For such an international city—and one that’s the birthplace of the Negroni —Florence’s cocktail scene can sometimes lack variety. In recent years, Florence Cocktail Week has done wonders for the reputation of the city’s bars, both within Italy and internationally. Back with a bang this April 17-23, the offering is looking more vibrant than ever, celebrating a new wave of dynamic mixologists and bartenders who have brought fresh energy over the last few years. Here are five stars to look out for.
Martina Bonci @Gucci Giardino 25
The 12 signature cocktails at the tiny Gucci cocktail bar in piazza della Signoria each tell a story, not only of Florence, but of head bartender Martina Bonci’s adventures further afield. She has worked in bars since she was 16, first in her native town of Gubbio, Umbria, then in various bars in Perugia while she was a student. Jostling for this position against a male-dominated industry has not always been easy, but Bonci’s calm confidence and ready smile have set her apart as one of Florence’s leading mixologists. Her favourite cocktail on the menu at the moment is the Queen Bee, though she’s always partial to a Negroni.
Eleonora Romolini @Gunè
The relationship between food and cocktails is integral to Eleonora Romolini’s cocktail philosophy—and is undeniably one of the reasons why Gunè (via del Drago d’Oro 1R) in San Frediano enjoys such a gourmet reputation. Her mixology journey started in a gin bar with over 100 different varieties, before going on to Caffè Gilli, where she learned under the great Luca Picchi and David Sarallo. Romolini is especially proud of the Dattè na Calmata, a twist on the Old Fashioned with date-infused whiskey, lightly salted apple, apricot brandy and Moroccan mint tea, served in a vintage teacup. As summer approaches, we’re hoping she brings back her legendary panzanella-inspired cocktail.
Alessandro Mengoni @Locale
Charismatic Matteo Di Ienno tends to be in the limelight at Locale (via delle Seggiole 12R), the uber-glamorous bar that recently won 39th place on the prestigious World’s 50 Best Bars list. Alongside Di Ienno, however, there’s a roster of bright young things propping up the bar. Alessandro Mengoni is one such rising star, having earned his stripes at German Gymnasium in London and with Turkish chef Nusr-Et (AKA Salt Bae) in Mykonos before returning to Italy. His favourite cocktail on the menu at the moment is the Foglia Alto, a riff on the whisky highball with a Johnnie Walker Black Label base.
Thomas Martini @Harry’s Bar
Harry’s Bar (lungarno Amerigo Vespucci 22R) may not have the acclaim of its Venetian namesake, but it’s been a glamorous spot among Florentines and tourists alike since opening in 1953. With a surname like Martini (yes, it’s his real name) and a long legacy in the cocktail world (his father served cocktails for over 40 years), head bartender Thomas Martini’s career path was written in the stars. He whips up an excellent Bellini, a perfect replica of the original Harry’s Bar staple. However, his own personal signature drink is the Silver Spring, a heady concoction of fresh peach, lime, elderflower syrup, cream and Cuban rum, with notes of orange and Rosolio.
Edoardo Sandri @The Atrium Bar, Four Seasons
As head mixologist at the Four Seasons’ Atrium Bar (borgo Pinti, 99) for many years, Sandri has witnessed Florence’s cocktail offering flourish on the international bar scene and has influenced it too. For when he’s not pouring aged Negronis from the Atrium’s famed Negroni trolley, he’s travelling the world hosting masterclasses, tastings and events. Back in Florence, he never stops experimenting with new ingredients. On a recent visit, he whipped up a blood orange amaretto sour for me on a whim when I suggested two of my favourite ingredients: needless to say, it was sensational.