Cubans ask, 'Why not a beer or cocktail with that cigar?'
By Daniel Trotta
HAVANA Feb 24 (Reuters) - Cuba's annual cigar festival is telling the world's cigar-smokers it is perfectly fine to enjoy a Havana with a beer or a vodka or a cocktail.
The cigar's exclusive image has long been built on the tradition of the after-dinner smoke accompanied by a brandy or a cognac or a whiskey.
The beer-and-cocktail campaign aims to modernize this image and adapt to global anti-smoking laws, which have led to outdoor smoking venues where cold drinks are often more popular, said Ana Lopez Garcia, marketing director for Cuban cigar distributor Habanos S.A.
"What's new is that the Havana is being wedded to products that perhaps traditionally have been reserved for other occasions," Lopez Garcia told a news conference on Monday, between puffs on her cigar.
The 16th Havana Festival, the world's premier cigar event, began on Monday and will conclude on Friday with a gala dinner and auction, when cigar-buyers bid on cigars and humidors to raise money for Cuba's healthcare system.
Habanos S.A., a joint venture between state company Cubatabaco and Altadis, a Spanish company owned by Britain's Imperial Tobacco Group, says it is promoting new "alliances" for the Havana.
One night of the festival is dedicated to beer, when smokes will be paired with one Cuban brand of beer and four others from Belgium.
On another night, vodka gets a special session, followed by pairings of cigars with different cocktails. Continuación...