Let’s Roll: A Cigar Lover’s Guide to the City’s Hottest Tabaquerías

RIGHT in our backyards, and nestled in various neighborhoods throughout the city, are a variety of cigar shops maintaining the old practices of smoke rolling – some dating back to the indigenous people of the islands – offering New Yorkers some of the freshest stogies outside Santo Domingo or Havana.

The secret to hand-rolling is binding just the right amount of tobacco tightly enough to burn slowly and evenly – but not so tightly that the customer has to work to draw smoke.

The craftsmen, who normally start as children learning to roll small, cheap cigars, get paid by the stogie: the bigger the cigar, the higher the pay. A good cigar roller can make about 350 cigars in a day – and can earn up to $400 per shift turning out big or hard-to-make cigars.

The beauty of these quaint spots is not only the fact that they roll cigars right in front of you – but that they let you taste the exquisite gems inside the stores.

While most of the shops are clustered near Penn Station, serious smokers will find big bargains Uptown at Portes Cigar, the tobacco-lovers’ mecca in Inwood for over five years.

Portes’ unassuming décor is part of the charm and as Kecia Portes, daughter of owner José, says, “it’s how it is in the Dominican Republic” – complete with a live rooster. The rooster, José’s pet, oversees this tabaquería which uses tobacco grown on a family farm in the Dominican Republic.

The Portes family also runs Quisqueyana Cigars, a fancy smoke shop on Church Street, just north of the Financial District. The selection is essentially the same as the uptown store, but the stogies are aesthetically perfect – and much more expensive, a reflection of a demanding clientele and much higher rent.

Cigars are hand-rolled in this shop Wednesdays through Fridays, and the rest are rolled at Portes uptown. Like Portes, there is a wide selection of sizes and shapes including tapered Hemingway-style cigars.

At his family cigar shop on West 29th Street, Jesus Martinez recommends customers try the $5 Don Antonio, a 50×6 (a little over three-quarters of an inch in diameter and six inches long) cigar he calls “a tribute to my father,” Antonio Martinez, who founded the business 29 years ago. Business is brisk, Martinez Cigars sells an average of 500 to 600 cigars a week, all of them rolled on premises.

The cigars at La Rosa Cubana on Sixth Avenue aren’t from Cuba, they just taste that way, according to Frank Almanzar, who runs the second-floor shop near Herald Square. The Cuban-seed tobacco, grown mostly in the Dominican Republic and hand-rolled in the store, yields a smooth cigar that tastes like the legendary Cohiba, Almanzar said.

Open six days a week, La Rosa Cubana also sells accessories like cutters and lighters.

There are plenty of hand-rolled stogies at Sanchez Cigars on West 30th Street, but you can’t watch them being made there – for now.

Johann Sanchez said the store is waiting for a license to resume on-site production, but he still offers an array of hand-rolled goodies at modest prices, popular with local cops, firefighters and soldiers. The tobacco comes from a range of countries, including Ecuador, Indonesia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Peru.


Portes Cigars 599 W. 204th St. between Sherman and Post streets.

Quisqueyana Cigars 165 Churct St. between Chambers and Reade streets.

Martinez Cigars 171 West 29th St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues

La Rosa Cubana 862 Sixth Ave., between 30th and 31st Streets, 2nd floor

Sanchez Cigars 265 W. 30th St., between Seventh and Eighth avenues


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About Martinez Cigars

Jesus Martinez, OwnerSince 1974, Martinez Hand Rolled Cigars Factory has produced some of the very finest cigars available anywhere in the world. All Martinez Cigars are made by hand in our factory in midtown
New York City...read more
t: 212-239-4049
e: sales@martinezcigars.com

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