Picture this: a creative cocktail beside one of the most panoramic pools in Florence. It’s all change up at Grand Hotel Minerva’s rooftop bar. Kareem Bennett has devised a cocktail list, in partnership with consultant bartender Julian Biondi, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the hallowed hotel in piazza Santa Maria Novella.
“Julian and I exchanged all our ideas, experience and creativity to come up with this new cocktail list. People are loving the ‘Local Heroes’ drinks in particular,” Bennett explains, as we sit comfortably in the shade of Grand Hotel Minerva’s rooftop bar, the basilica’s green-and-white façade providing a picturesque backdrop. “Our international clientele are finding locally inspired drinks fascinating. Lots of people who order them ask questions and want to learn more. They’re amazed to discover that we make top-tier gin and vodka here in Tuscany! On the other hand, our ‘Modern Classics’ are comforting and offer familiarity.”
Biondi describes the reasoning behind the new cocktail list. “The inspiration was simple but not obvious. The Minerva is famous in Florence and has an international client base, with most of the guests coming from the US and the UK. What I’ve noticed, however, is that you look for comfort when you go somewhere new, something that’s familiar to us. Alternatively, guests go in search of something local. The idea was to communicate the hotel to Florentines as well and encourage them to come here for a drink in the evenings. The cocktail list features drinks made purely from Tuscan ingredients as well as modern classics, drinks that were invented in the last 15 to 20 years in top New York and London bars. They’re well known worldwide, but not here in Italy. I’m talking about the Porn Star Martini, which is one of the bestselling drinks in the world, but maybe just one out of ten Italians has tried it. And it’s delicious!”
Made from Grey Goose vodka, vanilla syrup, passion fruit puree, lime juice and a shot of Brut Champagne, the Porn Star Martini is an intoxicating and intriguing option. A refreshing summer beverage is the Gin Gin Mule, a concoction of Bombay Sapphire gin, mint, lime juice and Fever Tree ginger beer, or Tommy’s Margarita, made from Patron Tequila 100% Blue Agave, lime and agave nectar.
Take, for example, the heritage cocktail 1869 Milk Punch. “It’s made using an age-old technique, one that proved popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Milk was used to filter cocktails to prolong the shelf life and this drink to mark the 150th anniversary of Grand Hotel Minerva, as tradition has it, is one part sour, two parts sweet, three parts power, four parts softness and spices,” the bartenders explain. Rose Elixir from Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, Peter in Florence gin, a few drops of China Elixir and green tea make up the punch.
The revised drinks list incorporates an element of pairing, with cocktails that pair perfectly with the culinary delights created by the hotel’s chef Tommaso Calonaci. Order the Terrace Paloma and Chef’s Ceviche, a drink made from mescal artisanal, lime juice, pink grapefruit sherbet, cilantro and grapefruit soda, paired with red snapped ceviche, herring caviar, pimento, aji amarillo and coconut and lemongrass sauce. Or opt for the Vieux Carrè, a forgotten New Orleans cocktail served with a foodie surprise.
A cocktail list in Florence wouldn’t be complete without the native invention, the Negroni. Currently celebrating its 100th anniversary, Bennett and Biondi say that the city’s very own drink is losing none of its world-famous allure. “We absolutely had to include the Negroni. It might be a hundred years old, but so many new products and quality ingredients have come into being in the last century that we can play with the recipe without distorting the classic nature of the drink. In terms of gin and vermouth, there’s plenty of variety.” Indeed, Sweet, Bitter and Red is the Negroni version at Grand Hotel Minerva, made from super local ingredients: Peter in Florence London Dry Gin, DiWine Chianti Liquor, Bitter Martini Riserva Esclusiva, Santa Maria Novella Rhubarb Elixir and chocolate bitters.
This summer, head to Grand Hotel Minerva and raise a considered and creative glass to another 150 years of this heritage hotel, which looks to the past to inspire the future.
Pour a bottle of 1869 Milk Punch from Grand Hotel Minerva into a glass.
Add a few drops of Rose Elixir, preferably from Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella and a spray of soda.
Drink it like it’s 1869!
Piazza Santa Maria Novella 16, Florence
Tel. 055 27230