In a place where mixology and top cuisine meet botany and authentic produce, 25-year-old bartender Nicola Spaggiari brings his own flair to the innovative cocktail bar and restaurant The Stellar in San Frediano.
Nicola Spaggiari, aka “The Alchemist”, moved to Florence four years ago from his hometown in Reggio Emilia to broaden his mixology horizons. He has since made waves in the cocktail-making world by working his way through an impressive range of different industries in the hospitality sector; from hotels to nightclubs, experimenting at the now-closed Dolce Vita to thriving at the new restaurant and cocktail bar in the city centre, The Stellar. With experience also working in vegetable gardens, Spaggiari enjoys bringing botany to the bar when it comes to making his signature cocktails.
The Stellar’s growing constellation of cocktails includes the Uhuru, a Uruguayan, yerba-mate syrup base with organic spiced rum, lime juice and ginger ale, finished with a leaf of glacial red mint. According to “The Alchemist” himself, this particular creation “brings out the perfect hint of ginger, since the spiciness compliments the bitterness and distinctiveness of the rum”. Another favourite is The Stellar, a cocktail infused with cinnamon and citrus peel, Jameson Black Barrel whiskey and artisanal pink peppercorn bitters with spiced ginger beer.
“We focus a lot on botany. Everything here is made from fresh ingredients; plants, herbs and even vegetables. I like to experiment by bringing this philosophy behind the counter, occasionally making the odd mistake along the way in order to succeed,” explains the bartender.
Focusing on presentation as well as taste, Nicola’s cocktails are both a treat to the tongue and the eye. Watching drinks flow out with magical features, including clouds of smoke, will make you utter the classic words I’ll have what they’ve got! While there are many “Instagrammable” cocktails to choose from, the possibilities are also endless as the bartenders will happily cater to the customer’s specific taste. “The thing with cocktails is that not everyone likes the same flavours. So, it’s really structured around the person. There’s never really the possibility of putting everything down on a piece of paper.”
The bar also offers cocktail pairing with the restaurant’s mouth-watering dishes in a tasting that satisfies the most curious palates. Unlike the usual approach of solely pairing wine with dishes, The Stellar encourages customers to start a meal with a cocktail and finish with a wine, vice versa, or maybe both. Nicola likes to place a contemporary emphasis on his drinks menu by adding just-as-tasty non-alcoholic options. “I always try to stay with an alcoholic base not to annoy the customer. But I also create non-alcoholic cocktails, since it’s only right that the body doesn’t just consume alcohol, but also tastes it.”
By day, the restaurant headed up by chef Luigi Bonadonna serves breakfast, lunch and dinner before transforming into a starry cocktail bar by night. With plans for the bar area to expand in the summer, including a new bar able to hold a large influx of people and a courtyard outside, Nicola Spaggiari’s plans for the future of cocktails in Florence are simply out of this world.
The Stellar Ristorante & Cocktail Bar
Piazza di Cestello 10, Florence
+39 331 1358259