Smile Tree, Torino, Italy

•December 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

smile-tree-2-1060Life is sometimes bizarre. You travel around for years searching for the perfect mixture between quality of drinks and creativity in making something new, then you end up in a town (Torino in my case) which is surely not known for its cocktail scene, and you find a bar that is probably the most creative cocktail spot on the planet. I am not exaggerating, and I am ready to be challenged: the Smile Tree is the most creative quality cocktail bar on the planet.

Located in a wonderful square in the city centre, a few steps from the famous Caffé Bicerin (a bar from the XIX century famous for its chocolate infused coffee, and a touristic attraction in town), the Smile Tree is rather simple in its interiors, as if the master behind the bar would not be interested in anything than drinks. Hundreds of bottles are hanging on elastic bands over the bar, which looks like the shop of a very busy druid.

You should sit down and just select one of the suggested cocktails, all original creations. Don’t worry: here the signature Martini tastes like a Martini. But, it might come in a set of three chilled mini glasses with some wonderful addings, or in an iron bottle to keep it frozen to perfection, or in another fashion, you never know. Every cocktail comes withers own mini-tapas, fitting the taste of the drink of course.

Suggestion: don’y miss the barrel-aged Negroni, which comes in a large (I mean very large) glass that delivers all the special perfumes and flavors of the “invecchiamento”.

What else to say? Probably the most creative bar on the planet. Classic Martini rate: 9.


Manhattan 34, Leicester, UK

•December 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes internet searches for “the best cocktail bar in town” are disappointing, but when they work the feeling is good. In Leicester, for example, if you follow this advice you’ll feel like a local, even if you are in town since a couple of hours. The manhattan34 bar is in fact one of these places where you feel at home instantly, as if that had been your bar forever. The bar, located in the cultural centre of town, is rather simple but elegant, crowded with a very mixed group of happy fellow drinkers, good jazz music and superb cocktails. Bartenders are kind – even f very busy – and creative enough to propose some innovative drinks without exagerating. And for an Italian like me finding draft Birra Moretti was quite a surprise! Classic Martini rate: 7.  DSC_0143

The Mad Dog, Torino, Italy

•May 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I16MO8CN952-U1040709423334qFG-U1040735407022U0E-378x275@LaStampa-TORINO-kkWB-U1040735407022U0E-640x360@LaStampa.itSometimes bars are in your destiny, as proven from the fact that the Mad Dog opened its doors on the very same day I moved to Torino, on first of November 2014. You might think: with so many bars opening in town lately, where is the big news? Well, the fact is that, in my humble globe-drinker opinion, the Mad Dog is “one on the best bars on the planet”, voilà. It is a speakeasy in the strict sense: no sign on the door, no address on the website, you need a password to get in (if you find the right door…), and one you are admitted you just step back in time. Hosted in the basement of an old building with a wonderful bricks ceiling, you can sit at one of the few tables (better book your table through the website) or at the long wooden bar. The first unique feature is the atmosphere: all the speakeasies I have visited have some sort of artificial feeling, but not the Mad Dog: don’t ask me how they made it, but here you will feel like sipping a cocktail side by side with Al Capone and his friends. Second, the cocktails list is amazing: either you can go for one of the 100 classics (you will be given the Savoy Book to check the ingredients if you like) or you can chose one of the 200 creations of Walter Grosso, the chief bartender. And here, believe me, you can go on forever, tasting one wonder after the other. Ah, vodka is not served in the bar, since vodka was not there at the time of prohibition. The only problem in such a bar is that, if you really like drinking well in a great place, you will stay until closing time… Classic Martini rate: 9.

