Driving the Malecón around the bay, my companion and I, traveled to a part of Havana that we would have never thought to experience. As we were enjoying the sites during the drive, the taxi driver said something in Spanish that puzzled me. Though I don’t speak Spanish, I recognize distress in pretty much any language. It turns out he was repeating the address for Río Mar, the restaurant we were heading to for the distinct pleasure of attending a Rum and Cigar pairing. Not able to speak Spanish myself, I just repeated the address back and showed it to him in writing. Crisis seemingly averted we continued around the Malecón.
Eventually, we reached a neighborhood around the bay and the driver, unsure himself where the place was, stopped to ask about the restaurant’s specific location and continued on around a couple of more corners. Pulling up to the location, which did not look as expected, the driver flagged down a handsome gentleman standing at the gate who assured us that we had found Río Mar. We were led through the courtyard of what looked like an old home and were escorted out to the back deck on the river. The view was wonderful.
Just across the river was the La Glorieta Mudéjar restaurant (which the dome was under construction). One can also see a good stretch of the Malecón. There was plenty of seating on the deck and it seemed as though the seats along the outside near the railing were reserved for groups, but with the view being what it was, we gravitated to a table closest to the railing to have an unfettered view of the beauty of Cuba.
The Maitre D’ introduced himself and presented us with the cigar, a Trinidad Robusto T, and explained that he would start us with the cigar while he prepared the rums. Looking at the cigar it was a bit toothy. “Toothy” can be difficult to explain and can often get confused with grainy. According to David “Doc” Diaz, of Stoogie Fresh:
“Tooth refers to the sandy bumps on a wrapper, which is a naturally-occurring characteristic of certain tobacco strains (e.g., Cameroon). Grain is the white speckles on the wrapper ash, and is the sign of excessive magnesium and potash. You could have a wrapper that was toothy and also grainy, but you could also have a wrapper that didn’t have tooth and yet exhibited grain.”
Did you know?
A little bit on Cigar Science and tastes from country to country.
There’s a lot of Cigar science out there and if you’re interested in knowing more, I would recommend reading up a few key terms. However, if you’re a ‘taste and see’ type, then a pairing is for you too. I enjoy both aspect of the experience and thankfully, a centimeter into the cigar, the Maitre D’ introduced the rums. “Santiago de Cuba”, Ron “Santero Anejo 11”, and Havana Club “Seleccion de Maestros” were chosen for this pairing event and being strictly Cuban rums, I had not had the pleasure of tasting these before.
The Santiago de Cuba was the low end of the three and was a little rough. The Santero Anejo 11 was a little smoother, but the Seleccion de Maestros was excellent – smooth, light, and slightly sweet. The Maitre D’ then explained that by tasting the rum and noting the flavor and then tasting the cigar and noting its flavor, what we were looking for was whether or not the flavor of either the cigar or the rum overpowered each other. For example, if you drink the rum and can still taste it after a puff of the cigar, then the rum is too strong and does not pair well with the cigar; the same with the reverse. The tastes should be somewhat equal. One should not overpower the other.
And now the plot twist.
The tapas… Ceviche, pulled lamb, and another lobster dish were served during the pairing and they were delightful! What was really interesting was the difference the food had in the taste of the cigar. Not only that, each dish affected the rum and cigar pairings. For example, one of the rums paired evenly with the cigar; however, when adding the taste of the food, that particular rum no longer paired well.
Overall, my takeaway was that when enjoying an evening of cigars and alcohol (rum, scotch, bourbon, etc) deciding on a particular cigar you want to enjoy affects the decision as to what drink you choose to socialize with. Again, one should not overpower the other. The reverse is true for the chosen drink, and if you add food….the experiment continues.