The cocktail revival has yet to come to the Renaissance city. In a city that lays claim to the invention of the canonical Negroni, the cocktail scene has sadly stalled. Your best bet is undoubtedly one of the Campari trio: Aperol Spritz, Americano or the Negroni. Anything else is a disappointment.
It was years before I learned, thanks to a personal explanation, that “American Bar” is a term to denote any bar that serves cocktails. I used to be very perplexed by a bar that could be doubled as a set for “The African Queen” which was called an “American Bar” until I learned of this surprising connotation. Even so, cocktails in Italy are not up to the standard that you may be accustomed to in some of the more forward thinking US cities.
Rome has better options, with a few innovative bartenders pushing the envelope and offering an alternative to the ubiquitous overly sweet mojito. Even the modern bars with their extensive drinks menus err towards overly sweet or gimmicky drinks.
Your best bet is usually the tried and true. There is a reason why a Spritz is on nearly every table, it is light and refreshing, and you can easily enjoy one at lunch or early in the evening without jeopardizing future plans or productivity. It is the quintessential summer sipper, while the Americano, slightly stronger, is delightfully complex, a balance of bitter Campari and sweet vermouth. Negronis, instead, are a winter indulgence, heady and filling – soothing in times of stress. Venture apart from these three and you are exploring risky territory.
Unfortunately the trends here run towards the sweet and fruity; and while you have to respect the Italians for their restrained alcoholic consumption, you will wish that the drinks presented had more balanced depth.
Here’s to the Cocktail Renaissance, may it arrive quickly.
Best Places to go for a cocktail:
- Propaganda, Rome
- Purobeach, Scarlino (between Follonica and Castiglione della Pescaia)
- Settembrini, Rome
- Café de Paris, Florence