The first impression that visitors to Vienna often express is: “Time has stood still here.” In light of the comprehensive historic buildings and the somewhat leisurely pace here in Austria, this may be true. But in a matter that concerns us cigar smokers, it is – thank goodness – also true: in Austria, smoking indoors is still allowed in compliance with certain conditions. Owners of establishments that measure less than 50 m2 can decide whether to be a smoking or a non-smoking premises. This legislation still allows cigar culture to remain a fixed part of the bar scene. “[Cigars] belong to the bar like an Old Fashioned and Manhattan – they’re an essential part of the pleasure culture of Barfly’s!” The charming manager of the legendary Barfly’s Club in Vienna, Melanie Castillo, puts it in a nutshell with clear words. “For me, it’s hard to imagine removing cigars from what we offer,” she emphasizes in a conversation with Cigar Journal. Since her late-husband Mario opened the bar in 1989, thus laying the foundation for an unbelievable Viennese bar boom, exclusive cigars were a significant part of his concept. Because, in addition to the selected spirits and excellent cocktails, back then, it was fancy cigar brands that Mario imported to Vienna at the same time as previously unknown types of rums during his visits to the Caribbean islands.
A unique feature – the pleasant synthesis of fine spirits and cigars – which today is still a reason for many regulars to visit. Just a short time ago, Melanie Castillo decided to acquire a new humidor with a nice cigar selection. Thus, night owls can now hardly resist enjoying a spicy Macanudo Inspirado Petit Piramide with their Boulevadier (bourbon, vermouth, Campari). The facts are undeniable that for centuries a splendid liaison between the high-percentage, globally traditional cultural asset American bar and the diverse taste of cigars exists. Examples from around the globe prove this synthesis. Here we’ll focus on the Austrian capital. A culinary tour of trendy Viennese bars proves how ideally traditions can be combined with contemporary concepts of enjoyment. The humidor in the D-Bar in the Ritz Carlton ticks all the boxes – custommade to fulfil the individual wishes of the international clientele. An offering that is readily accepted. Also because, under bar manager Lukas Hochmuth, an unparalleled cocktail culture has been established – with perfectly balanced, partly playful signature drinks. On this occasion, we decide on a bottling from house. The 9-year-old rhum agricole from Guadeloupe by Alexander Huprich’s Cask Collection goes magnificently with the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2.
Our journey continues to the Viennese underground. In the speakeasy Clandestino of the bar magician Daniel Schober, the main focus is on drinks with tequila, mezcal and other spirits (such as pisco) from Central and South America. “When I create cocktails with these spirits I’m always thinking about which cigar would go with them,” Dani tells us from experience. This is probably why the humidor in Clandestino is well selected. Numerous guests make themselves comfortable on the chic vintage furniture and enjoy, for example, a creamy, caramel Monte Pascoal Corona with Dani’s Oaxaca Massaka (mezcal, avocado, salt, etc.). From Dani’s speakeasy we stroll to one of the most exclusive newly opened bars from last year: the Josef Cocktail Bar. Co-owner Philipp Ernst (together with Andrea Hörzer), designated Master of Mixology, is personally a firm cigar lover. This passion not only manifests itself in the bar’s offering, but also in the fact that Philipp has inspired some of his regulars to enjoy cigar smoking. “A younger generation is discovering more and more often that the peaceful enjoyment of cigars can be perfectly combined with the creation of cocktails,” he says. This is why the extremely hospitable Josef team not only launched the after-work line Coffee, Cocktails & Cigars (the Courvoisier coffee is recommended), but barman Andreas Portz recommends a Montecristo Edmundo to go with his excellent Harvard Cocktail.
Text: Christof Habres