In Rome, nightlife can mean anything from an early-evening aperitivo to innovative cocktails in a secret speakeasy. Even the historic centre is far from traditional, so discover its varied bar scene with the help of an expert.
Rome’s bar scene has been revitalised in recent years, as a new generation of mixologists has raised the standard of cocktails on offer and continues to come up with interesting, original concoctions. Natural and biodynamic wines are increasingly sought after, and craft-beer shops have popped up across the city. However, a number of long-established locales also continue to thrive and are often among the busiest spots in town. For the best bars in and around the Centro Storico, check out this list – which includes a few favourites of Valerio Boccitto, head bartender at Club Derrière.
In true speakeasy style, a password is needed to get through the doors of the cheekily named Club Derrière. And they’re not just any doors – the entrance is hidden behind a white wardrobe in the back room of Osteria delle Coppelle. Inside, the vibe is intimate and elegant, with candlelight gently illuminating the iron and glass bar area, studded leather sofas and weathered wooden tables. The frequently changing menus are a closely kept secret; consisting of a range of cocktails constructed around a theme, and accompanied with a side that changes the taste or experience of the drink, it’s something you’ll have to visit to experience.
“Don’t be fooled by the old-school barber shop that can be seen through the windows,” says Boccitto. “Downstairs is one of the most beautiful cocktail bars in the capital.” The Barber Shop, like many of Rome’s speakeasy bars, is often referred to as hipster, but it exceeds that label – it has both style and substance, as is demonstrated in its menu of carefully curated cocktails. The classics, like the rob roy and the old fashioned, rub shoulders with more innovative, modern creations such as the Ginger Fizz, which is made with rum, ginger beer, cream and mint liqueur.
Drink Kong forgoes Rome’s recent speakeasy trend, forging a path of its own to great success. Opened in late 2018, the large venue recalls, as Boccitto puts it, “a not too distant future, or a visionary past”. Think neon signs, ’80s arcade games and black-and-white chequered floors. As well as the main bar, there’s a luxurious lounge, live music in the Jungle Room and a Japanese-themed room that hosts private tastings and mixology classes. Described as an “instinct bar”, Drink Kong has a minimalist menu that reveals the main alcohol of each drink but not the other ingredients. Instead mixologists shake, stir and serve according to whether guests prefer a bitter, dry or sweet taste.
APT is the bar that wants to “recreate an apartment, where guests breathe in the same atmosphere as a party at home, with [owner] Vincenzo as the impeccable host”, says Boccitto. Only, with its subterranean location, book-lined walls and vintage photos, this place is almost definitely cooler than your actual home. Located in Monti, Rome’s oldest neighbourhood, APT attracts a fashionable crowd with its punchy cocktails served in crystal-cut glasses, floral teacups and other vintage-style vessels. Don’t be afraid to ask for a drinks recommendation from the knowledgeable staff, who are happy to help find the perfect concoction for you.
Both contemporary bar and cultural association, Drop is a multifunctional space dedicated to creative recreational experiences. The bar is one of Boccitto’s favourites thanks to its “stone archways, eccentric furnishings, vivid colours and electrifying atmosphere”. There’s also a stage for live music and DJ sets. Behind the bar, Drop has made the conscious choice to stock the sustainable Elephant Gin – a brand recognised for its environmental and social commitments. Be sure to check the bar’s Facebook page for events, which include mixology masterclasses, photography workshops and other creative courses.
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