Huff and a puff: Shanghai cigar lounges that will blow you away
The smoking ban may have just come into force, but cigar lovers, hear this: fear not the loss of your preferred toxin. There are still a number of quality establishments that allow, and indeed encourage, an evening of robustly rolled Montecristos, strong spirits and cordial company.
Shanghai cigar lounge no. 1: Roosevelt’s Guanxi Lounge
Smack in the middle of the French Concession, Roosevelt’s Guanxi Lounge, snuggled inside Roosevelt Prime Steakhouse, has been a hit since day one. With its prime selection of cigars and spirits, not to mention an ambiance that’s hard to beat, steak and cigar aficionados can be seen night after night enjoying a combination of world class beef, drinks and hand-rolled cigars.
Their extensive inventory includes top sellers hailing from Cuba including a smattering of Padron from Nicaragua. Those in search of the best can ask for their Cuban vintage collection -- Romeo y Julieta ‘Fabuloso’ -- going for a sweet RMB 1,500 per stick.
Proprietor and renowned cigar enthusiast George Chen notes, “The RJ 'Fabuloso' was made in the early to mid-1980s and not listed in Min Ron Nee's cigar bible as it was not registered but surely made for a short while. It is a 'A' size which is 9.5 inches long and very rare.”
Additionally, members can purchase the famed Nicaraguan Padron Family Reserve box of ten for RMB 1,500. Containing 10-year tobacco with limited production, its first China release took place last year in celebration of its 45th anniversary at this very Shanghai location.
160 Taiyuan Lu, near Yongjia Lu 太原路160号, 近岳阳路, +86 21 6433 8240, www.rooseveltsteakhouse.com
Shanghai cigar lounge no. 2: Siglo Cigar & Spirits Shop
Owned by Shanghai cigar connoisseur Lily Wang, this flagship Cigar Ambassador store in Shanghai’s old abattoir and now commercial and creative area, 1933, is worthy of every accolade. It is home to the Cigar Ambassador Shanghai Club, and has hands down the largest inventory in town (over 50 varieties). It’s a total cigar experience including a cigar and rhum bar, aging room, smoker’s study, VIP lounge and more.
Brands include the best from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras including an option to buy your very own meter length hand-rolled for a sweet RMB 1,000.
According to Alain Velazco Ramos, resident expert and master torcedor (cigar roller), top pricey sellers include the Montecristo A (RMB 780) and Cohiba Siglo V (RMB 500).
“Montecristo is one of the most famous habano brands. These Cuban cigars are all hand made by full length Cuban tobacco. The longer the cigar, the less suitable tobacco could be found, and more expensive," says vice president of the Cigar Ambassador Club Edward Jin.
With three locations spread conveniently citywide, there’ll be no excuse not to drop in.
1933 Shanghai, 1/F, 10 Shajing Lu, near Jiulong Lu 沙泾路10号, 近九龙路, +86 21 5596 7221, www.siglocigar.com, www.cigarambassador.com
Shanghai cigar lounge no. 3: La Casa del Habano (Westin Bund Center)
This tiny spot tucked in the corner of the Westin Hotel’s lobby might not be a "lounge" but it's more than worthy of a mention as it holds brag rights to the city’s very first official cigar shop offering an impressive inventory of 43 brands with -- surprise -- Cubans as the top sellers. Affable manager Daisy Dong was happy to show off her priciest and most popular goods often purchased “to impress that boss or big client": Cohiba Expendidos (box of 25 for RMB 10,250) and Cohiba Siglo VI (Gran Reserva, box of three for RMB 1,098).
But for everyday smoking, Dong noted cigar-loving consumers often opt for lower-priced Montecristo and Romeo Y Julietas priced around RMB 100-200 a stick. “With cigars, it’s all about face” she notes.
“Of course, it’s in our culture to keep face by impressing the big boss , but I see increasing numbers of Shanghai’s young and successful (35-45 years old) including women coming in simply wanting to enjoy a good a smoke.”
Lobby, 88 Henan Zhong Lu, near Guangdong Lu 河南中路88号外滩中心, 近广东路, +86 21 6335 1888
Shanghai cigars for the rest of us
In the spirit of enjoying a smoke and nothing more, Shanghai houses a remarkable number of venues where high-quality and bona fide cigars can be enjoyed.
With Cubans being top sellers across the board and prices hovering around RMB 200-400 a stick, there are many good choices around town for a tasteful smoke, some complete with walk-in humidors, storage and membership services. And if you’re still keen to impress (be it yourself or others), these venues offer the right combination of drink and cuisine, allowing you to play it safe or set yourself back a few zeros.
Five-star hotel options:
- Hilton, Libre Bar
- JC Mandarin, Cuba Bar
- The Longemont, CO2 Bar
- Pudong Shangri-La
- Portman Ritz-Carlton
- Marriott Shanghai Hongqiao, Lobby Lounge
Cigar-friendly eateries with good selections: