NOTTINGHAM FOREST MILAN
The Nottingham Forest cocktail bar in Milan is a local institution, and is regularly named in any list that compiles the 50 best bars in the world, thanks to its pioneering use of molecular mixology.
Merging furniture and props from the Far East, Caribbean and Africa to create a global style in which cocktail enthusiasts gather underneath suspended objects and between original pieces of "memories", souvenirs from travels to distant countries, the international influences continue with the magical drinks.
The bar staff, lead by Dario Comini, are pioneers of "bar chef mixology". Armed with filters and molecular essences, they have paved the way for what is now the worldwide trend. With more than 40 years of experience in the field, they often bring new drink recipes back from their international travels.
As a guru of the science of infusing and blending, Dario Comini's ability is in shaping material and the continuing possibility to change liquid into solid and solid into liquid. Without stereotypes or false prejudices, without limitations to invent, without tracing boundaries around the universe of creation he boasts the shrewd ability to create cocktails that are good to drink. Nottingham Forest is his cauldron, his cave, his forest, a mercurial oasis where you can hear the echo of the world which resounds in every detail, in every object.
Ready to evoke Africa, the Caribbean and the Orient, far away cultures, here they are that much closer, representing a confirmation that nothing is so distant that it cannot be reconciled. Water can become foam, foam become air, and air can turn into smoke. You don't need a magic wand, just an understanding of the laws of chemistry and the desire to experiment.
This is the secret hidden behind the beautiful takamaka wood bar. This is the formula underlying Dario Comini's philosophy - think, blend, dissolve and pour. He is an alchemist who understands perfectly that he cannot turn everything into gold but he can finish off his drinks with a sprinkle of gold dust.
He can also change sips into bites. Indeed cooking techniques are what give a clue to his innovative modus operandi, thanks to the use of infusion, reductions, thickeners and evaporation. Without forgetting molecular law, essential for rationally bringing together different elements, at Nottingham Forest it is a question of affinities. Even in the glass.
"There are not many bars in Europe that practice molecular mixology, however those that do are well worth travelling for. Nottingham Forest in Milan should be top of that list. It's celebrated around the world for its innovative cocktails and drinkable chemistry experiments with head barman Dario Comini recognised as a pioneer in the field.
Like the name - there is no apparent connection with Nottingham Forest, the English football club who won the European Cup in 1979 and 1980 - the decor is also curious. It's like an International Tiki Dive Bar with articles randomly displayed, apparently picked up on travels from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. As it's a tiny bar you should get there early to avoid the large queues of people patiently waiting for other guests to leave.
The menu is huge - ask for the English menu if you don't understand Italian - with each page explaining the magic behind the drinks. You can choose from drinks that smoke, those made by lasers, those that come in syringes, pipettes or tablets, others presented in boxes, bathtubs, hip flasks, bottles or even glasses within glasses. The presentation of each drink is definitely the talking point around the bar and you could literally spend an entire night in here being wowed by the artistic creations of the bar staff. At just €10.50 a drink, it was also one of the cheapest bars we visited in Milan too.
We had fun trying six different drinks, including the signature CSI, a laboratory cocktail served with an Alginate capsule (tablet) which contained a reduction of the cocktail. Despite its limited 1ml dimensions, when it melts in the mouth, it releases an amazing taste explosion as a result of bypassing the lips, which normally transmit neurons to the brain that you are drinking alcohol. The moment you taste the capsule, you then drink your cocktail, adding Bolivian cocoa tea using a special syringe. Like most of the creations on the menu, there are special instructions on the process in which you should drink and the friendly staff are always there to help in Italian or broken English.
As with most molecular mixology bars, the presentation is the talking point. If you hadn't seen the process of creating them and the actual cocktails were served without dry ice in Martini glasses or whisky tumblers instead of a bath tub or a bottle within a glass, it is possible that your conversation would be about anything but the drink. That's not to distract from the fact these are amazing drinks to taste though, and there's enough on the menu to find something to suit your requirements with a huge collection of liquor behind the bar.
There is a reason this tiny molecular cocktail bar is celebrated around the world and no visit to Milan is complete unless you've visited the Duomo, the Galleria, Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" and Dario Comini's Nottingham Forest."
~ Best Bars Europe 3rd February 2014