Backdoor 43 – The Little Big One
The relationship between customer and bartender is a very special one. My preferred seat is always where the magic happens. When I enter a venue I normally look for a free seat straight at the bar counter, better still in front of the bartender. Ideally, I go there early to have undisturbed conversation with the barteam. What if you could book your own private time with a bartender? For me, it was worth a trip to Milan and here’s my adventure.
You will find Backdoor 43 beautifully located by the canal on Ripa di Porta Ticinese, just next to its big brother, Mag Café, one of the first places to become more popular with mixology eight years ago. You should also pay it a visit. Backdoor 43 calls itself the smallest bar in the world and maybe it’s right. But what’s for sure is that this little bar has a great concept, and it was one of several “wow” moments I experienced in Milan. Take away drinks and a private speakeasy.
The concept is unique: Take-away cocktails of a quality as high as you find it in a bar, and the most exclusive and magical moments you can have: a private speakeasy.
Without a doubt, the take-away or, as they call it, the “drink-away” business is what brings in the money. During the week, around 50 cocktails are sold each evening, and at the weekends five times more. The rent for this tiny place is low, and this is also true for the tax which is paid per square metre, and waste disposal charges are marginal. Only one employee is needed. In short, optimal conditions to create something exceptional.
The idea itself began with the take-away cocktails. Drinking high quality cocktails and considering the city as one huge open air bar fits the Italian weather and way of drinking perfectly. Even on a cold end of November Friday night many people were standing by the canal and in front of Backdoor 43 with one of their lovely illustrated cups. A small selection of classic cocktails can be ordered through a tiny sliding window. After knocking on the window, as if by magic, it opens a slit, just big enough to reveal the hands of the bartender. You can watch those hands prepare your drink, while the rest remains very mysterious.
But how can you get in? A reservation is mandatory and this should be made a couple of days in advance. Even if you are the Barstalker you have to book! Luckily, there was a free slot the next day. All reservations are for 90 minutes and you can bring up to 4 friends.
As soon as I entered, I felt like Alice in Wonderland. 4 square metres full of lovingly arranged details and curiosities that transports you straight to wonderland. From floor to the ceiling, every inch has been used. Bottles of rare whiskies stock the walls. The main ingredients are nicely arranged behind the small bar counter in pharmaceutical flasks. I am impressed as to how such a miraculous atmosphere has been achieved in a space the size of a telephone booth. It is certainly one of the best designed places I have seen for a while. It invoked the feeling that I love so much in a bar: a little time travel, very exclusive and intimate. The intimacy is intensified by the bartender wearing a Guy Fawkes mask – a brilliant idea to create a bit of a distance between guest and bartender. By the way, there is also a toilet and you really should spend a penny during your visit.
Detail is king in this little big one.
The drinks are up to you and especially tailored to your taste. My first choice was a Boulevardier, a drink from the prohibition era that immediately came to mind when the bartender asked. For my second cocktail I opted for a play on an Aviation. The bartender pimped it with a bit of Vermouth and an egg white. Light as a cloud. The drinks are fantastic, ingredients are top notch and the bartender is friendly and skilled.
There are magical moments out there.
Let yourself be surprised by Backdoor 43.
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