Few concepts conjure up as consistent a set of mental images as the cigar bar. Indeed, mere mention of it brings to mind a sort of Ron Burgundy absurdist cornucopia of status symbols and underpinning philosophies, a male-o-centric world of leather-bound books (or, at the very least, chairs), rich mahogany and gender roles as progressive as they are in the fictionalized world of everyone’s favorite anchorman.
Even in this city, as far from 1970s San Diaahgo as you can get, our major stogie staging ground until fairly recently was the old Mahogany on Walnut, a comforting if relatively hidebound spot for puffing away a few pleasant hours.
Recently, however, it was replaced by the infinitely more welcoming Ashton Cigar Bar. With its arrival, cigar smoking in Philly has officially come into the 21st century.
The build-out itself is stunning, and the clean-lined space, with its exposed bricks, pretty woods, and metallic accents, makes you want to spend more time there than it takes to puff your way through a Robusto, a Corona, a Churchill.
As for the cigar selection, it’s every bit as well-considered as you would expect from the team that brought us Holt’s. From an amazing range of eponymous Ashtons to lust-worthy Padrons and beyond, this is some sort of tobacco-leaf Valhalla for passionate puffers and rookies alike.
But it’s the staff that makes Ashton Cigar Bar a place I plan on frequenting: They are not only welcoming, but also exceptionally knowledgeable. They can each explain why each specialty cocktail has been paired with a specific cigar, as adeptly as speaking with you about your own flavor preferences (and discerning a stogie that’s well matched to whatever it is you’re drinking).
I recently swooned over the interaction between the Whiskey Revelation—Woodford Reserve, Amaro Nonino, orange and aromatic bitters and a garnish of a flamed orange peel, the entirety perfumed with Green Chartreuse—and an excellent San Cristobal Elegancia Robusto, the gentle spice of the tobacco a perfect foil for the subtle sweetness of the cocktail.
Of course, you could just as easily stick with a whiskey from the astounding selection or a spirit of another color. And the small menu, which leans in the direction of nuts, meats and cheeses, is straightforward yet thoughtful. Overall, this is exactly the sort of place that embodies just what contemporary cigar bars should be: Welcoming, educational when needed but never pedantic, and all too easy to lose hours and hours in. And happily so.