Forbidden things tend to be intriguing and, for that very reason, also quite desirable. Imagine the United States in the era of prohibition, for instance, when, following the crisis of 1919, it was declared illegal to produce, trade and consume alcohol. Could such a political decision have restrained the people’s desire to listen to music and socialize, maybe place a few bets and ease the tension with a drink? The answer, obviously, is no.
It was in this sort of context that the first speakeasys were born, clandestine premises obtained from basements and backrooms where everything was magically legal again. People had to speak softly about them in order to keep them a secret and yet, even then, thanks to the rapidly spreading word of mouth, these bars were soon on everyone's lips.
Even today, a century later, speakeasys still revolutionize the concept of sharing. Whether they take up the original style of the prohibition era or have adapted to current trends, in order to find them and get in, it is necessary to befriend someone who is already a member and who extends you a formal invitation. If you're intrigued by the idea of an intimate and exclusive experience, then fasten your seatbelt and come with us on a search for Milan's secret bars.
Milano da bere, yes indeed: MAG and the speakeasy 1930
1930 is on everyone's lips, a veritable speakeasy in Milan. Walls with exposed bricks and soft lights frame the leather armchairs and furniture in the typical style of the time. The entrance to 1930 is through a completely anonymous shop, with the admission being strictly by invitation.
Like any self-respecting secret bar in Milan, no one knows its precise address and in order to get in, you really have to have earned it, perhaps after having snatched the secret from one of the managers of MAG, the restaurant on the Naviglio Grande, precursor of this lounge.
And just as at the MAG, here the absolute stars are the bottles. Whiskey, gin, fine spirits: 1930 is a secret bar in Milan where you go to drink, and to drink in style, might we add. Both the cocktails menu and the table menu are seasonal, and ingredients of the highest quality are used to prepare the drinks. The jazz that resonates from the gramophone and the staff all decked out in uniforms is chaotic enough to get you to forget the hustle and bustle of city traffic and social media. All this makes the 1930 an intimate, evocative and timeless venue.
A Milanese speakeasy in the rabbit hole: White Rabbit
Don't be in a rush to exclaim, "It's late, it's late!", as the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland would say.
The White Rabbit is a secret bar in Milan that promises to amaze you in every way: to fully enjoy the place, you’ll have to take a leap in the dark and not be in a hurry. Unlike 1930, the White Rabbit’s location is not a secret. Located in the Isola district, this Milanese speakeasy hides behind a window that doesn’t allow you to get the slightest peek into its interior, but if the light is on, it means that you can try getting in, by ringing the bell... and pronouncing the password.
The recipe is simple: speakeasy-style furnishings, an overall vibe that is beyond retro and the highest quality of service. Fancy drinks and an exclusive atmosphere to allow people to travel back in time. At White Rabbit, you come to recover a lost sense of live social interaction and an intimacy between the customer and bartenders that teaches you to look beyond the mirror.
Exclusive clubs and secret lounges in Milan: Apophis, The Spirit, Wootsu Society
Places such as the Apophis Club or The Spirit offer a different spin on the concept of the secret bar, with limited access to the premises only if you purchase an annual membership. At “The Spirit”, you buy a card for consumptions and a bottle of champagne to celebrate your birthday, but to get into the Apophis, you need someone who is already a member to extend you an invitation.
In these exclusive clubs, the atmosphere is definitely more modern, but still provides that peculiar sense of intimacy offered by the other speakeasys already mentioned.
The Portal Club is the secret bar in Milan spawned by the most famous Deus (which is where you get the keys to access the club), a space for loyal customers where you can take all the time you need to drink and eat in an exclusive lounge.
And, last but not least, the Wootsu Society, which is accessed through the Doping Club, the hotel bar The Yard in Piazza XXIV Maggio. When you enter the hotel room, the veiled lights and the eclectic furnishings create a film-like vibe. The Wootsu Society, a secret lounge inspired by Chinese societies, is known to allow only five people in at a time, strictly by invitation and for one hour at the most.
New sharing ideas: Backdoor 43, Enjoy and Ma's Hidden Kitchen Supper Club
Backdoor 43 is probably the smallest cocktail bar in the world. It is located on the Naviglio Grande in Milan and, despite its very small size, has all the typical characteristics of a speakeasy: high-quality products, a refined ambient and privacy. So much privacy that your bartender will serve you the drink through a flap and you will barely be able to see your hands.
Enjoy Club Milano is a modern and syncretic version of the speakeasy and a club exclusively open to members. A membership card will cost you only a few euros a year, providing access to a place where creativity is definitely the keyword. The several homemade distillates and the hospitality of these "drink artisans" (who also run a school for bartenders in Vicenza) consecrate this place as the herald of a new concept of sharing where there is ample space to experiment and create your own drink.
In all this, let's not forget the food. Since 2012, Lele and Melissa have made a name for themselves with Ma's Hidden Kitchen Supper Club, reserving strangers the opportunity to enjoy a delicious dinner in the Milanese loft where they live. Opening their home with privacy and discretion is a successful and exclusive experiment in social eating for the owners at Ma's Hidden Kitchen.