GATHER 'round, let me tell you about an old friend. Goes by the name of Jake. Jake's Cigars and Spirits, rather, but for our purposes, we'll call him Jake.

Jake is there, drink in hand, to greet you on chilly Nebraska nights. In his other hand is a cigar, meticulously selected — just for you. And as you depart his company for the evening, our old buddy even has a six-pack or a bottle of wine for the road. He's quite generous, this Jake character.

Jake's Cigars and Spirits is not only conveniently located for people who work or reside in the Benson area, but it's also user-friendly for any type of drinker — casual weekend revelers and connoisseurs alike.

There are three sections to Jake's: the retail store that faces Maple Street; a large, open bar that spills onto Military Avenue; and a second, more intimate bar and cigar room sandwiched in between the spaces, also with its own entrance off of Military.

Let's begin in the middle, where Jake's houses its top-shelf spirits and the cigar room. I can't personally comment about the tobacco, as I don't partake, but word of mouth indicates that their selection is among the best in Omaha and the surrounding area. There's never a shortage of cigar enthusiasts present, and though smells can waft into the other areas, smoke doesn't hinder a nonsmoker's good night.

Meanwhile, this section also features an impressive collection of whiskeys and other premium liquors. On our last visit, my husband ordered an Old Rip Van Winkle. At less than $15, his pour was well worth the price. A recent Facebook post promoted a flight with Old Rip Van Winkle, Van Winkle Lot B and Pappy Van Winkle — one ounce each — for $30, though I can't imagine this sampler lasted very long.

Jake's larger space is where most folks are likely to visit. The bar offers your standard fare for Benson — a focus on craft beer and well-curated drinks. Jake's rotates through a menu of seasonally appropriate infused liquors and cocktails created from such. Current flavors revolve around holiday spices, like cinnamon and vanilla.

Another highlight, at least for me, is Jake's commitment to sour and wild ales. There's always at least one on tap, and in recent years, the bar has showcased sours during Omaha Beer Week, dedicating at least one night to the on-trend beer style.

All in all, Jake's is a great place to kick back and enjoy the company of friends on the weekend or a good book after work.

And last but not least, Jake's retail store is Benson's best bet for take home smokes and spirits. The selection includes everything from domestics to seasonal offerings and rare finds, like Boulevard's Love Child and big whiskey releases. My husband pops in about once a week while he's walking our dog — Norman the Shiba Inu is allowed in Jake's, a big plus for us — to check out the new inventory.

Whether you're looking for a laidback evening in the middle, a wild night in the back or a six-pack or cigar to go, our old buddy Jake is there for you.

JAKE'S CIGARS & SPIRITS

Where: 6206 Maple St.

When: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Info: jakescigars.com or 402-934-9633

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