A Bartender’s Guide to the Best Bars in Rome’s Centro Storico

DROP Monti is one of Rome’s coolest bars
DROP Monti is one of Rome’s coolest bars | Courtesy of DROP Monti
Photo of Emma Law
Hub Writer20 December 2019

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.

Club Derrière

Bar, Cocktails, $$$
Map View
Club Derrière’s dimly lit interior is perfect for a late-night drink
Club Derrière’s dimly lit interior is perfect for a late-night drink | Courtesy of 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.

Jerry Thomas Speakeasy

Bar, Pub Grub, Wine, Beer, Cocktails, Italian, $$$
Map View
Jerry Thomas Speakeasy
© Alberto Blasetti / Jerry Thomas Speakeasy
Rome’s original speakeasy, Jerry Thomas opened in 2010 and has seen its clientele expand from industry insiders to cocktail enthusiasts, Romans and eager tourists. It has even made it onto the World’s 50 Best Bars list. Boccitto recommends “letting yourself be swept away by the atmosphere”, which takes its cue from the unlicensed bars of the American Prohibition era. Expect leather couches, soft jazz and exceptionally dim lighting. There are also a number of rules to abide by, including no photos with a flash and no entry without the password. Don’t try and order a vodka here; the menu focusses instead on spirits such as bourbon, gin and rum.

Open Baladin

Bar, Restaurant, Pub, Italian, Cocktails, Wine, $$$
Map View
Open Baladin specialises in trendy craft beers and burgers
Open Baladin specialises in trendy craft beers and burgers | © Baladin Archive
Hidden in the maze of sidestreets near Campo de’ Fiori, Open Baladin is a haven for craft-beer enthusiasts – there are more than 100 labels available by the bottle and another 40 on tap. Ales, lagers, stouts and unconventional brews like honey and pumpkin beer are sourced from across Italy, Europe and the USA, as well as Baladin’s own brewery. They’re served up alongside some classic pub-style food in this colourful, modern space; crowd-pleasing burgers and home-made potato chips are the mainstays of the menu.

The Barber Shop

Bar, Cocktails, $$$
Map View
Let The Barber Shop’s mixologists whip you up a drink
Let The Barber Shop’s mixologists whip you up a drink | Courtesy of The Barber Shop

“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

Bar, Cocktails, $$$
Map View
Drink Kong speakeasy
There are plenty of surprises in store at Drink Kong speakeasy | © Alberto Blasetti / Drink Kong

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

Bar, Cocktails, Wine, Beer
Map View
Soak up the house-party vibes at APT
Soak up the house-party vibes at APT | Courtesy of APT

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.

Enoteca Il Goccetto

Bar, Italian, Wine, Beer, Cocktails, Vegetarian, Fast Food, $$$
Map View
Il Goccetto is the perfect example of an Italian enoteca(wine bar). The cosy, compact bar has long been a favourite among Rome’s residents and is packed with wines from across Italy. Choose a vintage from the wall-to-wall shelving (prices start at about €15 a bottle) or sip on something from the by-the-glass menu for about €6-10. A small selection of delicious meats, cheeses and other savoury snacks is also available to pair with your chosen tipple. Space is limited, so if there are no tables available, take your drink outside and hang out with friends underneath the charming, hand-painted ‘Vino e Olio shop sign.

DROP Monti

Bar, Wine, Cocktails
Map View
Drop Bar
DROP is innovative, eclectic, but above all, welcoming | Courtesy of DROP Monti

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.

Baccano

Restaurant, Bar, Italian, Wine, $$$
Map View
“A melting pot in the heart of the Eternal City” is how Boccitto describes this idiosyncratic bar. Located right near the Trevi Fountain, Baccano takes inspiration from both the traditional French brasserie and the contemporary New York restaurant. The space is light and airy and comprises restaurant, bistro, cocktail bar and oyster bar. In terms of food, there’s everything from Roman cacio e pepe pasta to caesar salad, burgers and lobster rolls. The philosophy of the venue – to achieve the perfect balance between tradition and modernity – is evident in the cocktail menu, which includes updated interpretations of the classics such as the manhattan and the negroni.
These recommendations were updated on December 20, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.