We visit the newest Experimental Cocktail Club, housed within Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental in Venice, days after its launch.
As their name might suggest, Experimental Group isn’t shy about shaking things up. From 2007 when it launched the first Experimental Cocktail Club bar in Paris, which aided the snowballing of the city’s innovative cocktail culture, to the recent opening of its dramatically contemporary Il Palazzo Experimental, we’ve learnt that when the team sets its mind to a challenge, it’s best to except nothing short of greatness.
We enter Experimental Cocktail Club Venice through a side door by the hotel lobby and are immediately struck by the coordinated difference from the rest of the hotel. Whilst there is certainly similarities in style, this is very much a space with its own offering.
The bar is as intimate as the hotel’s Ristorante Adriatica is vast, with delicious snacks available from that same kitchen. Designer Cristina Celestino’s contemporary take on the ornate interiors Venice is famed for combines traditional crafts with modern aesthetics in a manner inspired by Carlo Scarpa. The glass frontage looking out towards the canal evokes serliana archways and glitzy half-crescent mirrors recall windows in neighbouring palazzos. Striking pink walls are offset by plush teal, silver and brass carpet, whilst a polyphony of marble is met with delicate pearl pendant lighting and nods at the city’s colourfully striped “pali da casada” poles. On closing the mirrored door to the hotel, the jewellery box interiors are completed and the atmosphere created is that of Venice’s newest and funkiest members’ club.
Marta is working solo behind the bar. A familiar figure once known to work at London’s Original Sin, Marta is known for her relaxed congeniality, vast knowledge and impeccable set of skills.
She left Original Sin back in 2016 as she “needed a break from London, and [she] decided to go travelling for a while.” She speaks fondly of her time at the bar, stating that she’d never have left if she didn’t need a break from the city: “The women I was working with there were definitely one of the best team I have ever worked with.”
Marta and ECC’s paths kept crossing around the world but they had previously never worked together. “I’d just got back from travelling (again) when I heard about their new openings in Venice and Menorca”, she recalls.
“This time I wanted to work in my own country but still with an international crowd and I was ready for a new challenge. I always admire Experimental Group and Venice looked as a great chance for me and a crazy idea at the same time.”
Fast-forward a few months and here we are in her gorgeous bar that is already becoming a firm favourite with locals and international visitors. Her menu comprises nine drinks: ECC Signature Serves that are also present in the Paris and London venues, as well as a selection of five cocktails based on Italian spirits, like Amaros, Grappa and Vermouth. The final drink is “a Negroni del Palazzo, our twist on a Negroni that will keep changing through the seasons.”
Mouth watering, our eyes roam the list before alighting on Marta’s current favourite – Ponte Lungo (Yaguara Cachaça, Cocchi Americano, Fennel and Lime; €12). This unsurprisingly proves to be outstanding: somewhat comparable to a gently viscous, higher mouthfeel and more complex Caipirinha.
As we sip at the bar, our eyes follow the incredible line-up gracing the back-bar including unexpected gems such as Habitation Velier Forsyths WP, Fortaleza tequila, and Vida mezcal. Marta chats freely about her selection, announcing that “this is only the start”, before making us variations of classic cocktails such as a perfectly rounded and smoky Ultima Palabre (a mezcal version of the Last Word, with green chartreuse and lime), and a sweet, herbaceous Red Hook. Each drink comes with off-the-cuff backstory and anecdotes that we lap up and which make us feel very much at home in the buzzing bar.
Hours go by and what was meant to be a quick after-dinner drink turns into a full-blown session, with fantastic drinks had by all and a growing group of drinking companions including Alessandro, the hotel’s new resident DJ, hotel guests from Germany, and local Venetian revellers. Marta welcomes all with easy hospitality and it’s no wonder that, even though the bar has been open for less than a week, people are already coming back for more.
Marta and the ECC team have managed to quickly create the feeling of a quirky neighbourhood bar within this stunning hotel within just a few short days. With on-point drinks, a sumptuous décor and fantastic atmosphere, this is a bar we will be returning to time and time again.
Il Palazzo Experimental Hotel, Fondamenta Zattere Al Ponte Lungo, 1411, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy