Rasputin, Florence

Location: Borgo Tegolaio, 21R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

Venue Type: Hidden Bar / Cocktail Bar / Basement Bar

Year of Inscription: 2017

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EBG Rating:
Choice/Quality of Drinks
Value For Money
It isn’t your usual bar experience. Stumble around backstreets only to discover the bar is deliberately not located correctly on Google. Google research the actual address, and find it’s different on six separate links. Ask locals living 100 metres away for directions to be greeted with shrugs of shoulders and blank expressions at worst, and vague arm waiving at best. Find the address then realise the street has two sets of numbers going in opposite directions (as many Florentine streets are wont to do). Find an archway with a courtyard that looks like a small shrine, with artwork and religious symbols hung on the wall in gilded frames.

You’ve found it. Find the bell. Ring the bell. 20 seconds later, an otherwise imperceptible hatch will slide open, and you will be greeted by a member of the team. You will walk down a ramp into a crimson carpeted lair. This is Rasputin, and you have arrived.

As you enter the cellar space you will notice the closeness of the air, but also just that vague hint of cellar dampness and coolness, the sort that years of DIY and damp-proofing can never really remove. This isn’t such a bad thing on a sweltering Tuscan evening. The waitress shows you to an intimate couple of seats. You look around the room to survey the scene. It’s like an ornate Tsarist crypt, trapped in time. What reinforces this the most is the children’s furniture in the centre of the room, which really lays on an element of the macabre. It’s so stylish it doesn’t even seem silly.

Far down the cellar you can see the bar in the distance, a bald, bearded rake of a man creating his delicious lethal cocktails, which are I’m afraid your only option in the joint. The waitress hands you the menu. 13 euros. 15 euros. 18 euros. Yes, this isn’t cheap, this is the bar where your bank balance falls off a cliff. In an obnoxious modern cocktail bar I would baulk at the thought of paying this much, and yet, on holiday, down in this delicious secret layer, you know what, just this once, just this once. And that’s how this bar operates really. The law of Just This Once.

The cocktails are lethal, whichever you choose. Looking around the room at the other guests in this alternate reality, and you can see everyone taking their time to savour every mouthful. It’s intoxicating in more ways that one.

This isn’t a place to go with ‘ver lads’, nor is it your mid-afternoon book reading destination. You come here in the late hours, when all civilized society is tucked up in bed, with a partner or a good friend or two and you get smashed, the crimson and otherworldly ephemera swirling in your head. As you sit there, you temporarily become actors, or objects in the scene. There aren’t many places like this.

The main downside is that everything feels very tightly controlled. Whether it’s taking pictures, or getting up to use the lavatory, right down to the last remnants of your drink, there is an authoritarian grip to the whole proceedings, which I didn’t quite like.

However, while drink is in your glass and the company is good, there is no need to get caught up in things like that.

Some of you may think that paying 15 euros for a drink is unthinkable. Not this time. Not visiting Rasputin on your visit to Florence is unthinkable. You’ll pay more for worse experiences that don’t come with a lovely drink attached.