Drink Kong, a cocktail bar in Rome serving fusion food, was elected one of the world’s best bars last year – giving you another reason to put this pinnacle of Rome cocktail bars on your list of essential places to try in Rome.
While Italy is in lockdown, I can only dream of Drink Kong’s incredible drinks list – offering some of the best cocktails in Rome – the Drink Kong dining experience, and that theatrically lit bar. But it’s definitely going to be one of the first places I go back to after this crisis has passed for a thousand good reasons.
I’ll sit at the bar and order a Fantasticus – or perhaps a Bitter Apes; I’ll eat dumplings and a pastrami sandwich; and I’ll take a selfie in Rome’s most photogenic bathroom – with a stranger, of course.
However, it is worth saying that in this unusual time, you can still drink some fabulous cocktails mixed by Drink Kong mastermind Patrick Pistolesi thanks to a partnership with at-home cocktail experts, NIO, Needs Ice Only.
Their collaboration has created individual portioned signature cocktails which you can drink in the comfort of your own home. Full info below, but first, let’s just remember why Drink Kong cocktail bar is one of the very best cocktail bars in Rome!
P.S. If you love the sound of ordering cocktails in your own home while Rome is on lockdown, why not also check out the at-home cocktail options from Co.So in Pigneto (full bar review here). The Co.So expert mixologists will send packaged drinks directly to your door – with separate portions of ice – and you can also order delicious snacks from the Co.So menu such as its world famous club sandwiches (ten different types!) plus sashimi, tartare, and desserts via Glovo.
Why Drink Kong is one of the best cocktail bars Rome
Apart from serving some of the best cocktails in Rome, Drink Kong is one of the best places to drink in Rome for its unique atmosphere and great service.
I go to lots of cocktail bars in Rome as a food and drinks writer and even when I turn up at Drink Kong incognito, I am always blown away by the impeccable welcome and service, the repeatedly high quality of the cocktails, and the simply delicious food.
The brainchild of Patrick Pistolesi, one of the city’s leading mixology experts, Drink Kong is located in the trendy Monti district, within easy reach of Rome’s Termini station.
With interiors inspired by Blade Runner, excellent cocktails, and a stunning Japanese dining experience, Drink Kong is the place for after-dark drinks, Asian fusion food, special events, and occasional live music sets.
Drink Kong’s neon charms make it one of the best looking bars in the city, but there’s substance here too, from the reguarly updated cocktail menus to steamed bao buns, pastrami sandwiches and exceptional tacos, all of which help make it one of the best cocktail bars in Rome.
Drink Kong food review
Plan to book a table if you want to dine at Drink Kong, especially on a weekend when tables are fully booked days ahead. The Drink Kong dining experience takes place in a theatrically lit side room, where black lacquered round tables are divided along a plush padded bench, creating private and intimate spaces.
Expect a complimentary coupe of champagne and a delicious bowl of home-baked taco chips with sweet tomato salsa while you peruse the Drink Kong menu. I recommend ordering a mix of dishes per plate and sharing options so you can try more things.
Conceived by consultant chef Marco Morello, the Drink Kong menu channels international inspiration, offering everything from bao buns (pictured, €5) to pastrami sandwiches, filled Chinese dumplings to tacos. And it’s all delicious! You can order classic Drink Kong cocktails with your food or select from a small but carefully chosen wine list. Beer is available too.
Last time I was at Drink Kong cocktail bar Rome, I started by ordering one of the fabulous steamed bao buns (€5) before moving onto a portion of dumplings (€8) and sharing a pastrami sandwich (€8 for two pieces). Other options include Smorrebrod, Scandinavian open-faced sandwiches (€8), yakitori chicken skewers (€5) and selections of Italian cheeses and cold cuts, starting at €12.
This is a fabulous spot for a special meal – it’s far more than just bar-food, although the simplicity is deceptive, and everything is executed with the quality you might have come to expect from Drink Kong.
Drink Kong New Humans – cocktail list 2020
Every year, Patrick Pistolesi and his incredible team at Drink Kong launch a new cocktail menu for Drink Kong Rome, channeling their creativity in an original theme. The drinks list for Spring 2020, dubbed New Humans, ranges from green and vegetable-based cocktails (Holus) to low alcohol and light, summery options (Sukoshi), to cocktails with a savoury note (NewMami) or drinks that explode with flavours of fresh fruit (Kudamono). Look out too for the Herbs & Herbs options, cocktails with bitter and balsamic depths.
I went along to try some of the new Drink Kong cocktails, sampling first of all a light and dazzling drink from the Kudamono list, a Raspberry Up. This combines Belvedere Vodka Smogóry Forest, raspberry cordial, Mancino Vermouth and citrus. This is a perfect warm weather drink.
I also tried a Drink Kong cocktail from the Herbs & Herbs list as I truly adore bitter drinks. This Bitter Apes cocktail, whose name is another riff on Drink Kong, combines Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, Campari, Chartreuse vert and Kong cordial for a rich and angular drink with bitter depths that somehow remains smooth and elegant. Highly recommended.
Drink Kong Rome cocktail masterclass
If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary to do when visiting Rome, Drink Kong’s exclusive cocktail masterclass, taking place in Drink Kong’s private Japanese room, is a fascinating entry into the world of mixology and the evolution of cocktails. Pistolesi is the exclusive teacher, talent and mentor for this experience, which can be booked for up to eight people.
With prices starting at €70 per person, and available in Italian or English, it’s a great value night, featuring five cocktails paired with Japanese food. Pistolesi mixes the drinks at the private bar in the Japanese room for you and your party of friends, so all you have to do is listen, sip and taste.
Dubbed Ukiyo, this Drink Kong cocktail masterclass takes its inspiration from the Japanese concept of a floating, fleeting, or transient world. It describes the urban lifestyle, especially the pleasure-seeking aspects, of the Edo-period Japan (1600–1867); here it is used to indicate an introspective leisure pursuit which brings happiness.
The menu is stripped into five elements: dry, salty-spicy, bitter, sour and sweet. Each sensation provides the opportunity for Pistolesi to serve a classic cocktail from the mixology hall of fame – rendered exceptional, of course, by his magical touch. The paired food is delicious too!
Drink Kong and NIO – Need Ice Only
Apart from Drink Kong cocktail bar Rome, Pistolesi is well-known across the city as a top bar consultant and occasional creative director of projects as diverse as The Gin Corner and Caffè Propaganda, and his latest initiative weds his Drink Kong genius to a handy home delivery service.
Needs Ice Only (NIO) is a cocktail collective born in 2018 to solve the problem of sourcing your favourite drinks when you can’t go to your favourite bar. It’s more relevant that ever in this day and age, and NIO meets the needs of modern cocktail afficionados with a range of cocktail packages.
On the NIO website, you can create your own selection of cocktails to order at home or try the Experience Box or an assorted box to taste your way through a fun range of drinks. And coming soon, exclusive cocktails from the world of Drink Kong, including some of Drink Kong’s all-time best cocktails, in branded packages!
All you have to do is add ice – although some of the drinks are even better chilled or with a specific garnish – the packaging will guide you through it.
Check out the main NIO site to find out more if you’re in Italy, while if you’re in the UK, you can also order drinks delivered locally right here. Just remember, wherever you are, and whatever’s happening, you don’t have to drink bad cocktails! Cheers!
Drink Kong | Piazza San Martino ai Monti 8 | Rome | Italy | Tel 0039 06 2348 8666