New York’s First Cigar Sommelier
Meet Michael Dounoulis, AKA “Mike the Greek,” Astoria’s very own cigar sommelier. Mike has certainly earned his career title by being the first certified cigar sommelier in all of New York state. As General Manager of the SoHo Cigar Bar, a cigar and cocktail lover’s paradise, Mike has an extensive knowledge of cigars, or as he likes to call them, “hand-rolled delights.” He’s visited tobacco farms and factories around the US and Caribbean which allowed him to significantly master his craft.
He says that trade shows in Vegas are the highlight of his job: “attending events with the creators of your favorite cigar brands is unreal. We talk tobacco for hours and trade cigars over fine spirits and cocktails. It’s a dream to me.” A dream that he couldn’t resist bringing to our little borough.
The SoHo Cigar Bar is currently closed due to COVID-19, but while we wait for NYC to reopen, Mike is providing his cigar consulting services through the NY/NJ area as well as on Zoom. His online class includes a “tasting” (cigars provided), while educating customers on both the production of cigars and the art of actually smoking one.
A notable event Mike has co-hosted and one to look out for in 2021 is Cigar Night at Nino’s AQ. This private soiree on Ditmars Boulevard includes a six-course meal, four different libations, lots of laughs and of course, only the finest cigars. Together, Mike and Michael Vendome, owner of Nino’s AQ, have created and will be launching their own cigar label, “a fun attempt to combine the two complexities of fine dining and premium cigars.” They look forward to hosting more events in the near future.
According to this local aficionado, there are a few basic tips for choosing a quality cigar. “When looking at a box of cigars in a shop, see if the color of the cigar matches the rest in the box. This ensures the factory has strict quality control and most likely is the same way with the rest of the steps in production. Another fun fact: the torpedo-shaped top means it is well-rolled and will puff great! Cigar factories only let very experienced rollers make this shape.” Mike’s top five brands of 2020 include Pichardo, Crowned Heads, J London, Perdomo and Room 101. Take notes!
Michael Dounoulis is a class act through and through. He inspires those around him with his entrepreneurial spirit while blazing a path for future NY cigar somms. If you have the chance to smoke a cigar with him in person or virtually, it will most definitely be “lit.”