The Best Places To Drink In Venice, Italy

For centuries, Venice, Italy was known as The Serenissima— “the most serene”. It remains an apt nickname for the millions of tourists who float through this mystical metropolis every year. For fans of drinking culture, however, the setting is as loud and authentic as it gets. This is the birthplace of the Bellinis and them Spritz, to cry hot tears! With a handful of notable additions to the liquid landscape, Venice remains more effervescent than ever.

“It is undeniably an exciting time to be involved in drinks here,” confirms Vadim Grigoryan. The co-founder of Vodka X Muse hosted a pop-up for her brand earlier this year at the biennial art festival, La Biennale di Venezia. “My love for art brings me here, but it’s my love for drinks that makes me never want to leave.”

Courtesy Image

Either way, you can’t come to Venice without first exploring its bacari scene. These cozy bars, often tucked away in narrow alleys, serve local wines and a variety of cicchetti: bites that are eaten like tapas with an Italian accent. One of the oldest in the city, the Cantina Do Mori, dates back to 1462.

Nowadays, some of them have become greedy. It is not uncommon to come across a bacaro such as The Barrelwhere natural wines and goat charcuterie replace traditional jug juices and meatballs. Vino Vero raises the bar even further, offering a host of biodynamic selections by the glass, pairing it all with game-based charcuterie alongside Rio della Misericordia.

“If you’re a wine lover, it’s as natural and as local as it gets in Venice,” adds Grigoryan.

But no matter how high-end they are, a bacaro is bound to correct itself with its spritz game. The Venetian variant has been a delight here since the early 1900s. It’s built with a local appetizer known as To select—darker and slightly more bitter than its better-known rival, Aperol. The result is a slightly more serious drink, proudly topped not with orange but with olive.

Populated Venice cafe next to a canal.
Yulia Girgoryeva / Shutterstock

In June, Select Swings opens the doors to a new distillery and visitor center in the heart of the city. It follows an expansion of modern mixology whose roots go back to the beginnings of Il Mercante in the summer of 2016. The now-revered cocktail bar in the San Polo district specializes in elaborate concoctions, often focusing on ingredients and flavors from the far reaches of the globe. Each drink comes with a story, which is literally printed on a menu that reads like a poster.

Il Mercante has set the bar, so to speak, by encouraging a new wave of competitors to conceptualize their cocktail programs; consider the themes and put the ingredients first. Horizon wasted little time taking this model to new heights. It helps, of course, that the open-air outpost, sitting above the five-star Hilton Molino Stucky— is the highest rooftop bar in town. The drinks here are meant to accentuate the surrounding panorama. The Red Sky, for example, uses Campari and tangerine liqueur to mimic the gradations of the setting sun in liquid form. Stardust echoes the deep blues of the city at night. And the garnishing game of the 21 signature cocktails is characterized by the terroir. It is not by chance.

Exterior image of the Hilton Molino Stucky hotel

Hilton Molino Stucky is home to Skyline, Venice’s highest rooftop bar. Elzloy / Shutterstock

“The local plants are super fresh thanks to the vibrancy of the Venice lagoon,” notes Rudi Carraro, Venetian and global brand ambassador for Gruppo Montenegro, the parent company of Select Aperitivo. “Plus, since there are no vehicles here, you have fewer sensory distractions between you and your drink. Amplify that with the magical views everywhere and it’s no wonder that “happy hour “was born here.”

Sure, you might feel like royalty sipping your way through the Grand Canal, but at the Aman Venice you can literally drink like one. The magnificent property occupies a 16th century palace belonging to Count Giberto Arrivabene. He is one of the last aristocrats still residing in the city and remains a regular at the stately Red Room – his former personal drinking lounge – now redeveloped for the public as the hotel bar.

Grand Lobby at Aman Venice

Aman Venice, housed in a majestic palace on the Grand Canal. EQRoy / Shutterstock

Here, the cocktail menu is curated by head mixologist Antonio Ferrara, who likes to create specialties to suit your mood of the day. Hope you’re feeling classic, because this is without a doubt the best martini you’re going to get in all of Venice. Order the off-menu Count’s Martini and you’ll be treated to a more session-friendly variant, heavier in vermouth and served in a stemless copita with a squeeze of lemon squeezed out. Grigoryan suggests saving space for at least one Venetian Spritz sitting here. “It’s the ultimate expression of the local speciality,” he says.

If you fancy a less pretentious affair, however, head to Vinile in Cannaregio. The cozy and musical dive is inspired by improvisation. Specialties change with the season but are almost always botanically focused, taking advantage of the bar’s hydroponic garden to compose invigorating mosses and mousses. They arrive on colorful cocktails with an Italo-tiki swing. The vibe exists at a completely opposite end of the spectrum like The Bar at Aman, and yet the drinks here are no less refined for travel.

In fact, in order to fully appreciate the idiosyncrasies of this drinking scene, you need to span the spectrum from bacaro to the palate — and everything in between. “There is only one Venice,” Carraro reminds us. “And it flows.” You may want to seek serenity now, while you still can.

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