I never miss a chance to visit Italy, so I was tickled to go recently for the inaugural Venice Cocktail Week. It was my fifth trip to this city that keeps me coming back for so many reasons: the food, the style, the cobblestone alleys and canal views. And the drinks! Some of my favorite stops of this visit were cicchetti and craft cocktails at il Mercante, a mind blowing bloody mary at St Regis Art Bar, discovering the darling Ca Maria Adele over a G&T and a stand out nightcap at Palazzina Grassi. (Just to name a few…) In a city with so much old world charm, nearly every stop is picturesque. But here were three of my favorite Venice cocktail stops for their especially stunning, historical locations:
Caffe Florian: Venice Cocktails at its Oldest Cafe
The iconic Caffe Florian has served coffee, aperitivos, and cocktails to stylish Venetians on St Mark’s square for more than three centuries. (It’s said to be the oldest cafe in Europe!) Walking into this old-school venue is like stepping back in time. Settle into crimson velour banquettes that pop against the gilded and frescoed walls for snacks, coffee, classic aperitivos or speciality cocktails. Their Cocktail Anniversiario 300 is a classy way to raise a glass to the longstanding history of the Florian and its famous past patrons like Andy Warhol, Friedrich Nietzsche and Charlie Chaplin.
Aman Hotel Bar: Venice Cocktails in an Historical Palazzo Turned Ultra-luxury Hotel
Located in the former Palazzo Papadopoli, the Aman hotel is a high-society playground for globetrotters living the lux life. Completed in 1570, this palace has been the location of swank Venetian soirées since the 16th century and was converted into a hotel by the ultra-luxury Aman brand in 2013. Even if you can’t bankroll a stay at this stunning establishment, you can make your way to the beautiful bar. Head barman, Antonio Ferrara, creates bespoke cocktails and serves drinks from his current menu inspired by Lord Byron. The menu includes the bougiest martini I’ve ever had: a classic dry gin topped with heaps of gold leaf. Tip: Enter the hotel from a very discreet back garden entrance and reserve ahead of time.
Bar Longhi at The Gritti Palace Hotel: Classic Martini Cocktails over Venice’s Grand Canal
The Gritti Palace, a private palazzo dating from 1475, became a hotel in 1895 and is now a Venetian landmark. And, while the entire establishment is stunning, I particularly love the Bar Longhi with its namesake Pietro Longhi paintings and Murano glass chandeliers. The Gritti is also where Hemingway finished writing Across the River and into the Trees. My favorite thing? There are ten different variations on the martini served by superb bar staff in impeccable white jackets. In summertime, well-healed travelers enjoy martinis from a bar cart on the terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. Beyond the bar, staying in the hotel is a treat that takes you back to a time when travel was much more elegant and celebrated. I highly recommend spoiling yourself with a stay here.
For a full rundown of my Venice Cocktail Week adventures, check out the Instagram Highlight.
Special thanks to the Venice Cocktail Week team for organization and plenty of great company and fun! And, extra special thanks to Hotel Grassi and Gritti Palace for the luxurious warm beds and the ice cold cocktails!