The negroni sbagliato (a “wrong” negroni made with spumante in lieu of gin and mixed with Campari and vermouth) was first created at this classic Milanese cocktail bar and is still served today in an enormous glass. Located in Città Studi, an area buzzing with students, Bar Basso fills up during Salone del Mobile, the annual design week, when it becomes the after-party venue of choice.
Even advertising agencies are aware of the supremacy of the best bars in Milan. In 1985, the tagline for an ad for Amaro Ramazzotti, a digestif, christened the city as “Milano da bere,” which literally translates to “Milan to drink [up].” The line was representative of a vibrant and pulsating town, embodying the zeitgeist of the ‘80s, when Milan was a de facto city of ambition, hustle and hedonism, all conveyed through the social ritual of aperitivo, the pre-dinner drink, which, to this day, is both a social, scene-y and purely gourmet experience.
The local drinking culture dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, around the time when Gaspare Campari began producing his eponymous bitters in a factory outside of the city and serving them as pre-dinner drinks meant to stimulate rather than spoil the appetite. And while Campari is still a foundation of many pre-dinner cocktails that are beloved by the Milanese (hello, Negroni and Campari Spritz!) alongside other light-bodied bitters like Aperol and Cocchi Americano, the hipster epidemic has invaded Milan too and, as a consequence, it’s not hard to find establishments such as Rita & Cocktails, Nottingham Forest and Santeria serving highly creative concoctions that move away from the classic drinks the citizenry is used to.
Milan’s craft beer scene, on the other hand, while less visibly trendy, has its accolades, too: at Bere Buona Birra and Lambiczoon expect to wax poetic about lambics, saisons and gueuze.
With the exception of purely residential neighbourhoods, there are solid drinking options all over the city, and you should make it a point to visit them all before heading to the best restaurants in town for some pizza and classic local eats.