December 16, 2021

At 6 p.m., the clinking of glasses and chatter can be heard in the grand salon. The sun has long disappeared over the horizon, leaving visitors at the Rialto Bridge in its parting rays of glory. It is the inaugural Venice Cocktail Week, and I’m rubbing shoulders with sumptuously dressed figures in velvet embellished with jewelled tones to match the impeccable gilded ceilings and cherry wood furnishings at the 16th century Palazzo Papadopoli on the Grand Canal. A home that now belongs to the portfolio of the Aman group.

Following the success of six editions of Florence Cocktail Week, the event’s founder and creative director, Paola Mencarelli, seems pleased to announce a change in location this year. “The city of Venice has a long and rich culture of bars and cocktails, and now, the public has the opportunity to explore this via its bars and hotels and with the help of the world’s best and most respected visiting bartenders,” Mencarelli says. Alex Kratena of Tayēr + Elementary in London, Maros Dzuru of Himkok in Oslo, Nico di Soto of Danico in Paris and Matteo Zed of The Court in Rome are just a few that make up this international smorgasbord of talent.

“Despite the centuries-old trajectory of the city, the bar scene in Venice has not reached the same maturity as other cities in Italy, hence we are doing everything we can to help this sector grow,” Mencarelli explains while hinting at a new project in a different Italian city for the following year. These motivations are heartening to know. Over the past two days of visiting the local watering holes (26 participating bars to be exact), it’s easy to observe that the resulting camaraderie from this movement is palpable. The joy of togetherness that was most missed by consumers during the pandemic, relived in the form of spirited gatherings around the most exotic of cocktails.

From December 13 to 19, bars across Venice will play host to various bar crawls, drink promotions and guest shifts as part of Venice Cocktail Week, all strictly in compliance with the Covid-19 legislation.

Some of the festival highlights to take place this weekend include an Italicus masterclass with Luca Ardito, a four-course gourmet pairing dinner with Zacapa Rum cocktails at the Palazzina and an epic closing party featuring special guest bartenders from 1930 in Milan, Jerry Thomas Speakeasy and Drink Kong from Rome. “Let us fill this stunning city of art and culture with the sound of shakers,” Mencarelli concludes. This familiar noise reverberating through the canals is one that I’ve missed sorely.

Venice Cocktail Week proudly has the advocacy of Città di Venezia. The participating venues and full programme are available here.