Rita, The "Green" Cocktail Bar, That has been leading the way in Milan for 20 years

Category: Hospitality & Gastronomy

Fresh, seasonal, made on the spot, zero waste: the Rita has been a trend setter on Milan's mixology scene. What does the present of this well-known sign look like? From prestige labels to cuisine to the use of microgreens in cocktails, here's the answer!

Freshly squeezed, and tendentially seasonal produce

It is an institution that has not become institutionalized, the Rita in Milan. Turning 20 years old in 2022, this American bar on a side street of the Naviglio Grande was born thanks to Edoardo Nono and Gianluca Chiaruttini with the precise idea of moving in a pioneering way on the high quality of raw material. A concept that may seem obvious today, but so obvious at the time it was not.

After all, Nono, born in 1969, has been active in the world of bars for more than 30 years: as a young man he worked in luxury resorts, hotels and cruise ships, studied Hotel Management at the University of Tourism and after a few years opened the Rita, making it an indispensable reference point for mixing in Milan. Chiara Buzzi, for her part, is a decidedly eclectic professional: born in 1986, converted to management in the restaurant world after a humanities education, she is a partner and head of human resources, events and communications, as well as finding time to write about food and wine for a number of trade publications.

She is the one who tells us how Rita is a place beyond the fashions of the moment, always staying true to a model that twenty years ago was avant-garde, then ascended in trends and finally was abandoned: "We have almost nothing pre-batched (in technical jargon, assembled cocktails, i.e., a drink made in advance and bottled to facilitate and speed up service, n. ed.): to some people this is vintage, but we stay alive in people's heads and our hallmark has remained that of a custom-made generalist American bar where we squeeze tons of lime, orange, grapefruit." So at Rita's the use of acid is kept to a minimum, freshly squeezed and tendentially seasonal produce is still preferred, and drinks are freshly made, shaken, and served.

Stylish Enjoyment, with Ambience and Craft

Here then is where the stir and serve is used for very few recipes and we enjoy the spectacle that takes place behind the well-equipped larch wood counter that has lights, hangers and usb sockets for charging cell phone batteries. Behind it is a bottle rack with more than eighty labels of gin and at least five hundred of premium spirits. Along the side walls the beautiful red leather sofas and a privé. Finally, a beautiful dehors with its large windows that is heated in winter. On the food front at Rita's there is no messing around: as of February 2023, the kitchen project is in fact supervised by Eugenio Roncoroni, also at Rita's Tiki Room: between aperitifs and dinner you can enjoy excellent finger food, tapas, great hits such as Sciacca anchovies with mascarpone and toast, a remarkable club sandwich but also more elaborate dishes of substance.

The core of the offerings are the classics of international mixing executed in a masterful way, but there is no lack of a more personal and modern proposal, thanks also to the very young staff that is trained here in an excellent way. The common thread is always and in any case freshness and quality of the ingredients, with selected juices and spirits and without the use of syrups and freeze-dried products. Chiara recounts, "New ideas are all very well, but if someone asks for a martini it has to be professionally prepared. We are a street bar with important volumes that does great quality, which is usually only the case in small establishments." Among the must-haves is the Gin Zen cocktail that Edoardo created twenty-five years ago now, made with crushed ice, gin, fresh crushed ginger, lime, and soda. Again the Willy Wonka, with ginger jam, lime cocoa liqueur, Gin, bergamot oil. Also noteworthy is what is a commendable attitude toward zero-waste mixing, internally sustainable both economically and environmentally.

Homemade products, have increased

Over the years, homemade products have increased, and there are several references offered that involve the use of all parts of a fruit or vegetable, as well as syrups and cordials, garnishes and extracts, in addition to kitchen work.

What Andrea Arcaini, bar manager of the group, proposes to us are two cocktails in which Koppert Cress microgreens are used not so much in garnish form as as an actual ingredient.

culinary cocktails, with microgreens as an actual ingredient

If possible I would reverse this sentence in this way, just to use the correct usage: What Andrea Arcaini, bar manager of the group, proposes to us are two cocktails in which some Koppert Cress microgreens are wisely used (either correctly or as Marco believes): not so much in garnish form as in actual ingredient form. The first, very fresh, was called Fujiko, which Andrea likens to what in classical parlance is called a gin sour. Shiso Leaves Green and kaffir lime are used here: the former (If you like you can also add "also called Japanese basil") popular in Asia as Tempura and called Oba in Japanese, customarily used with raw fish, in this case they are pounded and homemade barleywort, London coconut oil and a few drops of absinthe are poured over them.

The fragrant Kaffir Lime is also used, with its characteristic leaves in pairs, dark and light green, one leaf larger and one smaller. Also popular in Asia, it smells similar to lemongrass, as well as being known for its calming effect.


Green Peas, a modern masterpiece

The second cocktail has a name that plays on pronunciation: green peas. It is of the modern school and is based on Affilla Cress, which is very uniquely shaped and similar (I would substitute with sweet pea flavor) to sweet pea: the Chinese call it He Lan Do, Dutch, referring to the Dutch merchants of the East India Company who, in the 17th century brought ideas and innovations to the farmers of the region. A cordial of 'pea' is made with the vegetable that is cold-whisked to maintain color, Elderflower liqueur and Vodka, to again make a very refreshing blend.

Source: Reporter Gourmet - Marco Colognese