Beyond the aperitivo, Fox & Beagle pick their favourite cocktail bars in Milan
It's a fashion capital, so you know you'll be able to drink in style. Yes, the Negroni, the Campari Soda and the Aperol Spritz are available in every venue in town, but dig a little deeper and you can find some bars offering much more - let us show you where.
1930 - Secret Location
Is this the closest we have left to a true speakeasy? A secret location, limited marketing and a requirement to ingratiate yourself with the staff of another bar across town before you get a personal invite and, more importantly, the address. Once you're in the inner circle, the bar itself is a beautiful recreation of a back room parlour from the 1930s. Dimly lit (of course) with dark striped wallpaper and luxurious velvet armchairs. Service is attentive and welcoming, and the drinks inventive and beautifully styled with the menu changing to a new chapter every six months. When we visited (during the COVID pandemic) the theme was travel in a time we could not - we chose a Mediterranean Gimlet from close to home, and the Ikeda (named for the inventor of umami and featuring seven different seaweeds balanced to a surprisingly sweet finish thanks to the rich rum. Downstairs a former WW2 bunker has been converted to a cigar room with arched ceilings and plenty of space. So that's no queues, lots of room and world travel via the menu. What more could you ask? The address? Head to Mag Cafe, make friends with the staff and hope for the best...
Camparino - Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
A stylish icon and paean to the beetle-red liqueur that has travelled the world from its home in Milan. Camparino dates from 1915, the 'younger brother' of Caffe Campari which was the family's first bar in the stunning surrounds of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II upon its opening in 1867. While the older brother is sadly no longer with us, the younger sibling carries on the tradition. The venue is classically styled and features two bars - the walk-in bar with a counter-style coffee bar and range of Americani and Negroni on the ground floor and the brightly-lit first floor Spirit Room with a more advanced journey through the delights of mixing with Campari.
Mag Cafe - Naviglio
The home of the Farmily Spirits brand and your potential gateway to Bar 1930, Mag Cafe is a delightfully relaxed bar with a part-bicycle repair shop, part-apothecary or junk shop vibe in the bustling Naviglio district. Drawing future-focussed bartenders from across Italy, the menu draws from their own products to create twists on classics to showcase their creativity - see the Farmily Daiquiri made with botanical spirit and just a touch of rum, or the Sempre il Solito a multiple-citrus sour.
Iter - Naviglio
The grown up neighbour to Mag Cafe, Iter is a travel-inspired venue on the streets of the Naviglio district. The menu (which rotates every six months) takes inspiration from an international location, with the bartenders taking inspiration from a dedicated trip. In these times of limited travel, they're looking back on previous menus to offer a range of greatest hits. The French menu was well-represented on our visit with Savoy (white vermouth, myrtle liqueur and juniper) and Bordeaux (a raisin-rich twist on a cobbler) particularly inviting. The food menu is also on point with a mound of meatballs in a dark red sugo and a tropical dish of warm prawns with sweet pineapple also on offer.
Back Door 43 - Naviglio
Self-proclaimed 'smallest bar in the world', Backdoor 43 is the Narnia-style wardrobe of your mixological dreams. In normal (non-pandemic) times, it has space for four guests and a bartender, current socially distanced capacity allows for just two. As a result you will be vastly outnumbered by the whisky selection (over two hundred bottles reached by a specially designed bottle grabber) and the well-stocked back bar that is reminiscent of a science lab thanks to the space-saving approach of decanting bottles into test tubes to allow for a wider range. If you've ever wanted one of the best mixologists in Milan all to yourself, this is the venue for you, although he will still be distracted by the takeaway drinks hatch that helps to balance the books churning out around two hundred drinks a night from a list of just eight in branded takeaway cups.
Maybe you want bar quality cocktails to come to you?