The Best Aperitivo Bars in Milan

Milano da Bere, or drinkable Milan, is an expression used to describe the city during the fashion-obsessed, money-hungry 1980s, an age that saw the the traditional aperitivo ritual skyrocket in popularity. The name comes from an advertising slogan devised in 1985 for Amaro Ramazzotti; it originally meant that Milan was to be enjoyed fully, to the last drop. But when a few years later the Tangentopoli scandal exposed a system in which corrupt politicians were taking bribes for public contracts, the name became an allusion to how much of the city’s wealth had been drunk away by double-dealing. Yet aperitivo—the ritual of drinking a pre-meal cocktail alongside light snacks—has managed to survive that troubled phase with its reputation intact, and today is more alive than ever. —Sara Porro

  • 1

    Ceresio7

    The flamboyant brand DSquared2 is mainly known for its daring stripper-style heels. Ceresio7, its restaurant and bar, shares the same over-the-top allure with its retro-chic interiors and twin rooftop pools, offering a Miami feel you don’t otherwise get in the city. There’s also an amazing view of the Cimitero Monumentale for those who won’t lose their appetite looking out over a cemetery. Head there at aperitivo time to lounge poolside and sip on a drink while enjoying some of the best people-watching Milan has to offer.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • craft cocktails
    • singles scene
    • outdoors / patio
  • 2

    Mag Cafè

    Located right in the middle of the action on the busy Naviglio Grande, Mag Cafè serves some of the best cocktails in town in an utterly charming 1920s Parisian-style café. This old pharmacy-turned-cocktail bar’s aperitivo has very little in common with the Navigli’s ubiquitous disappointing buffets: What you get, instead, is a small plate of good quality salumi (cold cuts) and formaggi (cheeses). The same crew also operates a 4-square-meter mini-cocktail bar called Backdoor43, which serves take-away cocktails in paper mugs.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • outdoors / patio
    • lots of rum
  • 3

    Taglio

    Part gourmet specialty store, part coffee bar, part restaurant, the versatile and friendly Taglio is open all day, from breakfast to dinner. At aperitivo, you'll find a number of quality meat and cheese plates—the core of Taglio’s offering, whose name means “cut” in Italian—delicious classic cocktails and wine from small, natural and biodynamic Italian producers.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • craft cocktails
    • good wine
    • day drinking
  • 4

    Pisacco

    Pisacco is one of Milan’s best dining options, offering an affordable contemporary bistro menu with fresh and interesting food. Since the doors open at 7 p.m. but the place doesn’t get busy before 8:30 p.m., chef Fabio Gambirasi—clearly no fan of idle hands—has launched an ambitious aperitivo program, which varies daily and is consistently impressive: a beautifully arranged selection of jars of house-preserved vegetables and pickles, smoked salmon, Parmesan chips, paprika-caramel popcorn and anchovies with butter. The small drink list comprises a few classic cocktails, well-executed, and a good selection of natural ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • craft cocktails
    • good wine
  • 5

    Panificio Davide Longoni

    Bread and wine have more in common than the obvious biblical references: They’re both agricultural products shaped by the somewhat mysterious process of fermentation. No one takes bread quite so seriously as the uber-talented Davide Longoni, whose panificio is, almost undisputedly, the best bakery in the city. Now he’s decided to extend the store’s opening hours to allow for aperitivo in the evening. A well-curated list of natural wines, selected with the same manic attention that Davide puts into his daily bread-making, is served alongside assorted pane and focaccia, all naturally fermented.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • good wine
    • low wine markups
    • outdoors / patio
  • 6

    Pavè

    Widely regarded as one of the best pasticcerie in Milan, the lovely Pavè (named after the cobblestones that are the curse of every Milanese woman trying to walk in high heels) also offers a nice aperitivo before lunch, ideal to start off a proper session of day-drinking. As soon as the clock strikes noon, it’s time to choose from the carefully curated list of old-school Italian cocktails such as the Garibaldi, equal parts Campari and blood orange juice. All drinks are served with pistachios, olives and chips.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • bar food
    • craft cocktails
    • day drinking
  • 7

    Terrazza Aperol

    If you’ve ever travelled in Italy by car, you’ve surely been to an Autogrill, the chain of rest areas that for decades have been feeding masses of Italians with its cheap, filling panini. Sounds like the opposite of gourmet, right? Think again: Autogrill has embraced the food trend and opened a stunning upscale market inside a historical building overlooking Piazza Del Duomo. The newly opened Mercato Del Duomo offers several dining options and one of the best aperitivi in the city at the Terrazza Aperol. The very reasonably priced cocktails are served alongside fresh homemade chips and the best views of the Duomo.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • bar food
    • craft cocktails
    • day drinking
    • outdoors / patio
  • 8

    Rotonda Bistro

    The grand Rotonda della Besana is a round Baroque complex created in the late 17th century to serve as a cemetery. Inside what used to be the Church of St. Michele now lies the recently opened MUBA (Museum of Children). Around it is a lovely park, lined by a portico, and underneath is the Rotonda Bistro, one of the most kid-friendly venues in Milan, with a dedicated menu, tiny chairs and plenty of drawing space. Yet adults have every reason to like it, too: Sitting under the arches while sipping a drink and watching the sunset makes for a delightful aperitivo experience.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • bar food
    • craft cocktails
    • outdoors / patio

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