Harry's Bar was opened in 1931 by Giuseppe Cipriani. According to the company's history, Harry Pickering, a rich young American, had been frequenting the Hotel Europa in Venice, where Cipriani was a bartender. When Pickering suddenly stopped coming to the hotel bar, Cipriani asked him why. Pickering explained that he was broke because his family found out his drinking habits and cut him off financially, and Cipriani lent him 10,000 lire (then about $500 US [$7,839 in 2015 dollars]). Two years later, Pickering returned to the hotel bar, ordered a drink, and gave Cipriani 50,000 lire in return. "Mr. Cipriani, thank you," he said, according to the Cipriani website. "Here's the money. And to show you my appreciation, here's 40,000 more, enough to open a bar. We will call it Harry's Bar."
Harry's Bar has long been frequented by famous people, and it was a favourite of Ernest Hemingway. Other notable customers have included Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini, inventor Guglielmo Marconi, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Maria Callas, Richard Halliburton, Truman Capote, Orson Welles, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Princess Aspasia of Greece, Aristotle Onassis, Barbara Hutton, Peggy Guggenheim, Tareq Salahi, George Clooney, Joe DiMaggio, and Woody Allen.
The bar was also briefly mentioned in the second and subsequent editions of Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited (in the first edition Waugh simply called the bar "the English bar") as a frequent haunt of principal characters Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte during their time in Venice. The mention is anachronistic as their visit takes place in 1923.
Food and drink
Harry's Bar is also famous for its dry martini, which is served in a small glass without a stem. Their dry martinis are very dry, apparently with the ratio of 10 parts gin to 1 part vermouth. This is an adaptation of the Montgomery Martini, which is 15 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth. The Montgomery is named after British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who liked to have a 15 to 1 ratio of his own troops against enemy troops on the battlefield.
Harry's Bar is today "the anchor to a global brand, positioned around the Cipriani name." In New York City, the Ciprianis run the restaurants Harry Cipriani, Cipriani 42nd Street, and DownTown, a travel company, and a catering company. Buenos Aires is home to three more outlets. In Venice, the Ciprianis also own Harry's Dolci. The Cipriani brand also includes lines of pastas, sauces, olive oils, coffee, books, and kitchenware.
Anthony Bourdain said of Harry's, "You get a pretty good plate of food—and the Bellinis are just fine. They just cost a fuck of a lot. But they do treat you courteously and it is Venice out the window—and everything's expensive anyway."
- Harry's Bar (Rome)
- Harry's Bar (London), named after the Venetian establishment
- Harry's New York Bar
- Harry's Bar of Venice - a modern Italian landmark, CNN.com, 13 October 2000. Archived March 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- Harry's Bar Archived 2011-09-02 at the Wayback Machine at cipriani.com
- Rayner, Jay. Harry's Bar, Venice, The Observer, 11 November 2001.
- Bone, James. "Owners of Cipriani admit tax scam", Times Online, 2 August 2007.
- The Caterer: Owners of iconic Harry’s Bar pushed out after 80 years, December 2012
- Anthony Bourdain (2010). Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. A&C Black. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-4088-0914-3.