1. Octavius, COCKTAIL €16
Octavius is the slick cocktail bar next to the The Stage Restaurant in Piazza Gae Aulenti. The Stage has a beautiful interior design, which mimics the interior of a luxury yacht. Architects Roman and Williams clad the walls in tambour wood panels which together with the mahogany ceiling make you feel like you're in the belly of a boat. The adjacent Octavius bar can be spotted through the porthole windows, with similar wood surroundings and warm color tones and lighting. The beautiful stainless and brass bar counter is the highlight, where Francesco Cione mans the crew of talented young bartenders - at Octavius, I've never had a bad cocktail!
From the latest menu, try Octavius' revisited negroni Per-un-EGRONI with Macchu Pisco Acholado, Select, sweet vermouth, absinthe and fernet. My favorite drink so far was the Peat-Stop with Talisker storm, Caol Ila Moch, a hint of Esapdin Joven mezcal, Zucca liqueur, sugar, honey and coffee bitters mix.
Although you pay more than MaG cafe or Carlo e Camilla for a drink, the sexy environment and solid drinks are worth the price of admission. Octavius is my top choice for Northern Milano!
2. Botanical club, €10 cocktail
Botanical Club caught everyone's attention 3 years ago when it first opened, being the first bar to distill its own gin called Spleen et Ideal with 8 botanicals (juniper, angelica, coriander, green cardamom, rosebuds, iris, lime peel, mandarin peel). Entering the bar in the trendy Isola district, I was immediately impressed with the slick bar area and good looking customers. I can see why Botanical is a favorite of my fashionable friends Jessica, Tatiana and Arianna! Although Kate (ex Mag and EGO) started things off at the Botanical Club, she has now moved on to work with Elephant Gin. Manning the bar now is the ultra-gifted Mattia Capezzuoli, formerly of 1930. He prepared two perfect renditions of the Dry Martini and Tuxedo cocktails . From the new drink list, try the 48, a name inspired by the first war of independence in Pastrengo in 1848. It features Spleen et ideal gin, lime juice, lemongrass syrup, plum bitters and organic champagne. In addition to great drinks, they have a solid food menu. Try the Ravioli with ricotta di bufala, saffron and a sea urchin sauce. Bomba!
3. Dry Milano, €12 COCKTAIL
Thanks to Domenico Carella, I discovered the magic of Dry in Vittorio Veneto. The hip space near Piazza Repubblica features a welcoming front bar area, where the bartender on duty will always greet you with a smile as you enter. Hospitality is the number 1 priority of the bar team at Dry and they will always go out of their way to make sure you feel like a king. In addition to stellar cocktails, you can sample the best focaccia in Milano. I suggest the salted Yogurt salato with vinappeso or Stracciatella with prosciutto crudo of Osvaldo to pair with your drinketto.
The list is often changing at Dry, so I encourage you to ask the bartender on duty (Francesco Galdi or Federico Turina) to make you a twist on a classic. The Michter's Old Fashioned with an ice sphere made by Dom was the best version of this drink I've had in agese. If you become a regular, request the mind blowingly good Ramos Fizz, a drink most bartenders would refuse to make. But at Dry the boys have got your back!
If you're looking for great food and drinks in a cool atmosphere with head-nod worthy electronic music surrounded by sexy Milanese and jetsetters, Dry is your best bet in Milano.
4. Club Deco, €15 SIGNATURE cocktail/$10 Classic cocktail
"Stay hungry, Stay foolish", the famous line that Steve Jobs borrowed from "The Whole Earth Catalog" during his famous commencement speech at Stanford immediately came to my mind after visiting Salvatore Scamardella at Club Deco,
Although some may be put off by Salvatore's flamboyant style, one thing you can't argue with is his strong desire to innovate. Within five minutes of sitting up at his bar counter at Club Deco, I was captivated by his passion and pride for mixology. If the bar isn't too busy, Salvatore will have you try an endless number of his wild preparations. I don't know how he finds the time to make all this stuff each day!
The most memorable drink of the night was Salvatore's take on the Americano with Campari infused with rhubarb, chocolate red wine!, black walnuts bitters and ginger beer. To add some herbaceous notes, he smoked the drink with hemp! If you don't get high, you will at least enjoy some incredible aromas from this drink.
Do not leave home without trying the legendary Mare Nero (Black Sea), a cocktail designed to confuse and excite your senses - Talisker Skye infused with lemongrass, latte di mare (a syrup made of milk infused with shrimp heads), Falanghina infused with peach, spuma nera (a blend of chocolate bitters, squid ink, strawberry extract, sake honjozo and marshmallow!), Choya verde. I was initially unsure how to drink this cocktail served in a spiny drinking receptacle but after getting past my initial apprehension, I truly enjoyed this sumptuous cocktail. Il Mare Nero borders on being almost a food dish, which is no surprise given Salvatore's background as a chef.
5. WoodinG BAR, €12 Cocktail
Wooding Bar in Isola is an innovative bar by Valeria Margherita Mosca, who gained fame from her Wooding Wild Food Lab, a research laboratory studying the use of "wild food" for human nutrition and nutrition. Valeria and her team study, collect, catalog, analyze, and experiment with wild plants for food and drink. The wild food concept is an environmentally friendly way of sourcing food and also the cocktails proposed at Wooding Bar.
Although I didn't meet Valeria, I was happy to see Erica Rossi behind the bar at Wooding. She started me off with drink #1 featuring mezcal, wild blackberry kombucha (a naturally carbonated, fermented tea), fermented ground roots and ground elder. The herbaceous cocktail was well-balanced and pleasant on the palate.
I urge the first timer to start with a safer choice, the Wooding reinterpretation of the Old Fashioned. Other than the bourbon whiskey, this Old Fashioned veers far from tradition with (3) koso juzo (a delicious fermentation of 50 herbs that ordinarily would be toxic in nature!) and homemade bark bitters. It's even topped with a fermented cherry.
In speaking to my other friends in the industry, it seems the average drinker isn't quite ready for the creative menu at Wooding. I personally, being a fan of new tastes and ideas, had a great experience at Wooding and would encourage all adventurous cocktail enthusiasts to check it out.