Walk into most cocktail bars in Rome and ask for a Sazerac. I bet the bartender will scrunch up his face and belt out a prolonged “Ehhhhh?” If you want an awful mojito or sacherine tequila sunrise, he can make that. But a rye cocktail is alien. Indeed, the number of venues in Rome where you can get a proper cocktail are few. The best? The Jerry Thomas Project.
This blink-and-you-missed-it speakeasy-style cocktail bar just steps from Corso Vittorio is dedicated to Jerry Thomas, the author of the first American bar tending guide. His 1862 tome, variously known as “The Bar-Tender’s Guide,” “How to Mix Drinks” or “The Bon-Vivant’s Companion,” remains the cornerstone of American mixology and has even acquired cult status across the pond. Jerry Thomas may never have stepped foot into a Prohibition-era speakeasy (he died decades before the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment) but his spirit is alive and well at Vicolo Cellini 30, where excellent cocktails are served from Tuesday through Sunday from 11pm until 4am.
The space is pretty tight and reservations are highly recommended. Apparently you need a password to get in, though I’ve never been asked one. Be sure to call (+390696845937 or +393701146287) before turning up or risk being turned away at the door. Get lucky and you’ll be ushered inside to the smokey bar where stellar beverages like Thomas’ own Blue Blazer (“a hot toddy for pyros”), the Moscow Mule and my beloved Sazerac are served with love and care.