The first time I smoked hookah, the initial inhalation was harsh. The second was smooth, and the silky smoke embraced all the space between my two cheeks. My tongue was tickled with mint-flavored shisha. As the smoke pushed out of my pursed lips, the tension left my muscles.
With a hookah, words flow easier for everyone. It's a social smoke. A hookah session is an experience, and experiences are made by the people you share them with. Firas Salamander, owner of Fire & Ice Hookah Lounge (80 Campbell Ave., West Haven; 203-988-0680, fireandicehookah.com), says "while I love smoking hookah my biggest interest is the people that I meet when I am smoking."
Fire & Ice Hookah Lounge offers a modern and Middle Eastern atmosphere to relax and smoke in. They attract a crowd of 21 and up. It's BYOB but you may want to bring a little extra wine, to use instead of water as your base. On weekends, they have DJs and belly dancers for entertainment.
For others, hookah offers something new each time it is smoked. "My favorite thing about hookah is all the different flavors of shisha. It never gets boring," Ajim Khan, owner of La Sheesh Hookah Lounge (78 Church St., New Haven; 203-545-5266) said.
Flavors range from exotic combinations like Blue Mist (like a blue jolly rancher but better) to rose. And hundreds of fruit flavors combine for smoothie-like results. (This hookah lover highly recommends mixing vanilla and orange; it tastes just like a creamsicle.)
La Sheesh opened in May of 2010 and offers tobacco-free flavors only. It's also BYOB and offers food in an Indian-influenced, contemporary American atmosphere. It primarily attracts college students. And a few blocks away you'll find Mediterranea Café (140 Orange St., New Haven; 203-624-0589, mediterraneacafe.org), which offers Italian and Middle Eastern food. It's BYOB, and ages 19 and up. (Oh yeah, there's belly dancers, too.)
If you're looking to impress the people you're with, it doesn't hurt to know a few smoke tricks. Smoke rings are difficult to get the hang of at first but they're a lot of fun. First, get a nice long hit. Next, draw your tongue back while keeping the tip pressed down against the bottom. Now, shape your mouth in an "O" while making your lips in an "ooh" sound. (You'll look like a complete goof. It's worth it.) Then, make a small guttural grunt, like a sigh — but draw from yourthroat, not your vocal chords. You should, with practice, be making perfect smoke rings.