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Cigar Czars

Luxe Club Macanudo
Where can a refined fellow mingle with like-minded gentlemen in a place that's as exclusive as it is comfortable?

The speak-easies of old oozed charm, but those pesky Mafia affiliations didn't scream "genteel." Today, men bond over football and beer in sports bars, where male camaraderie is potent -- but so is the Axe body spray and the truck driver next to you.

Weathering the storm of smoking bans sweeping the country, cigar lounges have emerged as the new clubs, offering their discerning clientele a way to mingle with the best society while holding up against tough cigar connoisseurs (no underground crime record required).

Haven Away From Havana

Victoria McKee, spokeswoman for Club Macanudo in New York City's Upper East Side, calls cigar clubs the antithesis of metrosexual.

"[The customers say,] 'I'm going to be a man's man and go with my buddies after work to have a cigar, a glass of red wine and a steak,'" says McKee.

But this is no girls-keep-out establishment: Females make up 25% of the clientele who are willing to dare the fragrant smoke, McKee claims, for quality cigars paired with quality men.

"If I was a single woman in the city, I would be at Club Macanudo," says McKee. "It's a wonderful class of people. We should get Jennifer Aniston in here."

Aniston would be right at home with the celebrities and, surprisingly, the star athletes who prefer a respite from the spotlight or the protein-shake lifestyle.

Even the younger hedge-fund crowd has been puffing Punches and Cohibas next to seasoned CEOs.

While not a private establishment, mentioning Club Macanudo conjures membership and exclusivity.

The inside looks like a gentlemen's club from London. Warm ambers and soft leather furniture amid walls of humidors evoke a welcoming living-room sensation, enhanced just a little by whichever single-malt scotch is in one's snifter.

Attention to detail is key: If you look closely, you'll see that the design on the walls is actually thousands of tobacco leaf prints.

Like all renowned cigar lounges, Macanudo is discerning about whom it lets in the door, with a strict (albeit recently relaxed) dress code.

Those who lease private humidors receive special privileges such as priority seating and are included in a VIP fraternity of celebrities and business tycoons who frequent the club.

General Cigar Company, a subsidiary of Swedish Match (SWMAF), opened the club in 1996 as an embodiment of Macanudo, the No. 1 premium handcrafted cigar brand in the U.S.

The 63rd St. Martini

"Cigars can be the great equalizer," McKee explains, who says that the spot serves as a social club where a mutual appreciation for tobacco and the finer things provides an alternative to boring conversations about wind chill and precipitation.

As the cigar industry enjoys an increase in popularity, McKee notes, people are most likely pulled to cigar clubs by the forbidden-fruit phenomenon in the midst of a smoke-free city.

"This is a haven ... to come and smoke cigars without apology," she says. Here, you can enjoy a small-sized Macanudo for $10 or a Partagas 160 for $60.

Of course, all Macanudo's staff can talk shop with any enthusiast and assure that someone green in cigar knowledge doesn't assume a similarly tinted complexion. More often, questions revolve around what cigars and drinks make the most striking match.

The big secret: pair body to body.

To view Annika Mengisen's video take of today's Good Life segment, click here .
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