A Global Sabbatical
A couple years back, my wife Tate hit 10 years with her company. As one of the perks of the job, she was able to take a 6 week paid sabbatical. After tacking on some extra vacation days we had two months to take a trip around the world.
Well, our global adventure that was designed to help has have a variety of unique cultural experiences, well turned into an expedition to visit unique and cultural….bars.
I mean we did other stuff too.
But there were a lot of cocktail bars.
32 at my last count.
And one of the ones that we continue to talk about was Nottingham Forest in Milan, Italy.
We actually weren’t necessarily intending to visit Milan.
We had about a month between when we arrived in Munich for Oktoberfest and needed to fly out of Frankfurt for China.
In between, it was just us, our Ford Kuga, and the open road.
After spending a few days hiking in the Dolomites with friends, we realized that Milan was just short drive away, and after our time at Lake Garda, it would make for the perfect stop before heading south.
But let’s face it, I’m about as far from fashionable as possible, so my only real interest in visiting Milan was to head to Nottingham Forest – at the time it was the sole top 100 bar in the area (we’ve gotta head back to check out 1930).
We were only two weeks into our trip, and we’d already hit a plethora of NYC bars, as well as stumbled into Schumann’s in Munich – but that’s a story for another day.
Nottingham Forest in Milan, Italy
After a day of site seeing we arrived at Nottingham Forest 10 minutes before it opened, waited in a small line, and then got a fantastic spot at the bar.
It’s clear from the moment you sit down, this isn’t your typical bar.
There are laboratory like contraptions on the bar, and the menu is an encyclopedia of pages describing elaborate experiences, not just cocktails. The bar is rooted in molecular gastronomy so smokes, injections, capsules and more are all part of the norm here.
Being that anything smoky is a favorite of mine, and that I’ll slather bbq sauce on everything – it was a natural fit to try the Mexican BBQ cocktail first.
Mezcal, BBQ sauce, and a…century egg?
Sounded super weird, but this place is top 50 in the world, it had to be good, right?
The drink was honestly not great, and the egg, well despite the fact that I had to eat it (I mean, when else would I do this?) it’s not something I’d look forward to doing again.
My wife made the better decision and went for a cocktail that was quite the sensory experience. Served in a mug that looked like an actual heart with two valves coming off the top, it was essentially like having two cocktails in one.
There were two separate scents added to each side of the drink, and when you took a sip from one side, it tasted completely different than the other – simply due to the smell.
Once again, the drink was just ok, but the experience is one that we’ve recounted often.
The Luxury Box, was a cocktail that they came over and served table side, in a custom ring box, with an old fashioned style cocktail that was made to look like a giant diamond.
And perhaps one of the most memorable drinks was that it was my first experience with a sichuan flower.
Essentially, you get a cocktail, and you take a sip to try it. After that you eat the flower which first activates your saliva glands, then your mouth begins to tingle a bit, and by the end your mouth feels completely numb.
The next sip of the cocktail is both a completely different sensory and taste experience than the first sip.
To this day the only other time I’ve seen this at a bar is part of the now, off-menu “Verbena Experience” at the Chandalier Bar at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
If you’re looking for a fun party trick, you can buy the flowers online – or you can host a miracle berry party, which is another taste altering experience.
Is Nottingham Forest Bar Worth It?
Nottingham Forest is a bit of an enigma to me when it comes to Top 50 cocktail bars.
I’d argue that it probably had the worst drinks of any of the top bars I’ve been to.
But, and this is a big but, it had one of the most memorable, unique, and fun cocktail experiences I’ve had as well.
When people ask me about my cocktail quest, Nottingham Forest is always one of the bars I tell stories about – because it is such a unique experience.
So would I recommend it if you’re in Milan? Absolutely, 100%.
Will the drinks themselves live up to its global peers? Probably not.
But the good news, is that at around $10-12 a drink, it’s actually one of the more affordable bars you could go to (if there’s such a thing as affordable in the world of high end cocktails).
Check it out and form an opinion for yourself.