Subastor, Sao Paulo, Brazil

•March 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

subastorLet’s put it simply: this is the best cocktail bar among the dozens of bars in Vila Madalena in Sao Paulo (I am ready to be challenged on this). This is how to do it: enter the Astor Bar, a classy bar with nice food and cocktails (including a well-done Martini list) where you can meet high-society paulistanos having their drinks (most of them will have their own bottle behind the bar), get a drink and some food, and then climb down to the Subastor. Here you’ll enter in a tiny red underground room with a long bar, good music, a few tables and some great bartenders (including a smiling Italian guy), good music and a great cocktails menu (voted the best drinks list in Sao Paulo a couple of times in the last years). Classic cocktails share the list with very creative ones, all served fast and in an extremely professional manner, with hand-chopped ice and all the rest. I bet you won’t leave before having tried two or three cocktails, which will make you happy despite the price, which is a bit high for the Sao Paulo standards, but totally worth. Classic Martini rate: 9.

Hiding in Plain Sight, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

•October 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

hps-amsterdamIf you look for serious cocktails in Amsterdam, Hiding in Plain Sight is where you want to be. Not too far but far enough from the noisy touristic part of the city, this bar is an hidden gem in the city who gave birth to Genever, the ancestor of gin (well gin was not really created in Amsterdam, as the history of our favorite spirit tells, but who cares). The place is quite (at least at the cocktail hour) and beautifully decorated with a touch of 20s style, and when you enter you are welcomed with kindness and served fresh water (this is a nice habit). You can feel from the very first moment that behind the bar there is a vision, and that people here love what they do. The cocktail list is simply perfect, classics made with creativity and new drinking ideas. I went for a classic martini, which is made with Noilly Prat, and with one of the many gins available (ask the bartender to present the latest bottles to you). The cocktail is made close to perfection (we know that perfection in Martinis does not exist), and served in two parts: your drink in a martini glass and a small glass jug leaning on some ice cubes with another part of your drink, so that you get a big martini that never gets warm. I have to say that when I ask a martini I expect to get a martini in a martini glass and nothing else, but the idea is good and the quality of the drink remains unchanged. I tried other variants and some other cocktails, all  simply perfect. As I said, you want to visit this bar. Classic Martini Rate: 9.

Scarlet, Barbados

•July 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

scarlet Barbados is not a place where you’ll find many cocktail bars, unless you want to end up in a 5 stars hotel sipping a rum punch (which is very good by the way). Still, a small gem is hidden on the island: the Scarlet bar. You’ll have to look for a totally scarlet wooden house on the west coast close to Holetown (not on the beach unfortunately), and when you get in you’ll find yourself in a fancy small place with a few Marylyn and Jackie Kennedy pictures on the walls, a long and well-equipped bar, no windows and a sort of New York atmosphere. Food is simply great, with many local dishes creatively revisited, and cocktails are pretty good as well. You’ll get your martini in an steel glass with lemon twist and made with Tanquerey, and you won’t miss the beach breeze for a moment, I can assure.  Final tip: do not miss the small collection of original photographies in the back room. Classic martini rate: 7.

69 Colebrooke Row, London

•April 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Prairie OysterOfficially called “The bar with no name”, but known as 69 Colebrooke Row, this bar is an absolute gem, and a good example of how fame should not change a place. In fact, despite being one of the most trendy and talked-about bars in London and having being nominated twice for the very prestigious ‘world’s best bar’ award at the Tales of the Cocktail Conference in New Orleans, the 69 Colebrooke Row remains what a good bar should be: an intimate and classy place where sipping great (and I mean great) cocktails. The place is small and intimate, with good background music and a few tables. When you sit (remember to book a table, especially on weekends), you are offered a Prairie Oyster, a creative revisitation of the famous cocktail where the egg is substituted by a fresh tomato juice soft “ball”, that together with the vodka and spices that complete the drink will open up your night. The impression is to sip an egg (which is not an egg) from a ceramic oyster shaper glass. The drinks menu changes constantly: when I visited the bar, the two martinis on the list were the Blenheim Gimlet, with Black Pepper Cordial stirred with Beefeater, and the 69 Martini, which is a superbe classic martini prepared with vermouth done in the house. Yes, they do their own vermouth, which I tried straight, and which could beat many Italian, Spanish or French artesanal vermouths… Tony Conigliaro, the Italian-origin bartender and owner (bravo!) does things very seriously: the bar is producing its own books, organising cocktails masterclasses, and more. Have a look at the site for the latest developments. Classis Martini rate: 9.