This summer, London has been experiencing weather that, at this time of year in Italy, sparks a mass urban exodus as city-dwellers head to the coasts and lakes. Unfortunately, the City’s working culture doesn’t quite include the same level of August shutdown, but at least we can weekend like Italians. And one Torinese drinks brand is helping with that.
Martini & Rossi has launched a temporary outdoor bar in Covent Garden called Terrazza Martini, which will be open from 1pm every day until 31 August (closing at 10pm Wednesdays to Saturdays, 8pm Sundays to Tuesdays). This continues a tradition started in 1948 with the original Terrazza Martini in Paris, and continued in 1958 by the Milan branch, which became a permanent fixture (and later hosted the premiere of La Dolce Vita).
The drinks list includes that ubiquitous aperitivo the negroni – made with Bacardi Limited stablemate Bombay Sapphire, Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino and Martini Riserva Speciale Bitter – its own rival to the standard red bitter drink. But, more suitably for 30+ degree temperatures, there are also two versions (ruby and amber) of a reassuringly long drink, Riserva & Tonic.
These Riserva Speciale vermouths are a step up from the bottles our grandmothers kept in the sideboard in the 1970s. The wine blends include a greater proportion of renowned Piemonte DOC varieties – Nebbiolo from the Langhe for the Rubino; Moscato d’Asti for the Ambrato. The recipes include three different types of regionally grown wormwood (from which the fortified wine gets its name), and there are unusual botanicals (including Roman chamomile in the Ambrato and holy thistle in the Rubino) in the recipe developed by herbalist Ivano Tonutti. The vermouths are then aged for a minimum of two months to round out the character.
If the thought of crossing London in the pressure cooker known as the Tube to have an aperitivo puts you off, there is a rather more Italiano alternative available on Friday afternoons – a lift to the East Piazza on a Vespa.
Every drink at the Terrazza Martini comes with edible aperitivi too, but for a more slow-paced Italian eating and drinking experience, book a lunch at Palatino on Central Street, EC1 over the first few Saturdays in August. The highly-rated Italophile and chef-restaurateur Stevie Parle has created a modern, light, summery (and vegetarian) Roman feast, with Martini-based cocktails to accompany it.
Highlights of the meal include farinata (a chickpea flour pancake) with grilled peppers and marjoram; seriously good mozzarella di bufala; tangy borlotti beans (cooked in balsamic vinegar) with tomatoes; and grilled peaches with ricotta. The languorous meal is accompanied by Martini Prosecco, and a selection of cocktails using Martini Riserva Speciale vermouths, including a Sbagliato (along with “certo”, “esatto” and “comunque” among the most satisfying Italian words to say). You can even take home a batched negroni in an attractive apothecary bottle. Andiamo.
Tickets for the special aperitivo menu at Palatino cost £25pp, all inclusive, and are available from designmynight.com. To book a Vespa pick-up to take you from any Zone 1 location to the Terrazza Martini, email firstname.lastname@example.org (1pm-5pm Fridays only)