Kati and I love Rome. We love the feel and atmosphere that comes out from every nook and cranny that is Rome. The history of Rome. The lifestyle of the Romans. We love it all. Nicknamed “the eternal city”, Rome exemplifies just that notion. A city that has stood for over a thousand years is synonymous with many things, and whose entire central area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Having influence in the world for its 2800 years of existence is no small feat and having ruled a stretch of land spanning from Britain to Mesopotamia it was the seat of the empire for which it is named. Rome started its humble life as a small village on the Palatine Hill though legend goes that it was founded by twins Romulus and Remus who were raised by a “she-wolf”. While analyzing thoroughly the history of Rome might require a class in Western Civilization, this isn’t about Rome’s history it’s about its current.
Yes, Rome is old but that’s why it’s so iconic. Rome is both a modern global city while also being a place of great historic importance and that’s why it brings in so many tourists every year looking to live “la dolce vita”. Modern Rome is cool and hip that blends both the traditional with modern and wraps it all up in a historic bow. Like many major European cities, the nightlife in Rome is booming so between checking out ancient landmarks and eating too much pasta, check out some of these great spots in the city to grab a drink and mingle with the locals.
Truly showing that bars and clubs in Rome are a modern endeavor is Drink Kong. Though perhaps ironically doing that through a kitschy 80s vibe, Drink Kong is a fun place to get a little nostalgic. The bar is relatively new having only opened in 2019, but it’s quickly becoming the talk of the town for its neon lights, 80s arcade games, and drinks served up by master mixologists. The bar is sleek and modern with just a little touch of 1980s charm without veering off into the tacky side of things. If you’re really keen to splurge Drink Kong offers a private omakase room for private tastings and masterclasses.
Located in the Chapter Hotel, this cozy and fun bar isn’t only for tourists looking to grab an evening cocktail. The modern aesthetic and minimalist decor is bringing in people from tourists to locals to sip on a cocktail and mingle. The music, setup, and style of the bar are aimed at bringing people together, and because the bar is open until 1 am there is plenty of time to show up, have a few drinks, and maybe make some new friends. The fun part about Chapter Roma is that the drink menu is seasonal so it’s changing pretty often and along with their amazing drinks, they also have a great food offer from award-winning chef Davide Puleio and a live DJ on Saturdays.
Ai Tre Scalini
It’s not like it’s particularly hard to find a good wine bar in Rome but the fact is that some are just better than others. Ai Tre Scalini is a little hole-in-the-wall type of place that is easy to miss if you don’t know where to find it. For such a small place, they have tons of wines available either served by the glass or the bottle but if beer is more your thing, they have plenty of that too. The quaint and neighborly atmosphere of Ai Tre Scalini is what makes it stand out. The worn wooden furniture and music make the bar feel more like you’re hanging out at a friend’s place and the small platters of finger food make it all that more inviting to come to hang out and spend an evening sipping on wine and eating cheese plates and prosciutto.
Located in the student-centric San Lorenzo area Apartment Bar is a cool place to grab a few cocktails and hang out with some friends. Walking in, you’ll notice the bar has a very laid back style with vintage artwork and mismatched furniture that makes it feel more like you’re hanging out at a friend’s place rather than a bar. Pull up an easy chair and sip on a cocktail or head up to the rooftop garden area where you can lounge outside under the palm trees. Apartment Bar might be geared towards students and younger crowds but they also have a pretty good tasting menu full of tapas-style offerings that complement any alcoholic beverage you might be having. Apartment Bar is also pretty ingrained into the local art scene often having exhibitions and showcases from local artists and a live DJ some nights.
Jerry Thomas Speakeasy
The 1920s and 30’s-style speakeasies are a pretty popular motif and theme for bars around the world. They’re so popular that it’s almost kind of a cliche at this point but the guys behind Jerry Thomas Speakeasy somehow manage to pull it off. Theatricality is the appeal here and you’re going to have to do a little more than just show up if you want a drink here. First of all, you’re going to have to find the place and like any good speakeasy being hidden is sort of the point. Located on an otherwise unremarkable sidestreet is another unremarkable-looking door. Once you find it you’ll need to buzz the doorman. At this point, you’ll only get in if you know the password which changes frequently. Once you’ve obtained the password you’ll need to pay a small membership fee (€5) and finally, once you’ve done all of this you’ll be granted access to the speakeasy.
