7 minutes reading time Italy
I have taken the time to create a list of experience-driven bars in Milan, some intriguing, some exotic, and some perhaps homely. A city that is around 182 km2 has invented Negroni Sbagliato (mistaken Negroni) and has the tiniest bar in the world.
Milan is popularized for its fast-fashion and Bosco Verticale, however, the drinking culture here is not only creative it is taken seriously.
Drinking in Italy commences with Aperitivo, a pre-meal tradition to stimulate the appetite. But there is more, the word Aperitivo originated from a Latin word called apertures which means having uncovered, open, free, and public and that is the exact principle behind it. People come together to spend their evenings with friends and family while freeing themselves from the mundane doings of life.
Negroni a bitter-sweet mistake
The mind works after drinking alcohol. After consumption of alcohol, it works to create another drink. That’s how Conte Camillo Negroni invented the IBA cocktail called, of course, Negroni; a flashy ruby-colored drink containing gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. All three liquors make up a brilliant red that is served in a short tumbler glass with a neat slice of orange as a garnish. It was invented because the noble signor was nostalgic for the American tinge in his cocktails and had craving taste buds for a bitter-sweet alcoholic drink.
Hence the birth of Negroni took place in Caffé Giacosa, Florence. And Milan not trying to be artsy mistakenly gave birth to Negroni Sbagliato in Bar Basso around 1972. Since the mistake was favorably accepted by Milanese, Bar Basso serves its wonderful mistake in a large chalice. Negroni Sbagliato’s velvety red is showcased and so is “a wrong” that turned the bar into a legacy.
Bar Basso is frequented by posh clients, Milanese locals, and students. It has an ambient that fits modernity and traditional elegance. A place I recommend the first comers to visit and order a fat Negroni Sbagliato!
Did family engage you in a riddle?
Sit with the bartenders in Mag Cafe and they’ll tell you the true meaning of riddles. A rustic shabby bar situated in the Navigli area of Milan, accessed via a metro stop called Porta Genova, is situated right in front of a church. The canal runs between the two opposing buildings, portraying an archaic and close-to-nature view. The interior of the bar when scrutinized engages you in all sorts of puzzling thoughts, like the wooden birdcage having several species of birds perched outside of the cage. And like the toilet mirror covers the ceiling to involve you in a play.
The bar has a twin branch in Pusterla, and their menu is also divided indicating what new tipple awaits you if you barhop to their second soul. Their very-own cocktails take six months to prepare, concocting a refined taste, and studying each aspect of their recipe. Even the glass and decoration are selected carefully.
Their recommended signature drink is: “Giappone” and “Negroni Del Marinaio”
Mag Cafe is also connected to the tiniest bar in the world, backdoor 43, which can only fit around four people (Bartender included), and booking for the place should be made two weeks prior. This is mag’s way to provide an alternative to late-night comers, as it’s open till 3:00 am for takeaway drinks where a tiny window only shows the dexterous working hands of the bartender. The anonymous barman wears a theatrical mask for his indoor clients to maintain the mystery. You are given the opportunity to choose the music playlist for your 60-minute date in backdoor 43.
Mag Cafe member, Andrea, says Mag is in fashion because they operate with a founding notion of family and their clients must feel part of a mega-family.
Secret revealed, kidding, if the staff find you trustworthy you’ll be given the password to the underground speakeasy, named 1930. Rumors have it that the drink list is written on Aloe vera leaves and it is the only place in Milan where smoking is allowed indoors. Also, taking pictures is prohibited inside.
Art at the heart of Milan
“Drinking is pleasurable but drinking well is an experience. Art Mall wants to be an experience.” that’s what, Antonio, the owner of Art Mall said when I asked him what is the laying foundation of your bar.
Situated in a basement 8 minutes away from Duomo (Cathedral of Milan), this artsy and modern bar is the first in Milan to provide an NFT’cafe room (a digital art room) offering an innovative space to people and artists. If you want to drink while local painters sit next to you and paint, while local musicians put on a live show and play their latest songs then you’re in the right place here.
The bar is a quintessential platform for artists and musicians. The interior is filled with paintings and psychedelic art pieces, it is a type of nocturnal art gallery that changes its setting periodically with newer artworks.
If you have more time I recommend paying a visit to The Dopping Club. It is all about mixing sport and clubbing figuratively. Its mind-boggling interior is fascinating, decorated with unexpected sporty statues, miniatures, and pieces.
LGBTQ community got us cheaper drinks
Porta Genova embraced the LGBTQ movement and dedicated its square, subway, bars, and nightlife to bountifully celebrate this historical event every day by providing the lowest price and friendliest bar environment.
And if you have not heard of Gin Tonic that costs five euros? In Porta Venezia you will! The place is lined with funky bars and filled with flamboyant fashionistas.
Red Cafe is one of the bars that provide liquor for as little as four euros. As is indicated by the name, the bar is drenched in rosy red ambient placing you instantly in a flowery world of ease. Socializing with locals is effortless in this part of Milan. Overall, barhopping can’t get any cheaper.
A view of the Madonnina and Moonlight
Elegant and lavishly chic, Martini Rooftop Club, is not only modern and sleek, but it is also a perfect rooftop terrace to view Milan. Its location gives it the exceptional advantage to view Duomo which sits like a white jewel with the Madonnina (Virgin Mary) firmly standing in gold. No nearby buildings or monuments intrude on the panorama and the terrace’s minimalistic glass boundaries allow you to enjoy it fully.
Interesting facts: Madonnina, a statue placed on a spire on top of the Cathedral of Milan is the beating heart of the city. When the lockdown froze the entire city the bishop prayed for the whole country standing under the influence of the Madonnina- placed on the highest spire. She is also part of several songs. Some say larcenists tried to steal the statue via helicopter but failed as they weren’t able to detach the holy sculpture.
For gin lovers, head to Botanical Club, in Via Pastrengo 11, to pick your Favorite Gin and tonic from over 150 different types of gin.
Wine lovers Cantine Isola dal 1896 has you covered. Located in the China Town of Milan (Paolo Sarpi Area) you will find national and regional wine no matter what your preference is you will find all you need.
Want your cocktails and shots offered in a holy place? La Chiesetta, a small Gothic church from the late 18th Century will serve you purified poisons.
A final note
Milan is constantly changing its identity. It is always on the verge of change. Bars in this city contain the essence of diversity and innovation, despite the newest transformation, the local and modern bars manage to provide you with a temporary home and a rare experience.