One of the biggest differences between English and Italian cocktails is the alcohol content. In the UK, shots are poured into miserly measuring glasses before then being tipped into the glass, meaning that quite often half of your drink is left in a sad puddle on the bar. In Italy, they pour straight in from the bottle, often with abandon and what seems to be an uncanny instinct for when the pouring should stop.
The result is often one, big, delicious drunken evening, no matter where you go.
But even so, there's one bar that I am always desperate to return to when I visit Milan. And that is Nottingham Forest on Viale Piave. It's a small and unassuming space from the outside but inside it is a veritable cave of wonders.
(Just to be clear, that's a drink the waiter's carrying in the first picture. A drink in a shoe.)
Before going there are a few things you must know.
Firstly, arrive on time. The bar opens at 6.30pm and if you arrive even five minutes later, you may find yourself facing a wait of half an hour or more. It gets busier as the evening goes on so if you want to go for an after dinner drink, be prepared to wait a while. I prefer to go and get thoroughly sozzled before dinner - no waiting and it's much more fun.
Secondly, don't necessarily expect to find your favourites on the menu. The menu being a huge, thick thing full of pages and pages of haphazard cocktail lists and descriptions and details. The mixologists have been doing this for years and the cocktails each come in their own special glasses (or shoes).
Anglophones have it slightly easier with a reduced version of the menu. Even though some options have quite literally been lost in translation, you'll still be spoilt for choice. Alternatively, let the waiters know what kind of drink you like and they'll be more than happy to bring you a specially selected surprise.
The third thing to note is that you may very well be truly surprised. The double margarita comes in a chemistry set your eight-year-old self would have loved. Have fun mixing the flavours and experimenting with your own, tailor made margarita! The "thing" is even more of a surprise though. It comes in an odd ceramic container with two separate drinking holes (what are they called??). Each has been perfumed with a slightly different aroma so that the flavour of the drink changes depending on which side you drink from.
And finally, be prepared to get very, very drunk.
You can't fail to drunkenly stumble out of Nottingham Forest at the end of the evening. But why let it end there? Why not let your fuzzy mind decide on what to do next? Whether it's having a game of who can shout "boobies" the loudest (as Michele and I once did) or being escorted to the nearest pizzeria after too much absinthe with gold flakes (another true story), the night is full of endless possibilities!
We went for a delicious meal of chicory, anchovies and burrata, bottarga pasta and quinoa croquettes with ocapa and quail eggs at Time on Via San Marco. Oh, and more wine...
We managed to keep an air of sophistication about us, evidenced by the fact that we weren't thrown out of the restaurant in the end (success). However none of us can remember having any of the following photos taken - I blame the double margarita personally...
Apparently we finished the evening by leaving Brera via the old navigli canals and ending up in the fountains of Piazza Gae Aulenti where we tried to prove just how sober we were!
A perfect evening with two of my favourite people in the world. If only I could remember more of it!
Nottingham Forest has been described in better detail here and here.
Viale Piave 1