Jerry Thomas Speakeasy is a small place but you’ll notice once inside that they take their 1920s charm to pretty authentic levels. Floral red wallpaper, tasseled lamps, and velvet couches adorn the bar while the bartenders wear period-appropriate clothes and according to the posted rules, the bartenders are “always right”. Complete with the live jazz combo playing in the corner this is why Jerry Thomas Speakeasy is considered one of the top “50 World’s Best Bars”.
The bar is open from 10 am but the party doesn’t start until pretty late at night. The dimly-lit bar allows smoking inside (very true to 1920s form) and you’ll want to order the cocktails here because they are expertly made and truly inventive.
While Jerry Thomas Speakeasy is a place that aims to be a vintage 20s speakeasy, Argot is arguably the real deal without the pretension. There’s no real theatrics here but the bar does feel like a warming and cozy kinda place that’s also a bit of a secret. There’s no sign outside that says there’s a bar here so you’re going to have to be on the lookout for the door. Argot is part of a cultural association and so there is a fee of €10 to get in but rest assured it is worth it. Once inside walk down the spiral staircase to the bar area where you’ll like you’ve stepped inside some secret society. Concrete walls and vaulted ceilings make the bar almost feel bunker-like but the mismatched vintage chairs and furniture make it feel more intimate and welcoming. The drink menu is on a prescription pad and cocktails are divided by personality-types rather than taste or ingredients. Speaking of ingredients, many of the cocktails are served or made using fresh fruit but if you prefer something a little heartier they also have a selection of finger foods available as well.
Renowned as not only one of the best bars in Rome but one of the best in the world, Salotto 42 is a curbside bar with massive appeal. Located in the historic area and right the Piazza di Pietra off of the Via del Corso, Salotto 42 overlooks the neatly lined columns of the 2nd century Hadrian’s Temple. The setting of Salotto 42 alone should make you want to come to check it out but along with its gorgeous views are their amazing list of cocktails, fashionable crowd, and homey atmosphere. Even if you’re nearby in the morning or afternoon, Salotto 42 is usually humming with activity with people looking to grab a morning espresso or an afternoon tea and snack.
La Punta Expendio de Agave
Coming from a joint venture between the guys from Jerry Thomas Speakeasy and Freni e Frizioni is La Punta Expendio de Agave. For a little taste of Mexico in the heart of Rome, this bar is really unique. Inspired by trips to Mexico and especially Oaxaca, La Punta Expendio de Agave is a bar focusing on tequila and mezcal based drinks. Having done extensive research in the world of agave, and it’s used in tequila and mezcal, the bar includes a long list of cocktails featuring agave-based spirits They also have a few selections of beer on tap as well as some food options to absorb some of the liquor after maybe a few too many tequila shots.
If you’re looking to splurge a little on your very own Roman holiday then Terrazza Borromini is the spot for you. The bar is located on the rooftop of the Eitch Borromini Hotel, which itself is located right behind the Piazza Navona. Its rooftop bar means that hanging out here not only means getting some great drinks but you’ll have amazing views of the central historic area while you do so. It goes without saying that the drinks here are on the pricey end but the views and atmosphere are worth it. Stick to ordering a bottle if you’re not planning on dishing out too much money and enjoy one of the more romantic spots for a drink in Rome.
The Race Club
Hidden in plain sight is The Race Club. Located just a stone’s throw away from the ever-bustling Colosseum, during the day the sidewalks are packed with tourists, and the area hustles and bustles with the sound of travelers taking pictures and walking around without ever realizing one of Rome’s coolest bars is sitting in plain sight.
The story goes that the building The Race Club is now located in was once home to a cell of carboneria who were a secret revolutionary society in 19th century Italy. After unification and the second world war, the building went unused and abandoned until the 1950s when it was rebuilt as a recording studio. By the 1970s it became a hangout spot for men looking to drink and gamble. So for the most part, the building has been used in a secretive fashion, and it continues to be that way as its home with The Race Club.
When the tourists go to their hotels at night, The Race Club opens at 10 pm and the party doesn’t stop until 3 am. With their dedication to the art of the cocktail, The Race Club has both classic recipes and modern inventions that’ll please anyone’s palate.
Our Final Word
Rome might be home to ages-old historic sites and places but the eternal city is more than just a few landmarks. The best way to learn about a city is to immerse yourself in its culture, meet its people, and enjoy some good wine together. Whether it’s secret bars or rooftop cocktails there’s always somewhere to grab a drink in Rome and living la dolce vita.