Our Stan in Havana
July 14 2015

Our Stan in Havana

The Standard
My life takes me on some pretty spectacular journeys. As a matter of fact, there are few corners left on this globe where I haven't found myself…tipsy. Did you know that the people of the Guangdong province hadn’t even heard of a martini? Well, now they have, but I digress...

Recently, I had a chance to visit one of the most beautiful places on the planet — a little place I like to call, “koo-bah”—which I swear you can see from the roof of The Standard, Miami on a clear night. (You just have to squint your eyes really, really hard.)

Anyway, the Caribbean’s largest island has long been an interest of The Standard — from our recent New Cuba Conference in New York to Standard Press’ monograph detailing José Parlá and JR’s Havanese collaboration (to say nothing of Chef Mark’s feisty Cuban sandwich).

So when my dear friends at Cool Hunting invited me down for the Biennale, I grabbed my linens and puddle jumped 90 miles south and 50 years back in time to see those magnificent monuments of imperial yesteryear in person. Oh, the cathedrals! Oh, the Beaux-Arts facades! Naturally, I met all the most interesting and important people, dined in all the right houses, wandered down all the right alleys.

Throughout this summer, I’ll introduce you to some of the fascinating people and things I encountered in Cuba. But first a few highlights…

The Modernist Mobster Hotel

Any hotel or design enthusiast worth his salt knows the iconic Hotel Habana Riviera. How iconic? Well, when Castro finished his little coup d’état, he held his first ever press conference from the lobby. Built by the legendary mobster Meyer Lansky, the hotel still has its original fixtures, furniture and artwork. Even the bedroom coverlets are original. This is Mid-Century Modern in its most pristine, most pure form. Heaven.

Does that shape remind you of any other buildings? Maybe one straddling a certain High Line park?

Notice the coffin-esque shape of the pool? Lansky was one of the more ruthless mobsters of his time; also the man had great taste.

They Are Rolling So Hard Right Now

I’m not much of a cigar man, but when you get a chance to go inside a cigar factory in Cuba, light me up. How they make these things is really complicated, so I’ll just share with you a few fun facts...

• Each employee rolls an average 180-200 cigars a day. A factory can produce up to 22,000 cigars a day in total.

• Since they are, indeed, rolling so hard, all day, everyday, they have “readers” to entertain the floor. They read the newspaper, a magazine, or book over a loudspeaker. No one reads to me anymore.

• The leaves from the top of the tobacco plant are responsible for the taste of the cigar, while the middle of the plant provides its aroma. Finally, the leaves from the bottom of the plant, when dried, cured, and fermented, account for the slow burn.

• The “band” at the end of the cigar (usually denoting the brand) was introduced in the 20th century when “Westerners” were complaining that cigars stained their fingers.

• In addition to their salary, each employee is furnished with four cigars to take home daily. I’m afforded only three martinis a day as part of my contract and I just realized I need to fix that immediately.

Well that’s all for now. Check back this summer for more Cuban delights.