It’s exactly 101 years since the Negroni was first created in a Florence cocktail bar—a heady mix of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth mixed up for Count Camillo Negroni by bartender friend Fosco Scarselli. A century later, cocktails are just as much part of the city’s social scene, as witnessed by the variety and creativity on display during Florence Cocktail Week in September. While we’re at home this winter and many of us are unable to travel, there’s no reason not to indulge in something more exciting than a glass of wine to spice up the long winter nights. An oak-infused old fashioned with Netflix? Coffee and maple margarita with your midweek carbonara? To give some inspiration, five much-loved bars in Florence have shared the recipes for their most iconic cocktails to enjoy in isolation. Cin cin!
Picteau Cocktail Bar: Sgroppino
Sgroppino isn’t well-known outside Italy, which struck me as a shame on tasting the sherbety white drink at Hotel Lungarno’s Picteau Cocktail Bar before lockdown. A wonderful mix of sparkling rosé, lemon sorbet, peach liqueur and vodka, it’s zingy and refreshing in all the right ways. On a secluded terrace directly overlooking the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio, talented young bartenders Marco Colonnelli and Vincenzo Civita created their own version of the sgroppino for Florence Cocktail Week.
3 tablespoons lemon sorbet / Half an espresso cup peach liquor (Essentiae Lunae or similar) / Half an espresso cup vodka / Sparkling rosé to serve
In a blender add the lemon sorbet, vodka and peach liquor. Mix for 45-50 seconds on low speed until white, emulsified and lump-free. If you don’t have a blender, beat with a wooden spoon. Pour into a cup and top up with the sparkling rosé.
Bitter Bar: Espresso and Maple Margarita
Bitter Bar’s creative founder Cristian Guitti has devised this cocktail with store-cupboard essentials in mind, making it the perfect tipple for when you’re unable to peruse the alcohol aisles at the supermarket. It uses leftover coffee dregs from the moka pot (a staple in many Italian households) mixed with maple syrup for a delightfully warming base and hits the spot somewhere between a margarita and an espresso martini.
40ml tequila / 2-3 dried whole chilli peppers / 1 tablespoon maple syrup / 1 tablespoon leftover espresso / 20ml fresh lemon or lime juice / Ice to serve / Ginger ale to serve (optional) / Twist of orange peel, as garnish
Start by infusing the tequila 4-5 hours in advance: add the chilli peppers to the bottle (or however much tequila you want to infuse), and stir or shake gently every now and then to allow the flavours to mingle. To make the coffee syrup, mix the leftover espresso with the maple syrup until fully dissolved. Mix the coffee syrup, tequila and lemon or lime juice in a shaker with lots of ice. Strain into a tall glass with more ice and top with ginger ale or serve on the rocks. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.
PanicAle: Tangerine Dream
This super-hip spot near Mercato Centrale has won a host of awards for its artisanal cocktails. Bar manager Michel Granpasso Orlando devised this wintry drink to make the most of the citrus fruit in season right now, but insists the recipe is not a rule. “Have fun and play with the quantities of honey, lime and rum to suit your tastes. I really like to use Sichuan pepper for its unusual numbing sensation—you can find it for an affordable price at ViviMarket, near San Lorenzo. Make plenty of the salt and pepper mix as you can use it for margaritas too.”
For the salt mix: 30g fine sea salt / 4g Sichuan pepper / Leftover tangerine and lime peel
For the cocktail: 50ml white rum / 30ml lime juice / 60ml freshly squeezed tangerine juice / 1 tbsp honey / Fresh thyme / Ice to serve / Ginger ale to serve
Mix the salt and pepper at least half a day in advance and store in a small airtight jar with any leftover tangerine and lime peel to allow the essential oils to infuse. When you’re ready to make your drink, start by lining the rim of a highball or whisky glass: pour the salt mix into a shallow dish, wet the rim of the glass with a wedge of lime, then dip the glass into the salt mix to coat and leave to dry. Squeeze the tangerines and limes into separate bowls and set aside. Mix the honey with 1 tbsp water in a small cup and stir until dissolved. Pour the rum, honey water, lime and tangerine juice, and some fresh thyme into a jam jar or cocktail shaker with some ice, close the lid and shake like there’s no tomorrow. Strain into the glass, being careful not to rub off the salt rim. Fill the glass with ice and top with ginger ale.
MAD – Souls & Spirits: The Ballad of Rickey Bobby
Lorenzo Aio, head barman at this avant-garde bar on borgo San Frediano, doesn’t like to do things by the book. Instead his cocktail menu is a playful mix of unusual flavours and names, hence this punchy chinotto, sage and whisky combination that takes its name from the 2006 Will Ferrell sports comedy. “This was one of the last drinks we created before the second lockdown,” he tells The Florentine. “It’s our twist on the very traditional whisky Rickey. It’s a low alcohol drink that’s very aromatic and perfect to make at home.”
For the cordial: 3-4 sage leaves / 1 lemon / 250g sugar
For the cocktail: 20ml peated scotch whisky / 10ml sage & lemon cordial / Ice cubes to serve / Chinotto to serve / 2 fresh sage leaves, as garnish
To make the cordial, put the sage leaves and peel of one lemon into 250 ml of water and heat for 4-5 minutes over a medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Let cool to room temperature, then remove the leaves and peel. Squeeze the juice of the lemon and add it to the mix. Chill completely (it can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge). In a highball glass, stir your favourite scotch whisky, the cordial and 2-3 ice cubes. Top with Chinotto and garnish with 2 sage leaves and lemon peel.
Hotel Savoy: Oak Fashioned
A glamorous spot on piazza della Repubblica, Hotel Savoy’s cocktail bar Irene is a place to see and be seen. To celebrate the cosiness of Tuscany’s colder months, the hotel’s head bartender Denis Giuliani has created this cosy after-dinner cocktail. It’s an homage to his favourite time of year in Tuscany, when the smell of roasted chestnuts can be smelt drifting across the piazza. “The warm and spicy notes of wood, accompanied by long and persistent flavours, make it perfect to enjoy snuggled up at home as well.”
60ml whisky / 10ml maple syrup / 3-4 drops Angostura bitter / 3-4 drops Oak & Smoke bitters / Ice to serve
Stir the whisky, maple syrup and oak & smoke bitters in a mixing glass until the syrup has dissolved. Add 2-3 cubes of ice and stir thoroughly. Pour the drink into a shallow whisky glass and add fresh ice cubes or one large ice cube. Top with a couple of drops angostura bitters, stir once and serve.