Setting out on a mission to smoke my way through Miami, I quickly realized that South Florida is a tobacco puffer’s paradise. In nearly every decent cigar shop and factory discovered throughout the journey, there were the essential brand names such as Rocky Patels, Cohibas, Montecristos, and unknown treasures. There were also a great deal of wooden Indians sporting scowls and elaborate head dresses.
But the shops that made the list below brought something special to the table, whether it was authenticity, taste, originality, warm customer service or convenience. So, grab your lighter and put on your sophisticated disposition; it’s time for a smoke.
El Titan de Bronze
Surprise, surpise. You can find incredible, Miami-rolled cigars on Calle Ocho, a street where men in Guayaberas and panama hats puff away while chatting in the blistering afternoon sun.
The quaintest mom-and-pop shop I found on my tobacco journey, exudes an atmosphere of authenticity unmatched. On the counter sits a cigar-filled jar reading, “Smuggled Cuban cigars; stolen from Castro’s private stash.” Those stogies sell for only a buck.
But the real treasure in this shop is watching the artistry unfold. Skilled cigar rollers (all of whom hail from Cuba) tube tobacco leaves, slice the wrappers, and roll the cigars with a few pinches of vegetable-based adhesive. Co-owner Sandy Cobas says that each roller makes about 100 to 125 cigars everyday, and they stick to making only one kind of cigar. For example, Ernesto Pérez only makes Churchill cigars to master the art form perfectly.
“In Cuba, they make them the same way,” Cobas said. Her father, Carlos Cobas, opened the Little Havana factory in 1995. She recognizes that the cigar business is stereotypically regarded as a man’s domain. This is, however, the smoky world she grew up in, and the culture she loves. Stacks of cedar cigar holders line the floor of the store. The cedar maintains the cigars’ rich, nutty flavors. “Like oak is to wine, cedar is to cigars,” she explains.
The factory makes four different cigars: Titan de Bronze Gold, Titan Grand Reserve Maduro, Titan Grand Reserve Cameroon, and the Titan Redemption Sun Grown Habano. The tobacco is shipped in from various countries like the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Brazil. Individual cigars are very reasonable – only about $4 to $7 and also come in boxes of 20 or 25. The enclosed humidifiers keep the tobacco fresh at about 70 degrees. The shop also sells small, personal humidors.
The factory gets a lot of tourist customers and ships a lot of boxes to out-of-state aficionados. A group of young Belgium tourists snap photos and admire the lived-in charm of the shop. “Hey, look at me,” one of the young men holding a cigar shouts to his friends. “I’m Tony Montana. Don’t F--- with me!” 1071 SW 8th St., Little Havana; 305-860-1412; eltitancigars.com.
Calle 8 Cigars
I head down Calle Ocho, past the frantic, salsa rhythms from stereos and a snow cone kiosk where a little girl awaits her treat. I find a sign that proudly reads, “The Best Cigars in Town.” The place is called Calle 8 Cigars – a small, modest shop. After a sweaty stroll through Miami mid-day, walking into this shop’s unusually cool humidor room is heaven. It’s even better upon discovering the room is choc full of well-known brands, such as Cohiba and Montecristo, for decent prices. Rocky Patel cigars and other popular Miami brands like La Gloria Cubana are also available. A large statue of an Indian stands proudly in the corner. Small, flavored stogies, such as the Tatiana brand that sell for about a buck a cigar and the Café Crème are also available. 1221 SW 8th St., Little Havana; 305-285-1244.
Padilla Cigar Factory
Ernesto Padilla, the owner of the factory, opened a shop on Calle Ocho in 2009, but had been making the Padilla Miami for about six years before that. Today, his cigars are available widely throughout the country and he's relocated to Miami Gardens. His father, Heberto Padilla, was a famous Cuban poet who criticized the Castro regime and was subsequently imprisoned for it. A large photograph of Heberto walking with Ernest Hemingway hangs on the wall of the factory. Padilla boasts seven blends: the Reserva, Reserva Maduro, Miami 8 and 11, Miami Maduro, Vintage Reserve and Connecticut. 16600 NW 54th Ave., Unit 10, Miami Gardens; padillacigars.com.
Sabor Havana Cigars
With locations in Kendall, Doral, Palm Beach Gardens and Coral Gables, Sabor Havana has established a strong presence in South Florida. In the Coral Gables location, the bustling daytime crowd of Ponce De Leon Boulevard eats lunch among the swirling cigar smoke in the shop’s lounge area, and in the evening, a loud game of dominoes ensues at the corner table.
The Gables shop offers more than 100 different kinds of high-class smokes, from the popular Arturo Fuente to the Padron 1964 Anniversary Series. Award-winning Fonseca Cubano Limitado Cabinet Selection and Casa Magna Colorado Robusto are also available.
Sabor Havana has its own brand of cigars rolled in Miami, but most of the cigars in stock are shipped in from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. 2309 Ponce De Leon Blvd, Coral Gables; 305-444-1764; and various other locations; saborhavana.com.
Deco Drive Cigars
Deco Drive Cigars boasts a respectable walk-in humidor and lounge bar. The shop and factory has four locations in South Beach. The Lincoln Road spot has an impressive collection of Davidoff cigars that line the shelves of its long, narrow humidor. Arturo Fuente Hemingway series sell for $12 a pop, and customers can smoke their cigars while enjoying a cocktail or a bite at one of two inside bars, or the outdoor lounge area on Lincoln Road. A Cuban woman sits at the door, methodically rolling cigars where rap music blares from nearby speakers. 414 Lincoln Road, South Beach; 305 531-8388; and various other locations; decodrivecigars.com.
It’s Saturday night, and I walk towards the easy sound of a saxophone in Coconut Grove’s Cocowalk. I see the neon signs of Coco Cigars and ask about the most popular smokes: Romeo y Julieta, Arturo Fuente and Padron 1964 Anniversary. The Grove is loud with Commodore Plaza blocked off and a live band playing for the partying crowds. The shop displays quality cigar cutters, humidors and colorful pipes and hookahs. It sells a lot of cigarettes to the local bar hoppers and the most popular non-tobacco items are the cutters. 3015 Grand Ave., Suite 208, Coconut Grove; 305-442-9188.
The Village Humidor
This shop is similar to Coco Cigars, perhaps because there's an owner in common, but The Village Humidor includes a nice lounge area, complete with a huge television and plush, red couches. A customer, buys a couple of cigars, pops open a bottle of wine he brought to the store, and lights up. “I love it here,” he says among his smoke swirls. “I love the service.”
The shop gets a lot of the area’s professional crowd who come to watch the football game, equipped with wine and cheese. Every Tuesday night is Hookah Night, where customers can buy or rent a hookah and smoke any of the fruity tobacco flavors offered. 909 S. Miami Ave., Suite 174, Brickell; 305 377-0557; thevillagehumidor.com.