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October 13, 2011

Liquid Living Magazine


1805 E. 7th Avenue Ybor City, FL


Located at 1805 East 7th Avenue in the heart of Ybor City , Gaspar's Grotto is one of the world's great watering holes and event venues. No trip to Florida is complete without a visit.

In March of 2006, co-owner Eric Schiller (AKA Ehab) was pirated away from Gaspar’s to join our International team of judges. For two days, poor Eric was required to sip, sample and submit ratings and comments on 58 different cachaca & rum entries at the Tasting Competition portion of the International Cane Spirits Festival®—and then go to work!

As the 2 nd Annual Festival approaches, we thought we’d stop in to ruminisce, and, to see if he’d like to do it all over again. A resounding YES was heard from the crow’s nest.

We were pleased to see that Eric has been ‘spreading the good word’ about Cane Spirits to his customers. Shere & Eric Schiller, ever the innovators, introduced formal Rum Tastings for customers who’d dare to ‘sip through’ Eric’s fanciful rumblings.

Q: We see you started a Rum Tasting Program. When did you begin this program?

Eric: Of course, the light bulb went on during the judging, that this was so much fun, we could do something like it at the bar. We sell it to the public but, more often, to small corporate groups. People really enjoy it (or is it my ribald stories that accompany the Tasting?) I give the results to the customer after I stamp the card with a Gaspar’s Seal. It’s their certification and a coupon for their next Tasting.

Q: How many people have completed the Rum Tasting Program?

Eric: I’d guess 200 so far. It’s very intensive for me to do it well, and when 1 or 2 folk walk in to do it, I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I’m involved in doing something else.

Q: Were you ‘rum savvy’ prior to the judging?

Eric: Mildly savvy, maybe.

Q: What brands were among your favorites prior to the Competition?

Eric: I liked Myers and Appleton, darker rums with a little more taste than the Bacardi Light that dominates

Q: During the judging, were there any surprises?

Eric: I was surprised by the many varieties and flavors. Still, I am developing my taste and palate. I’m getting better but am still not there. It’s a fun journey.

Q: What were your recollections of the judging, after all was completed?

Eric: The judging was very professional, serious, orderly and very well done. I did not at all enjoy the pressure to taste all the cachacas in one sitting. They are too rough on me and I felt like I did not contribute meaningful data in their judging. I would have liked to taste more flavored rums.

Q: Have you added more rums to your inventory?

Eric: Prior to the Competition, we had Bacardi Light, Bacardi 151, Appleton, Myers, Pyrat, a popular spiced rum and a few of the flavors. Now we have those plus 40 different others on the back bar and if space were available, I would have 20 or 30 more in the storeroom. We try everything--good, bad or indifferent. We have three kinds of cachacas as well. I’m still the only guy in Tampa to make a Caipirinha that the average person will enjoy. It’s in the wrist when you muddle…you’ve got to release the peel oils.

Q: Any trends?

Eric: Flavors are in favor

Q: What is your best selling classic rum cocktail?

Eric: Rum and coke by a factor of 6. My Saturday night Latin crowd bangs it down hard and they really don’t care whose rum it is. It’s my feeling that many don’t actually know that they are drinking rum. Bacardi & Coke is it and that’s that to them. If you said “What kind of spirit is Bacardi?” and “What is it made from?” some might not know.

Q: Have you developed any new rum concoctions that customers enjoy?

Eric: We use ½ a shot of 267 Mango Infusion, ½ shot of 267 Pineapple Infusion and 1 part Monster Energy Drink. It’s unreal and people are going nuts. It’s being copied all down the street but most owners don’t want to pay for the 267 Infusions because they are expensive. We charge $7 a shot and it’s worth it. I predict a new sensation. They work really well in the neon plastic Jager bomb glasses.

Q: Are there any cocktails (or rum servings) that are commanding a higher price that the Festival might have impacted?

Eric: Absolutely. The exposure that Zacapa got at the Columbia is showing. It seems that everybody wants to try the 23 Year Old. We sell it at a premium. Personally, I liked the old bottles better than the new ones. The new bottle is nice but the old one was unmistakable.

Q: Will you continue to host the Tasting Program?

Eric: Absolutely. It’s part of what we do. We get a bunch of guys in there, light up some good stogies, I tell a few ribald classics. Everybody relaxes. We swap a few lies. Taste a few rums. Tanker Ray the Barcat makes an attempt to preside. Ah, life is good. Who needs a million bucks?

Q: Are there any other events that might e considered ‘rum-centric’ for Gaspar’s scheduled this year?

Eric: The Puerto Rican Festival is in April. It’s one of our biggest days of the year. I’ll have a lot of Cruzan and Bacardi on hand for that although during the day it’s a beer drinking crowd. They switch up as the sun goes down.

An incomplete listing of all cane spirits (rum, rhum & cachaca) that you’ll now find at Gaspar’s Grotto


267 Pineapple Infusion, 267 Mango Infusion, Angostura 1919, Angostura 5 YO, Bacardi 8, Bacardi Anejo, Barbancourt 15 YO, Brugal Anejo, Brugal White, Brugal Gold, Calico Jack, Cruzan Black Strap, Cruzan Dark, Cruzan Diamond Estate 2 YO, Cruzan Diamond Estate 5YO, Cruzan Single Barrel, Cruzan Rum Cream, Distillers Choice Silver, Distillers Choice Gold, Flor de Cana Black, Goslings Gold, Goslings Old Rum, Jolly Roger, Matusalem Clasico, Matusalem Gran Reserva, Montecristo 12 YO, Mount Gay Eclipse, Mount Gay Extra Old, One Barrel, Old Oak, Panama Jack, Plantation 8 YO, Plantation Grande Reserve, Planter’s Gold XO, Pussers, Pyrat XO, Red Rum, Sailor Jerry, Sailors Spiced, Sailors Coco, Sailors Cherry, Saint James, Tropicana Coconut, Voodoo Rum, Zacapa Centenario 23 YO, Zaya

About Gaspar’s Grotto

Strong Drink and tasty grub abound here. Did you know that pirates invented Barbeque? Well they did while lighting false signal fires to lure ships aground! Try original pirate Barbeque, Cajun Style at Gaspar's Grotto. (Jean Laffite would be proud)

The eclectic and quirky atmosphere, employees and customers, are sure to send the visitor home with a story and a smile from this event venue. Famous entertainers, artists, politicians, sports figures and other celebrities frequent Gaspar's Grotto. Don't miss the world famous bar cat extraordinaire, Tanker Ray. He is undoubtedly this generation's most famous living feline (see www.catcall.org TANKER RAY). Sample some of Tanker Ray's BARCAT BEER for a real treat! Keep a weather eye out for Captain Ehab, the piratical re-incarnation of the proprietor's deeply suppressed alter ego.