Monday, November 20, 2017
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Davidoff of Geneva cigar lounge in Tampa

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It's always good to have a place in mind should cause for a big celebration arise. A major career or life milestone, an unexpected cash windfall, a visit from an old friend — the kind of occasion that calls for splurging a little and enjoying a taste of the good life.

How big of a splurge can you imagine? In terms of bar tabs, are we talking low triple digits, or are we talking NBA star in a Vegas nightclub numbers? Here's some good news: You can accomplish both at Davidoff of Geneva since 1911 (the full, somewhat cumbersome name), Tampa's newish ultra-lavish cigar lounge.

You may recognize the name as belonging to Davidoff, the Swiss luxury cigar brand. Davidoff has a few lounges around the world, including one in Las Vegas, previously the sole domestic location. Tampa's Davidoff makes it two and, according to the company, it's the largest of its lounges, worldwide, at a roomy 5,000 square feet.

The interior is a spacious, one-room affair, with most of the floor space dedicated to cigars. It's temperature- and humidity-controlled, eliminating the need for a walk-in humidor — the whole place is a walk-in humidor. The glowing, orange-topped bar faces an impressive — or intimidating, depending on your perspective — bottle selection, lined up on library-style shelves, many accessible only by ladder.

Despite the luxurious setting, Davidoff feels very welcoming. You'll find a group of guys watching the game on the big screen in the corner, right next to impossibly scarce and pricey whiskies on display behind glass. Customers will be chatting cigars with the clerks up front. Bartenders will introduce themselves and make sure that you're never left waiting for a fresh drink. It's upscale, but it's not stuffy.

Tampa's Davidoff lounge is in partnership with Orlando's Corona Cigar Co., a chain of premium cigar shops and lounges on the other side of the state. I visited Corona's flagship location a few years back during a beer event and was struck by the fact that it sold mid 20th century Cuban cigars and rum. Since these products were produced before the U.S. trade embargo, they're perfectly legal to buy and sell, albeit at a fairly hefty price.

Davidoff also offers pre-embargo goods. Fancy a Cuban cigar? $400 will get you a very well-aged Partagas that's likely to be older than 90 percent of the patrons on any given day. Cuban rum? There are a few bottles from the 1930s to 1950s for $5,000 to $6,000 apiece.

Hey, we can all dream, right?

Although it would make for a hell of a story, most of us aren't in the market for this luxury. Fortunately, Davidoff has more than enough for the rest of us to choose from. The drink list includes some heavy reading, but there's an impressive amount of range in it.

A shot of Old Forester will only set you back $7, which truly is remarkable when considering that you're in a bar that sells 60-year-old Macallan for a price higher than most mortgage payments. A Manhattan made with 1940s-era Four Roses goes for $300, but there's also one made with the bar's exclusive "113.6-proof" (attention to detail noted) single-barrel Four Roses for a competitive $10.

In terms of marketing, the name Davidoff is associated with opulence and refined tastes, and this lounge is no exception. The decor, selection, level of service and overall experience are consistently high-end. There are lots of great cocktails bars and whisky joints in Tampa, but there's nothing quite like Davidoff's new lounge.

The addition of an ultra-premium cigar lounge and bar in Tampa is not, on its own, especially exciting. But the fact that Davidoff and Corona Cigar Co. have managed to open a place that can cater to such wildly different tastes, experiences and price points warrants attention.

If you're looking for something rare and exclusive, you'll want to check out Davidoff. In terms of splurgability, the ceiling is very high, indeed. But you don't need to drop the big bucks if you don't want to, and you won't be forced to pay a premium for the privilege of drinking in a house where thousand-dollar drink transactions also can be made. That's a classy touch, and one that makes Davidoff well worth a visit, celebration or not. [email protected]

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