A History Lesson With Booze ®

The Mona Lisa Returns to Italy

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In 1911, the most famous painting in the world turned up missing.

Stealing the Mona Lisa was supposed to be impossible. At least, that’s what folks thought back in 1910. In fact, the head of French museums at the time said quote: “You might as well pretend that one could steal the towers of Notre Dame.”

Turns out, he was kinda completely wrong. Because a year later an Italian named Vincenzo Peruggia simply hid in a Louvre closet one night ‘til everyone left. Then he grabbed the Mona Lisa off the wall, tucked it under his coat, and walked out. No one even called the cops until the next afternoon.

It was a scandal. For two years, French cops went on a wild goose chase. At one point they thought Pablo Picasso could be the thief. And they might never have found the painting… if Peruggia hadn’t tried to sell it to an Italian art dealer for 500 thousand lire. He was arrested on the spot.

The Italian courts didn’t exactly throw the book at him, though. See, Peruggia claimed he was avenging Italy’s honor, and that the Mona Lisa should be back home in Italia.

Never mind that he’d tried to make half a million bucks from the theft. To Italians? He was a hero. Which might explain why the guy who stole the Mona Lisa got just a 7 month sentence and was set free for time served.

The Mona Lisa in Florence

Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com
Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

Liberate this work of cocktail art – an Italian take on the “Mona Lisa” cocktail pioneered by a bar right next to the Louvre called Le Fumoir – as framed by Francesco Roccato, general manager at Fusion Bar in Florence, Italy.


Into a tall glass, add:

  • 1 part Alkermes, an Arabic-turned-Florentine liqueur from the de Medici era.
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 3 parts Champagne


Secret the drink away to your native land, hide it in your apartment for two years, then attempt to sell it for big bucks. Or just sip it, with an enigmatic half-smile. (If desired, Francesco also suggests “staining” this pretty picture with a little creme de cassis.)