Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

How To Make a Cuban Cigar

Before I'd had the pleasure of actually visiting the place, the card filed under "Miami" in the battered cabinets of my mental library read as follows: Don Johnson, white shoes, Will Smith, the film "Miami Super Cops" by Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill and the phrase "sexy mamacita".

Of course I knew Miami was just a bracing 90 mile swim from The People's Republic of Cuba, and had been heavily influenced by Latin American cultures, so I'm not sure why I didn't think of cigars.

I should have, because along with bums, boobs, mojitos and fedoras, if there's one thing you'll find in abundance in Miami it's cigars. And that smell.  It's everywhere you are. In bars and malls, in cars and on the beach.

Men sit in sun chairs chew on Ocean Drive, chewing fat brown nubs and rolling fat tobacco sausages around in their mouths with thumb and forefinger.

The best cigars are to be had in Little Havana, the Cuban quarter of the city where tourists go but the people and the lifestyle are real and authentic.

Little Havana is where our bus tour of the city stopped, to visit a proper Cuban cigar factory - a small shop, really - and to see its elderly proprietor making his famous product the old-fashioned way.

The man, the driver told us, once made cigars in his native Cuba before being jailed by Castro for twenty years, for whatever reason it is that Castro jailed his own people.

When the man was released, he made his way to the US and set up his little factory in Miami and got his leaves from Florida tobacco farms.

He was still making cigars the day went, tailoring the tobacco leaves with a cutting tool so sharp it glided through them like butter.

You can see him at work in the video below.