Five Oddball Cocktails Inspired by the Italian Futurists

The Italian Futurist art movement changed the rules of the cocktail—transforming it from a drink to a vehicle for dashing expectations and evoking discussion. Here are five recipes that uphold the Futurists' principles, reimagined for the modern palate.

negroni shakerato cocktail recipe john perry yates

Negroni Shakerato: An irreverent treatment of the classic. [Recipe]

root beer float cocktail recipe john perry yates illustration

"Root Beer Float": The childhood classic, reimagined. [Recipe]

orange wine cocktail recipe illustration john perry yates

"Orange Wine": A cocktail that takes its cues from orange wine. [Recipe]

noce vecchio cocktail recipe illustration john perry yates

Noce Vecchio: The Futurist's Old Hickory. [Recipe]

aperol spritz jello shot cocktail recipe john perry yates illustration

Aperol Spritz Jello Shots: A spritz for the modernist. [Recipe]

Perhaps not the most intuitive of cocktail categories, Futurist cocktails include ingredients both weird and ordinary—from anchovy-stuffed communion wafers to lambrusco to amaro. But the offshoot of the Italian Futurist art movement was often less about ingredients and more about expectations—or rather, the unexpected.

The Italian Futurist art movement (1909 – 1944) radically rejected the past through social, political and aesthetic means. Bolstered by the industrial revolution, much of the period’s art exalted speed, energy and individuality—praising achievement over harmony,  often resulting in pieces that distorted perspective in an attempt to illustrate dynamism. Somewhat unexpectedly, the principles of the movement manifested in food and drink, giving birth to one of the most bizarre cookbooks in Italian history—F.T. Marinetti’s La Cucina Futurista.

The futurists believed that eating and drinking was an underutilized avenue to manipulating a dream state, as well as a means of dashing expectations. In practice, food would arrive rapidly while perfumes were used to enhance taste and heighten senses. Technology—from electrolyzers to autoclaves—found its way into the kitchen helping to execute techniques previously unseen. Nearly 100 years before the arrival of modernist chefs like Ferran Adrià and Grant Achatz, the Futurists were laying the groundwork for the approach to cooking that has made today’s most innovative chefs famous.

As the movement applied to drink, the element of surprise formed the basis of Futurist Mixology. In keeping with the movement’s mantra, the Futurists rejected classicism and sought to reinvent the cocktail as not only modern, but undeniably Italian. They rejected the use of classic or expected garnish and eschewed the use of all foreign ingredients—going so far as to mimic whiskey rather than import it. But more than the specific marriage to Italian ingredients—most notably vermouth, amari and moscato d’asti—the movement was about what the cocktail could inspire, socially and psychologically.

In the eyes of the Futurists, a drink was a temporary creation meant to evoke discussion, challenge expectations and alter sexual desire and performance. For example, cocktails with eggs and spice were thought to lower inhibitions and were categorized as “war in bed,” while “peace in bed” described digestif cocktails meant to warm those who were going home to sleep alone. Outside the bedroom, drinks containing sparkling wine were “inventive” and meant to inspire the drinker to create, while others were thought to help the drinker resist conformity.

As wacky as some of these principles may seem, the Futurists still manage to have an incredible influence on modern mixology—from Aviary’s inversion of ice as cocktail vessel to the recent boom in amari-infused drinks.

Together with Joe Campanale and Brett Elms of Anfora, we’ve created a selection of unexpected cocktails that uphold the principles of the Futurists, reimagined for the modern palate. These are drinks like a Root Beer Float, reimagined with Branca Menta and sarsaparilla bitters, Aperol Spritz Jello Shots and vermouth cocktails with crostini garnishes. To experience these drinks in real life, join us this Wednesday, October 1st, at Anfora. Tickets here.