Lonely Planet Writer

A Venice coffee bar by day and a swish cocktail bar by night wins prestigious award

The prestigious Italian gourmet guide Gambero Rosso has been judging the best of Italian cuisine – from oil to wine to restaurants – since 1986. Now it has awarded Venice’s Il Mercante a place in its 2018 Italy bar guide.

A bird’s eye view of Il Mercante. Photo by Jo-Ann Titmarsh

The guide selects cocktail bars from around Italy, which are chosen “for their innovative signature drinks created according to the mandates of contemporary mixology.” Il Mercante, which takes its inspiration (and name) from the merchants trading in the spice trade in Venice, was singled out by Gambero Rosso for its use of spices in the preparation of its house cocktails. Further merit was given for the ambience, thanks to its warm colours, lush velvet upholstery and pristine bar. It’s worth noting that Il Mercante was the winner not only in Venice, but the entire Veneto region.

Il Mercante, which also features in Lonely Planet’s guide to the city’s best cocktail bars, has taken Venice by storm since undergoing a facelift and coming under new management just under a year ago. With regular music nights on Thursdays and late opening times, it has quickly become a haven for discerning drinkers and night owls. Its clever dual existence as a delightful coffee bar by day and a swish cocktail bar by night has also been an integral part of its stratospheric success.

A barista at Il Mercante. Photo by Jo-Ann Titmarsh

The Hotel Danieli’s Bar Dandolo also appears in the 2018 guide and has earned its place in the pantheon of bars which have garnered three stars for receiving three cup and three coffee grain symbols (Gambero Rosso’s system for rating bars and cafes) for ten years running. High acclaim indeed and thoroughly deserved.

So whether you like your cocktail in a Renaissance palace-turned-hotel or you prefer your drink in a more intimate atmosphere, Gambero Rosso and Lonely Planet concur that these two  cocktail bars are worth a visit.

Words: Jo-Ann Titmarsh