In addition to being the truly cosmopolitan city of Italy, Milan is perhaps the most devout place to follow the aperitif ritual. As a result, new trends overlap with traditional ways to spoil those looking for a pre-dinner drink.
The practice of sipping an aperitif on an empty stomach has been practiced in many cultures and eras. However, the origins of modern Italian aperitivo can be traced back to Turin in the late 18th century, from where it quickly spread to other major cities in the peninsula. Milan has been driving the trend of this popular habit since at least the 1980s, as “happy hours” were imported from abroad and rich buffets replaced the traditional frugal snacks. Aperitifs haven’t stopped evolving, and today they range from old-school bars to sophisticated options.
Who says you can’t feel at home with a signature cocktail? The interior here achieves a random living room-like quality through large spaces, mismatched furniture and hanging plants. So as not to spoil the mood, the bar is half-hidden, offering up to eight (oTTo) house cocktails, international classics, over 40 wines and craft beers; and the food is served on a cutting board rather than the typical aperitif buffet. Apparently, wish notes are hidden in the table drawer, so everyone can leave their own.
Via Sarpi 8, 20154 Milano
Come and enjoy French cuisine because this little corner of France rivals the cafés and traditional bistros of Paris, Le Vrai strives to break stereotypes of French cuisine, favoring authentic produce over haute cuisine, regional recipes over nouvelle cuisine, but still striving to reinforce traditions in a modern and innovative way. Aperitifs include foie gras pâté, pâté, aperitifs, cheese and cheese curds, accompanied by champagne and red wine.
Via Galileo Galilei, 20124 Milano (Milan)
A pioneer in bohemian style, Jamaica opened in 1911 and became a cultural reference for the Brera neighborhood and the city as a whole. Many journalists, poets, artists and intellectuals made it their most popular venue, but that didn’t take away from the local clientele, card games and the vernacular character of traditional food. Today, it’s unlikely to find a penniless artist making a living from painting, but Jamaica’s atmosphere and services remain historically authentic. After a visit to the nearby Pinacoteca di Brera, this is an excellent stopping point.
Via Brera 32, 20121 Milano
Capra e Cavoli
Not your typical vegetarian restaurant, Capra e Cavoli strikes an amazing balance between a refined approach and a passion for real food. Superior produce and Chef Pappalardo’s creativity turn simple, honest ingredients into inspiring stories. Most of the dishes are vegetarian, but vegetarian and escetarian exceptions are allowed. The carefully selected organic wines are the perfect complement to the alternative aperitifs, and the restaurant’s bright, fresh atmosphere makes it all the more enjoyable.
Via Pastrengo 18, 20159 Milano.
The Navigli region by the canals of Milan is full of picturesque places to enjoy an aperitif at sunset. Located on the banks of the Naviglio Grande, Rebelot offers a sophisticated and unusual experience where the basic rules of tradition meet experimental methods. Like the food menu, the cocktail list is a simple encounter of first-class ingredients and bold creativity, although the beautifully appointed and unpretentious wine cellar would be an enticing choice. All set in a warm and laid-back atmosphere.
Ripa di Porta Ticinese 55, 20143 Milano (Milan)
Sushi may not be the most obvious addition to a traditional aperitif, but it does provide a great excuse to break away from the norm. In fact, the name Basara comes from a medieval Japanese term that refers to those who embrace an eclectic lifestyle, and accordingly brings to Milan an innovative concept that combines authentic sushi with creative pastries. If exquisite desserts based on Japanese produce are better suited to the rest of the day, then Chef Hiro’s exquisite sushi creations are perfect for aperitif time, and would be best served with a glass of bubbly.
12 Via Milano Totona, 20144.
Milan’s Indian aperitivo, a warm and intimate setting with inlaid wood, brass accents and original sculptures from India. From the parquet floors to the bar, every piece of furniture has a story to tell, whether it’s a 19th-century haveli (traditional Indian home), a seaside temple or an old-fashioned fabric shop.BhangraBar is a stone’s throw from Parco Sempione and Arco della Pace, providing an unusual backdrop for a typical happy hour.
Corso Sempione 1, 20145 Milano (Milan).
Vino al Vino
Here you will find an impressive list of wines, carefully selected to reflect a sincere and enthusiastic approach. Every wine on the list is sold both by bottle and by the glass, with the latter always costing only a quarter of the price of the bottled wine. That way, there’s no reason not to explore all the options available, including the high-quality wines. At aperitif time, red, white, champagne and spumanti are served with a platter of cheese and cured meats.
Via Gaspare Spontini 11, 20131 Milano.
TOM – General Market
After working in London’s renowned gastropubs and restaurants, British chef Charlie Pearce travelled to Italy and the United States to explore more of the culinary arts. He then specialised in original combinations of Mediterranean flavours and American street food, which he used to reinvent TOM’s kitchen in 2016. Young, energetic, easy-going and stylish, TOM represents the international side of Milan, with aperitifs coming from a wealth of exotic flavours and an excellent cocktail section. The event program here includes regular live performances and DJ sets.
Via Molino del Ami, Milan.
Sushi B offers a sophisticated experience based on Japanese traditions, Mediterranean flavours and seasonal produce. In a relaxed atmosphere, there is a vertical garden, a sushi bar where you can observe the chef’s skills, and an elegant private gathering room. The original cocktail list is divided into “Eastern” and “Western” inspirations, and both sections boast a creative mix of typical Japanese ingredients and Western recipes. Alternatively, non-traditional aperitifs can be enjoyed on the restored garden terrace.
Via Fiori Chiari 1A, 20121 Milano (Milan)