The first ever Florence Cocktail Week (2016) was, in terms of the drinks on offer at least, a resounding success. We found the week long event to be a perfect excuse to sample and resample the best of Florence’s bars. In doing so we made a couple of great discoveries – most notably – the excellent Il Locale bar on Via delle Seggiole and the wonderful Gurdulù Restaurant in Santo Spirito, and rediscovered some of our old favourites – in particular the beautiful Winter Garden Bar in the St. Regis Hotel and Caffè Florian’s experimental cocktails and stunning decor.
Read on to explore some of our favourite cocktails of Florence Cocktail Week, 2016.
Best for Taste & Location
SHORT ISLAND AT IL LOCALE BAR
This cocktail tastes of fizzy cola bottles. It’s a fun carbonated concoction of vodka, gin, rum, triple sec, cola syrup, kola bitters and lemon, and it’s delicious . We also love the bar. IL Locale bar is modern and has a large open (literally open) glass roof, which means you can look up at the stars as you drink inside, and, as this is Italy, smoking is allowed too. Matteo, who created the cocktail, tells us that the carbonisation helps with inebriation.
P CRYSTAL MARY AT THE WINTER GARDEN BAR | ST. REGIS HOTEL
St Regis hotels have claimed the Bloody Mary as their signature cocktail, so it’s only right that their Florence Cocktail Week entry should be a take on the classic. However, creator, Christian Pampo told us that he wanted to create something a little more complex than a Bloody Mary, so he based this new take on the Bloody Mary on the classic Tuscan bread salad Panzanella. Christian’s process involved experimenting with green tomatoes and different bases in an attempt to get away from the typical red colour of the drink. The P Crystal Mary is created with Diamond Ice Vodka, tomato water, lemon and a few intriguing extras. At the bottom of the glass is a pile of pearls filled with caramelised red onions – pearled using agar-agar – and the round ice cubes are filled with basil, which infuses with the drink as the ice cubes begin to melt. The glass is then topped with a cracker itself topped with olive oil dust. The flavours on offer are strong and bold, and intriguingly, not so far off from the promised Panzanella – Bloody Mary mix. We found that the cocktail worked best when paired with the excellent selection of parmesan and parma ham which is paired with the in-house Bloody Mary selection as part of St. Regis’ Bloody Mary Ritual.
Best Food Pairing
IL CONTE IN ORIENTE AT THE FUSION BAR | GALLERY ART HOTEL
A modern take on a Campari Spritz with Gin and House Vermouth infused with lemongrass and cardamon – which blends beautifully. One of the most eye-catching of the bunch, served in a bag atop a reflecting cube. The delicious pairing of octopus and coconut milk served inside the shell of a coconut on a bed of ice, helps to create a wonderful new take on the Florentine aperitivo.
Le Monsieur at Atrium Bar | Four Seasons Hotel
This was close between this cocktail and the above Il Conte in Oriente, but I like that Le Monsieur was served in the flask on ice, waiting to be poured when ready. The drink was a strong concoction of two different gins, Vermouth and Mirto Bresca Dorada and though flavoursome, was a little too bitter for my tastes.
Winner of best cocktail at Florence Cocktail Week 2016.
BRIT SEVENTEENTWENTY AT CAFFÈ FLORIAN
Caffè Florian is one of my favourite cocktail bars in Florence, mainly because barman Julian Bondi gets behind the events in Florence more so than anyone else. His creation for Florence Cocktail Week was one of the most drinkable of the bunch – and was reminiscent of a Bellini, only created with two types of gin, thyme, blueberry, lime, lemon and egg whites. The cocktail was paired with a liver and blueberry reduction, which though interesting, was one of my least favourite pairings.
Best of Everything Else.
MILLE E UNA NOTTE AT HARRY’S BAR
This was easily one of my favourite cocktails to drink (just behind the great Short Island at Il Locale) at Florence Cocktail week.
It fused tequila, crema di cacao, Galliano, cream, cane sugar, tabasco, salt and honey perfectly. The glass was topped with caramel, a cinnamon stick, and a small delicious pile of Korean chilli threads. The fusion of milk and the spiciness of the Korean Chilli Flakes and tabasco worked perfectly together.
This was the first of our Florence Cocktail Week cocktails, and was a perfect intro to what was on offer, made all the better by the al fresco location on the banks of the River Arno.
The Rest of the cocktails
In order: BIBERE Fizz at Gurdulu, Bunea Vista Social Cocktail at Rivalta Cafe, Hasu Orenji at O’ Cafe, Le Duc at Le Ménagère, Mediterranean Leaf at Le Pool Bar (Villa Cora), Bonnie & Clyde at Viktoria Lounge Bar,Negroni Pallido at Rivoire and finally a Mezcal cocktail at The Fusion Bar made specially for Florence Cocktail Week.