Ybor City’s Columbia Restaurant now has its very own line of spirits to honor the people who founded the family business more than 100 years ago.
Richard Gonzmart, a fourth generation family member of Florida’s Oldest Restaurant, The Columbia, has created a private label spirits line honoring first and second generation family members of the 106-year-old Columbia.
Don Casimiro Classic Silver Rum: In 1902 Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., the “Don” of the Hernandez-Gonzmart generations left his home in Havana for a new life in Ybor City, Fla., the cigar capital of the world, with his wife, Adela, and four sons. He started the Saloon Columbia. Grateful to be in the land of opportunity, he adopted the name of his new café from the popular song “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean”.
A fun-loving man, Don Casimiro soon became known for his foresight, generosity, kindness to strangers, good food and love of a great rum. 1929 ushered the second generation into the business, led by Casimiro, Jr., who carried on the dream and passions of his father. Here’s to Don Casimiro Sr. and Jr.; a glass of the finest rum they enjoyed so much!
Chacho Bourbon Whiskey: Evelio “Chacho” Hernandez, the youngest son of Casimiro Hernandez Sr., roasted coffee for the family business for over 55 years. Chacho, short for “muchacho” or “the kid,” was known for his youthful warm-heartedness and zest for life.
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 to move Chacho, and the mill, to the corner of 21st St and 7th Ave. and build a firewall to protect the family business.
Gonzmart has also created three new drinks to showcase these new spirits:
- El Floridita Daiquiri: This is the original Daiquiri invented in the 1930’s by Casimiro Hernandez’s friend, Constante Ribalaigua, owner of Old Havana’s landmark bar, El Floridita. The Daiquiri was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cocktail and Casimiro brought back this secret recipe after a visit with his friend. Don Casimiro Classic Silver Rum is served with a fresh lime juice, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and a splash of grapefruit, shaken and served on the rocks in a sugar-rimmed glass.
- Mint Julep: Casimiro Jr. enjoyed horse racing, especially the Kentucky Derby. He also enjoyed Mint Juleps so much that in the back lot of the Columbia in Ybor City, he would grow fresh mint to serve the most refreshing summer cocktail in Tampa. The drink is served in a muddled fresh mint in a pewter Mint Julep cup, filled with cracked ice, Casimiro’s secret mint simple syrup, Chacho Bourbon and topped with fresh mint.
- Chacho Manhattan: Honoring our great uncle, Evelio “Chacho” Hernandez was the youngest son of the founder, Casimiro Hernandez Sr. At the turn of the 20th century, Ybor City was filled with guava orchards. Chacho’s love of guavas inspired him to use guava syrup in the Classic Manhattan. He mixed premium small batch Chacho Bourbon, a dash of guava syrup, sweet vermouth and bitters. It is then stirred and poured over ice, garnished with lemon and orange zest.
Don Casimiro Classic Silver Rum and Chacho Bourbon Whiskey will be served in all seven Columbia locations in Florida, and sold in gift shops adjacent to the Columbia in Tampa’s Ybor City, and in Sarasota on St. Armands Circle.