Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pick your poison: Fuma Bella, Ybor City

Fuma Bella is Italian for “nice smoke.”

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 10:24 AM

click to enlarge CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner

It's the signature bevvie because: “My favorite bourbon or rye cocktail is actually a very simple highball with Vernors ginger ale and blood orange bitters," says herb-spice-liquor alchemist Charlie Doan. “Its name is your name.”

The bar’s masterminds: Doan began working at Fuma Bella in April 1998, a month after the bar opened. “Durke [Schmidt] took over as the anchor/weekend barman in November 2012 while I ventured out into the world to make a living from my flamenco dancing."

Ambience: Intimate, sometimes overflowing, like the steamer room scene in the Marx Brothers’ Night at the Opera. The diminutive spot offers a tiny bar and a few high-top tables, and has a staggering selection of bourbons, whiskeys, liqueurs and other spirits. At first blush, Fuma appears to have been conceived as a cigar lounge — Fuma Bella is Italian for “nice smoke” — but it has evolved into a hangout for local artists, academics and musicians, with Doan’s vivid expressionistic paitings adorning brick walls and a marlin-straddling Pee Wee Herman doll perched over the bar. Changes in the past 2 years include a switch to a smoke-free environment on Mondays — “We get the irony,” Doan adds — a happy hour on Monday and Bloody Mary Sundays, 1-8 p.m.

Best time to go: Sundays for Bloody Marys, during shows at neighboring New World Brewery for a crowd, Monday happy hours for a mellower mood.

Don’t miss: “The Red Curry Bloody Mary is stupid whacked-goodness.” 

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