In the age of Instagram, the defining feature of a bar is often determined not by reviews, tastes or intent, but by smartphone. While some spaces are designed with this express purpose in mind, there are certain objects that become inadvertent icons through their unwitting “Instagram-ability.” In this series, PUNCH shares the stories behind the bar world’s most viral landmarks.
But there’s no wizardry at play at Bar Basso, beyond the inherent charm that comes with enjoying an iconic cocktail—a Negroni that sees sparkling wine take the place of gin—at the place of its creation, a self-described “cult bar for sophisticated drinking devotees.”
Bought in 1967 by Mirko Stocchetto, an alumnus of Harry’s Bar in Venice, the historic space remains largely as it was half a century ago—down to the absurdist glassware—and is often credited with revolutionizing the way Milan drinks with its American-style approach to cocktails. It was there that aperitivo classics, like the Rossini and the Negroni Sbagliato, or “mistaken Negroni,” were invented, significant departures from the standard vermouth, wine or beer typically served at Italian cafés.
The oversize Negroni Sbagliato, served in bespoke one-foot tall stemware, plays no small part in Bar Basso’s status as an Italian aperitivo icon. Perhaps inspired by the signature serve practiced at his alma mater, where Martinis arrive in diminutive tumblers that have since become universally recognizable, Stocchetto took a similar tack—albeit on a grander scale—by custom ordering his scenographic vessels from glass blowers in Venice. More than five decades later, the glasses have become Instagram magnets for the fashionable set who flock to the city annually as part of the fashion and design week circuits.
Given their inherent Instagrammability, it’s hard to consider the Negroni Sbagliato a “mistake.” At Bar Basso, in particular, their size might just be the key to their success. As one Instagram user surmised, the gallon-sized refreshments are “both an invitation and a dare.”