When in Rome, drink in its best cocktail bars

After a whirlwind, weeklong cocktail tour of three different Italian cities, I learned that drinking in Italy is more than just Tuscan wines and on-point aperitivos. The Italians rival many cocktail-focused countries for topnotch drinks in stylish spaces. Some things that stand out: really inspired and meaningful concepts in terms of drinks and decor, the tendency for an occasional garnish outside of the glass – either on the side or base – and that Italians really know how to make a martini! Looking to explore Italian cocktail culture and discover some of the best cocktail bars in Rome? Here are some starting points:

The Court Bar: Best Colosseum view

The five star Palazzo Manfredi is where you head for high end pampering. Even if you don’t spring for a night in one of their comfy beds, you can still enjoy luxury treatment with a front row view of the Colosseum at the The Court bar. Under the guidance of the attentive Matteo Zed, the team here make classics or original drinks with fat washing, rotovap and other creative techniques. It’s hands down one of the best places to enjoy an evening view of one of the world’s seven wonders for the price of a cocktail. 

Tip: If you’re a fan of Italian Amaro, chat with Matteo who wrote “the big book” on this traditional digestif turned trendy cocktail ingredient.

Jerry Thomas Project: Classic speakeasy cocktails

You can’t make a list of the best cocktail bars in Rome without talking about Jerry Thomas Project, Italy’s first ‘secret bar’. Ring to request entrance via the discreet door’s peephole window and settle in for some stellar classics served until late into the night. JTP is an industry reference that innovates with new products like Vermouth del Professore while maintaining a standard for old school cocktails like their icy cold martini made with London dry and orange bitters – just the way I like it. 

Tip: If you like a floral cocktails the Improved Aviation is one of their signatures.

Drink Kong: Blade Runner X Japan cocktails

This busy and bright minimalist bar embodies the passions and experiences of its Italian-Irish owner, Patrick Pistolesi. Neon lights and video games in the loo line recall arcades of another era while the beautifully designed cocktail menus and bar snacks bring an Asian element to the mix. It’s best just to surrender to the menu and choose something according to flavor profile like the Izanami from the New Humans menu whose mix of whisky and miso create a salty caramel flavor. This playground for adults is composed of distinctly different areas: a calm seating-only area with comfy round booths, a music area, a bustling bar and an Omakase room that provides a private portal straight to Japan. 

Tip: Can’t make it to Rome? They sell a pack of four flat packed Kong cocktails that can be shipped world-wide. 

CoSo: Small and cerebral cocktail bar

CoSo (Cocktail & Social) is a small and stylish spot getting cerebral with their cocktails. Their current menu focuses on 3 different dimensions (consciousness, subconsciousness and unconsciousness) with to two cocktails for category that range from bold tastes, to memories to the “land of the undefined”.  But they also serve up a very accessible and easy aperitivo that makes a nod to Italy’s aperitivo past with the Tandem, their updated version of the century old Bicycle. They specialize in gourmet club sandwiches and their signature cocktail is a carbonara sour made with guanciale fat washed vodka. 

Tip: Keep an eye on their Facebook page for their exciting new project, REM, coming soon. 

Freni e Frizioni: Garage Street Style cocktails

This “Street Cocktail Bar” has plenty of outdoor seating in the center or Rome and is housed in a former garage, so they riff on that theme. The cocktails are presented in manuals, rather than menus, which are extensive books that include not just drinks but other information about the bar and bartenders. The cool kids have been hanging here for apero hour since 2005. 

Tip: Check out their bar and guest curated playlists on spotify

Treefolk’s Public House: British gastropub

Treefolks is Rome’s first gastropub, which serves up tasty cocktails as well as predominantly English cask beers. While pub style might be the first thing you think of for a list of the best cocktail bars in Rome, but the space is lovely and worth a look if you’re strolling through the charming Trastevere neighborhood. The large outdoor terrace is great for sunny summer days, while the “Scotch Room with its cozy leather and velour seating is a comforting space for cooler months. The food menu includes, not surprisingly, fish and chips but also other more fusion options like Asian style salads and buns. It’s a great place for a light lunch and a low ABV cocktail like their Apuntamento Spagliato. 

Tip: They serve both martinis and manhattans in mini formats for a fiver! 

Checchino 1887: Traditional Roman fare with hidden cocktail bar

With six generations of family behind it and located across from what was Rome’s old central slaughterhouse, the city’s history runs through Checchino’s bones. Delicious old school dishes celebrate what was referred to as the “fifth quarter” back in the day, I.e. heads, tails, feet and innards. This is non-fussy and historical eating at its very offal best. They have also created a laid back bar space upstairs with a long family style table running the length of the room. Here they are serving their latest creations, a selection of “perfume” cocktails. 

Tip: Get friendly with your server and ask if you can visit their “Time Machine”

Hey Güey: Latin vibes & cocktails with a view

The lively and fun Mexican themed bar sits atop the boutique Chapter Hotel and serves tasty tacos with a side of sunny attitude. The comfy seating punctuated with colorful throw cushions, tall cactus, a lime green food truck and frozen margaritas all make you feel like you’ve slipped south of the border. But the panoramic view of the city’s beautiful rooftops will remind you that you’re definitely still in Rome. 

Tip: This place pulls in a good after work crowd so head here for apero hour if you are looking to mix with the locals.

Thank you to Palazzo Manfredi and Chapter Roma hotels for cold drinks and warm beds and to the Blue Blazer team for organizing the logistics of this tour to introduce us to some of the best cocktail bars in Rome.  And if you like reading about cocktail travels, check out our other recommendations for where to drink around the globe.

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