By YiR contributor Amelia Stewart
A note from YiR: If you live here, you know people from everywhere – Rome is filled with sparkling and generally fantastic people from all walks of life, and one of the best ways of exploring this city is putting on the socks of those who, background-diverse, travel her piazzas and vialetti, coloring the city with their own experiences, cultures, and backgrounds. In this case, meet Rome through the glass of the lovely Ms. Stewart, a British-born expat who has traveled the world and today shows us the best places to enjoy a drink when, whether for dietary restrictions or you’re craving a bit of a change, you’re up for something a little more sophisticated than vino della casa. Not because we don’t love you, vino della casa. You’re still our go-to. Don’t look at us like that.
Have you been to any of these spots? Fill us in, and in the meantime, you can find us sipping on a Lemongrass Collins, enjoying the last days of Rome’s extended summer. The happiest of autumns, YiR-ers!
The concept of living – or some would say ‘surviving’ – in Rome without drinking wine or beer might be impossible for some to fathom. The vino della casa is, more often than not, completely wonderful and always ridiculously cheap. There are also excellent beer holes all over town serving a vast range from ice-cold Italian special lagers to Belgium super-strength ales – one friend told me he even found Hawaiian beer in his local bar. In fact, through no fault of my own, I am allergic to both sulphites and gluten, and thus don’t drink wine (except for organic brands), Prosecco, champagne, beer or – to my deep sadness – even vodka. My parents, who are full-on wine fanatics, see this as the greatest tragedy to have ever befallen their eldest daughter – ‘What will happen to your social life??’ they cried in anguish. ‘You might as well be allergic to water!’
At first I have to say that I was pretty frustrated; I would watch my friends sip on gorgeous crisp Sicilian whites as the sun set by the Pantheon, and nursing rich, red Chianti in the winter in front of the fire, and feel so stupid having to ask for something else – such as having to order a digestivo like amaro with my main course. Oh – the shame! The waiters would look at me like I had leprosy as I would cower in my seat, dying to keep company but not wanting to either blow up like a whale or have my throat close up.
But all was not lost: I pulled my no-nonsense British-self together and was convinced I could turn this handicap into something positive. I made it my mission to become an expert on where to go for a great cocktail in Rome, particularly places that served the best quality brands of my alcoholic soulmate – Gin. Gin often gets a bad rep, but if of high quality and consumed in small amounts, it really is one of the best and cleanest liquors out there: distilled with juniper berries, it has even been used for medicinal purposes.
So if you find yourself craving an excellent G&T, dry martini or a Tom Collins, check out a few of my favourite gin hangouts in Rome:
The Gin Corner: Packed full of world-renowned gin, this bar is total paradise for gin lovers. It is tucked away inside a hotel near the Pantheon and although it has an exclusive feel, it is surprisingly inexpensive. For G&T fans, they serve theirs with Fever Tree tonic and a splash of grapefruit juice. Or try the Dirty Martini with Plymouth gin and lots of green olives.
Café Settembrini: At this chic spot in Prati, let the New York-trained resident barman Matteo Zed make your cocktail dreams come true with his ‘The Rising Sun’. It’s made with matcha green tea, Beefeater 24 gin and yuzu juice and is the epitome of heaven in a glass!
The Stravinskij Bar at Hotel de Russie: If you want to splash some cash then this is the number one spot. Treat yourself to a divine rose water G&T and ‘beautiful people watch’ to your heart’s content.
Bistreet: I was so pleased when I discovered this little gem (which used to be called Papageno) on Aventino. Although they only have a few signature cocktails, they are all gorgeous! Try the one called ‘Fluid’ made with gin, lime juice and cardamom which is effortlessly subtle and mouth-wateringly delicious.
For more on my life in Rome, check out my cheeky blog: www.onthewaytotheforum.tumblr.com. It may at first seem a little cynical, but that’s only because it’s written by my alter ego :).