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Harry's Bar was opened in 1931 by bartender Giuseppe Cipriani. According to the company history, Harry Pickering—a rich, young Bostonian—had been frequenting Hotel Europa in Venice, where Giuseppe Cipriani was a bartender. When Pickering suddenly stopped coming to the hotel bar, Cipriani asked him why. When Pickering explained that he was broke because his family found out his drinking habits and cut him off financially, Cipriani loaned him 10,000 lire (about $5,000 US). 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."
The Italian Ministry for Cultural Affairs declared it a national landmark in 2001.
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, Truman Capote, Orson Welles, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Princess Aspasia of Greece, Aristotle Onassis, Barbara Hutton, Peggy Guggenheim, and Woody Allen.
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 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 own troops against enemy troops on the battle field. Ernest Hemingway is said to be the first person to order a Montgomery at Harry's Bar.
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, Manhattan's famous Rainbow Rooms, 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.
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