If you find yourself in Tampa, Fla. for a few days, chances are you’ll end up at the restaurant Columbia. A Spanish/Cuban restaurant in the Ybor City area, Columbia has been in business since 1905, making it the oldest restaurant in the state of Florida.
It’s a vast space with curved arches over the bar, indoor fountains and an extensive glass-walled wine room that showcases many wines from Spain and California. The restaurant is famous for its 1905 salad made from a trademarked recipe, deviled crab croquettes, paella and simple Cuban style dishes like ropa vieja served with perfectly sweet fried plantains and rice.
Scanning the drink menu, I wanted to order the pitcher of Sangria de Cava — and my adventurous friend Melonyce agreed to split it with me. I love white sangria and I created my own version in my book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion that’s available now on Amazon.com. Cava is the sparkling wine from Spain, typically crafted from the local grapes xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada using the same methods as champagne. Columbia uses Cristalino Brut Cava, which is crisp with lemon and apple flavors, a hint of minerality and nice bubbles. Made in Spain’s Penedes region by Jaume Serra winery, Cristalino is very easy to find in your local wine shop and a favorite of many for its quality and affordable price – usually under $10.
Our waiter brought out all the ingredients including a half bottle of Cristalino Brut Cava and then mixed the white sparkling sangria table-side. As he worked, I jotted down the recipe for Columbia’s Sangria de Cava.
Columbia’s Sangria de Cava
2 flat wheels of orange, cut in half
4 flat wheels of lime, cut in half
2 flat wheels of lemon, cut in half
1 shot orange liqueur
1 shot brandy
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon and lime juice combined
1 shot simple syrup (see note)
1/2 bottle brut cava
2 maraschino cherries
Add orange, lime and lemon slices to a sturdy glass pitcher. Using a wooden spoon or a muddler, smash the fruit to release its juices. Add the orange liqueur, brandy, juices and simple syrup to the pitcher. Stir and then top off with the chilled cava. Garnish each glass with a maraschino cherry.
Note: To make simple syrup, mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Let cool and store in a clean bottle for up to two weeks. It’s an easy way to sweeten tea and lemonade without any pesky sugar crystals.
Serves 2 people.