Florida: Ybor City, Tampa

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As a native of Kentucky, which produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon supply, I’m always interested in bourbon being produced elsewhere. On a recent weekend in Tampa, Fla., I saw the above bottles on a shelf in the gift shop at The Columbia, an excellent restaurant in Ybor City, Tampa’s Latin quarter. (Love the tie!)

When I looked it up at home, I discovered that this 121-proof bourbon was created by Richard Gonzmart, fourth-generation restaurateur, to honor Evelio “Chacho” Hernandez, the youngest son of the restaurant’s founder, who roasted coffee for the family business for over 55 years.

Chacho, which is short for ‘muchacho’ or ‘the kid,’ was known for his youthful warm-heartedness and zest for life,” say Columbia press materials. “But his love of bourbon sometimes surpassed his love of roasting the best coffee in Ybor City. Chacho was legendary for the countless batches of coffee that burned while ‘enjoying’ his whiskey at the Rex bar across the street from The Columbia. In fact, the coffee roaster caught the restaurant on fire so often that the family decided it was time to move Chacho and the mill to the corner of 21st St and 7th Ave., and built a firewall to protect the family business.”

Alas, my suitcase was already pushing the weight limit, so I didn’t purchase a bottle. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s tried Chacho Bourbon.

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If you’re ever in Tampa, I urge you to have a meal at The Columbia. Founded in 1905, it’s billed as “Florida’s Oldest Restaurant.” We enjoyed a fantastic Cuban sampler platter and the restaurant’s signature 1905 Salad, tossed tableside with a garlic dressing and the “secret ingredient”: Worcestershire sauce.

To accompany the meal, we tried the Sangria de Cava, one sip of which, the menu promised, “will transport you to the sunny coast of Spain.” Also made tableside, below, it combined Spanish Cava, brandy and orange liqueur with citrus juices.

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Below is the final result. If I wasn’t actually transported to sunny Spain, it was a pretty good substitute on a stormy afternoon in Florida.

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After your meal, be sure to stroll down Ybor City’s Seventh Avenue, a heady mix of cigar and coffee shops, bars, restaurants, music venues and local art.

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2 Responses to Florida: Ybor City, Tampa

  1. Mark says:

    Chacho is not good bourbon. Full stop. No qualifiers.

    That said, it is an excellent story and for those who enjoy tasting and collecting bourbon there are worse bottles to have in your collection for the story value alone.

    Just don’t drink it.

    PS – yes I realize I’m about two years late in my reply but I didn’t see any other comments so figured I’d at least chime in.

    PPS – I am writing this with my second Chacho and ginger of the night in hand. I’ve never been good at following my own advice.

  2. thebourbonbabe says:

    Ha! I love it. Thanks for the expert testimonial. It IS a great back story, isn’t it?

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The Bourbon Babe