Florence, the birthplace of the Negroni and home to Italy's finest hotel bar, Atrium Bar at Four Seasons. A guest bar at Cocktails in the City in 2018 and 2019 courtesy of Campari and Martini you can now enjoy one of their signature Negroni recipes in our International Bar Box.
We caught up with head bartender Edoardo Sandri to find out how significant this iconic drink is to the city of Florence and how recent events have affected the city and the business.
As we are conducting this conversation the UK is in lockdown number 2, what is the situation currently for you in Florence?
The situation in Italy changes weekly but fortunately, hotel bars and restaurant can always serve Hotel guests. Like Venice and Rome, we are a very tourist orientated city and currently, we are the only luxury hotel open in the city.
Whilst Rome still benefits from the pull of the church and the Vatican, Florence is primarily an artistic and cultural place to visit and visitor numbers are heavily down. We continue working with local people and businesses and still receive guests on Friday and Saturday but otherwise, it is very quiet at the moment. Last summer when travel opened up we did welcome a lot of European guests but not as many Americans and we look forward to everything returning to normal.
As the Negroni has grown in popularity in recent years have you noticed any effect on guests or visitors to the city due to the strong links between the city and this iconic cocktail?
I was born in Florence and for us it is like the Spritz in Venice or tea in Britain, it is a cultural flag for us.
If I think back to the guests who were enjoying a Negroni back in 2018 and earlier I would say it was mainly enjoyed by locals and typically men. Since the 100 year anniversary in 2019 which involved a lot of promotion and marketing by the drinks brands and lifestyle media, we can see the drink is now far more common and enjoys a much wider reach with our customers.
In London bar culture and bar tourism plays a big part in our local economy, does Florence enjoy a similar benefit ?
Bar tourism is definitely growing particularly among Italians travelling to the city to visit the bars and bartenders.
Florence Cocktail Week was launched in 2016 and this has been responsible for generating a lot more attention on the bar scene here and Il Locale another bar in the city is also regarded as one of the best in the country. We are still a very small city and so don't enjoy the same visibility as Rome and Milan but it is growing.
Atrium Bar is located in the Four Seasons Florence which is the most beautiful setting we've ever been too, can you tell me a bit more about the bar and its ethos.
We opened in 2008 and every year we have tried to change the rules of Italian Bars by experimenting with techniques, ingredients and the way we present our menus.
In Italy we have tried to change the culture and perception of a hotel bar and make it open to everyone and not just to the residents and guests of the hotel.
From 2009 with the introduction of our Negroni Trolley we have worked very hard on the Negroni experience at the table and to offer variations of this drink for every type of customer to make the drink available for all of our guests.
Our most recent menu was the Animal Kingdom menu, created with the aim of launching a message on environmental protection, and in particular on endangered species. The Atrium Bar team produced 15 cocktails - 12 alcoholic and 3 non-alcoholic - inspired by endangered animals, accompanied by works of art painted exclusively by the Argentine artist Carolina Correa.
And could you tell us more about the Prima Negroni cocktail you created for your last visit to Cocktails in the City which is now available in our International Bar Box.
The Prima cocktail was designed as an after-dinner drink taking the traditional Negroni recipe of equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth and building on that with espresso and anise. Whenever we create a drink we start with a concept and we know that coffee in cocktails is a very popular combination, a lot of our UK based customers ask for an espresso martini so I wanted to develop a drink around this information.
In Italy during the meal you drink wine and after dinner, you drink spirits. We like to use local ingredients and so built on the flavour of coffee with a nearby Anisette producer Vittori based in nearby Livorno, a port city. For me Anise is the perfect partner for coffee and in cities around Europe where the ports play an important role Anise is an important flavour and a popular flavour. In Italy you can enjoy a Caffe Correto meaning (right) and is the additional of alcohol to the coffee, it can be Amaro, Grappa but for me the ideal combination is Anise, they provide a sweetness instead of sugar.
The final result is a nice bittersweet cocktail with upfront flavours of coffee that giveaway to a light sweetness found in the anisette liqueur.
If you are ever in Florence and looking to enjoy a great cocktail in a beautiful setting then you should definitely pay a visit to the Atrium Bar and find out why it has been voted best Italian Hotel Bar in 2017, 18, 19 and 20!