That Martini Rosso

Exactly ten years ago I noticed this cute boy behind a bar noticing me. It was a freezing February afternoon in Florence. I had just flown in from summery Sydney and my friend Audrey, a striking French girl, was insisting I come out and meet her for a drink. Despite my excuse of jet lag, she wouldn’t let up. And she’s quite the persuasive type.

martini rosso mini

So I dragged myself out of my cosy, shoebox of an studio apartment and headed across the muddy Arno river to the empty bar where she was propped up at the counter with a drink.

“That bartender”, Audrey said with a knowing smile, “has completely changed since you walked in.” I looked across the bar. He was cute. No, more than cute. Beautiful.

Stay cool, I thought. He’s coming over to ask me what I want to drink.

I admit, I was suddenly nervous. But, trying to be cool, I announced that I wanted a Martini Rosso. It was the first thing listed on the menu. “Just Martini Rosso?” He asked, as if he didn’t believe me. “With ice?” He suggested. I think he was trying to be nice. “Sure”, I said, trying to pretend like I drink that all the time. Apparently no one orders just Martini Rosso.

Martini Rosso Cocktail

So he prepared my aperitivo while Audrey sipped on a pink fruit mocktail and we sat there at the bar and waited for the cute bartender to talk to me again. From his intense gaze and shy smiles it looked promising, but a couple of hours and four fruit mocktails later it didn’t look like he was going to make a move or let a word past his beautiful lips so I thought, maybe it’s nothing. I’ve let Audrey put a silly idea in my head. He’s not even going to talk to me. Let’s go. I got up to put on my jacket.

“You’re leaving?” He finally asked, as if we had been having the best conversation of our lives and I was suddenly getting up to go in the middle of it. “Yes”, but then I thought for a second — it’s now or never. “Do you have a pen?” I wrote down my number, took a deep breath and handed it to him, cheeks flushed, and left as quickly as I could. Before I even hit the corner of the street, my phone buzzed. A text. “It’s Marco” is all it said.

I will never live down that Martini Rosso. Marco still teases me about it. It’s something you would usually mix in a drink, he explained, like in a negroni (that fabulous Florentine cocktail made of gin, Campari and red vermouth, like Martini Rosso). But, in my defence (even if I didn’t know it at the time!), in 1863, when Martini Rosso was first created, it was served as is, like other sweet vermouths, as a simple aperitivo or before-dinner drink. On its own, it’s distinctly herbal, spiced, quite sweet and viscous, dark from caramel and slightly reminiscent of cough syrup. He was right. It is better when mixed.

When we got married a couple years later, we forewent the usual bomboniere of candied almonds and gave out mini Martini Rosso bottles as part of our wedding favours, along with this recipe which makes a delicious aperitivo.

Marco's Martini Rosso Cocktail

Marco’s Martini Rosso Cocktail

  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish (mint can substitute)
  • juice of half a lime or lemon
  • 60 ml Martini Rosso
  • freshly squeezed juice of an orange (blood orange is particularly nice)
  • a slice of orange to garnish

Muddle the sugar, basil leaves and lime or lemon juice in a short tumbler. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add the Martini Rosso and stir. Top up with freshly squeezed orange juice and garnish with a slice of orange and some basil.


  1. Carmen Pricone says:

    How sweet Emiko! Love the idea of the Martini Rosso bottles as your wedding gifts for your guests. It was also a trend in the 80’s at Italian weddings in Melbourne to give out miniature liquor bottles as bomboniere. Lovely memory.

  2. I sat here smiling all the way through reading your post. Knowing you it must have been quite something for you to write down your number. Lucky you did. You guys are the cutest together 🙂

    • Emiko Davies says:

      I always think, so lucky I did! Otherwise I may have walked out of there and never seen him again! Cannot imagine how my life would have turned out if I did that… 😉

  3. Rosemarie says:

    Emiko, your post made my day! What an original bomboniere idea. Funnily enough, I met my Luca in a bar too, on a cold February evening (Valentine’s Day Eve) when I had a cold and wasn’t in the mood for going out either (my flatmate insisted!). I’ve never really been into making cocktail drinks but you’ve inspired me to give it go…

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Such a coincidence! This was TWO days before Valentine’s day! He texted me right away and we went out on our first date the next day, Valentine’s Day eve — I’ve never been into Valentine’s day anyway, so I do love that we celebrate the day before!

  4. Juls says:

    I am never tired of this story! 🙂
    Happy that you met him and he made you stay!

  5. sohbet says:

    Martini rosso so good for me thanks for post 🙂

  6. Tina says:

    That is really cute and I read it a multiple times. Thanks for the smile you made me 🙂
    Greetings from Schenna

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