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Royal Tokaji - A Smoking Hot Opportunity
14 March 2012

The rapidly rising trend of cigar terraces at UK restaurants is opening up a surprisingly wide variety of drink-matching opportunities, writes Gabriel Savage in The Drinks Business.

If the drinks industry feels hard done by, it should spare a thought for the UK tobacco trade. You would be forgiven for thinking that the combined effect of 2007's smoking ban and prohibitive advertising legislation, not to mention an economic downturn, would have pushed this business into irreversible decline. Now, however, as if from nowhere, a trickle of activity has built momentum into a tangible trend: the cigar terrace. Known as
COSAs, or Comfortable Outdoor Smoking Areas, this phenomenon is not only injecting momentum into the UK cigar trade. These venues are also providing a welcome income boost for restaurants, while many drink firms are moving quickly to capitalise on the opportunities presented by these outlets.

'They've become destination spaces," comments Daniel Pink, London sales manager for Hunters & Frankau. "It takes 45 minutes, or 30 at least, to smoke a cigar - you can't stand out on the pavement all that time - you probably want a nice drink with it".

Tokaji might not be the first pairing that comes to mind with cigars, but Ben Howkins, director of the Royal Tokaji Company, has been winning people over to the combination for a number of years. As the smoking ban came in, it was Royal Tokaji which shared in the "final cigar hurrah" for members at Brooks7s, in the heart of London's St James's clubland.

Outlining the merits of this match, Howkins explains: " Aszu is chilled and rich and there's that searing acidity, which complements the warmth and fatness of a cigar." While suggesting that the sweetest essencia styles are "probably too complex and concentrated", Howkins recommends both five puttonyos and Tokaj's more modern late-harvest wines as the best cigar partners because of their freshness. What's more, notes Howkins, in contrast to more traditional cigar accompaniments, "a glass of Tokaji is 10% alcohol rather than 40%".

Extract: Gabriel Savage, The Drinks Business, Issue 115, February 2012