Milan has a rich bar culture, partly driven by the long-standing tradition of aperitivo cocktails in the early evening, often accompanied by complimentary canapés or snacks during what is known as the aperitivo hour, usually between 6pm and 9pm. The Milanese stop for drinks after work and the snacks take the edge off their appetite until their traditionally late supper.
By far the most popular drink in Milan is the Negroni. Even the most down-at-the heal bar will mix a mean one and the best bars offer their interesting riffs such as fat-washed walnut oil. A must try is the Smoky Negroni at the Mandarin Bar and Bistrot.
Milan is capital of Lombardy, where notable wines include Valtellina, Franciacorta and Oltrepò. The city is also close to the Piedmont region with its massive wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara.
Several areas of the city are dense with bars and packed with young drinkers on summer evenings, particularly the Navigli district around the canals in the southwest of the city and the arty Brera area to the north of the Cathedral. Most bars and restaurants stay open until 1am but nightclubs (discoteca) often operate till around 4am. The legal drinking age is 16.
Italy banned smoking in bars and restaurants in January 2005. So, unless the bar has a terrace or a specially designated smoking area (which is rare), you’ll be puffing on the pavement with all the other addicts.
Busier bars often require you to pay for your drinks at a till first. You are then issued with a ticket to present to the bartender. Many clubs operate a pay-as-you-leave system. Here you are issued a ticket (tessera) at the door. This is punched each time you buy a drink and used to calculate your bill when you leave. Hang on to your tessera tightly as losing it can result in an exorbitant charge before you are allowed to leave.
Lastly, dress the part. The Milanese are proud of their lofty position in the fashion stakes so pack your best clobber to fit in.