not enough. Empty them.

Big Ronnie’s tip: Men shouldn’t cut or light another man’s’ Cigar. It is acceptable to light a woman’s Cigar for her if she wishes.

WOMEN

Note: actual female smoking experience may vary

Ah, women. Most things men do are either in pursuit of them, or to make them happy. Don’t fight it. I understand the social connotations that Cigars bring with them. Cigar smoking men are often mischaracterized as neanderthals, who can only grunt for what they want. Like most people, if women aren’t guided through a new experience, they can miss the positives, zero in on the negative(s), and make their mind up that it’s not for them. Big Ronnie is not perfect, but thankfully learns from his mistakes. Learn from Big Ronnie.

When it comes to women and cigars, I have been fortunate. I have always had accepting, encouraging women in my life who embraced my hobby/passion/lifestyle/obsession (call it what you will). If you aren’t as fortunate, or need to improve your courtship rituals, I’ve laid out some easy tips that have never gotten me in trouble. Simple things to remember that will help your women enjoy being around you while you enjoy a Cigar. Here are some general tips about what to do when smoking with the fairer sex:

Teach – If possible (and unless asked), try not to cut or light a woman’s cigar if it’s her first time. Simply assure her she can handle it if she’s nervous, and take her through the lighting process, slowly. When it comes to cigars and women, do not rush. Encourage her to ask questions, and make sure you answer them.

Teach More – If possible, try a sampling of cigars with her. Choose several small ring gauge sticks progressing from Mild to Full. Smoke only half of each while tasting, discussing the tasting notes you both have. Compare previous notes as you move on.

Wine – Cigars are a large topic, with many varieties and types. Relate them to wine, if possible, if she is a wine connoisseur. Especially if she is not a cigar smoker, she will understand the regional differences in climate and how they affect the grape – I mean tobacco leaf – is affected by them.

Learn Together – Ask questions you don’t know the answers to in front of her. No woman wants to think that they are either with a man who knows it all, or who can’t take advice. Maybe try some cigars that are new to you as well, so that you can review them together.

Relax – You don’t need to know everything. She will not expect you too. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know, let’s find out”.

There you have it, Big Ronnie’s list of recommendations for maintaining and increasing your sexiness. The rest is up to you.

As always, please send me your feedback on this article or requests for the next one to rparisella@gmail.com. Thanks and have a great day all!