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The Jerry Thomas Project

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Vicolo Cellini 30, Rome, Italy

THE ITALIAN BOYS in waistcoats have done well. This is the second year Leonardo Leuci, Roberto Artusio, Alessandro Procoli and Antonio Parlapiano’s Italian speakeasy homage has made the pages of this annual poll.

While the format may have lost a little of its shine in the mother country, in many parts of the world this showcase of classic cocktails is just getting started. The speakeasy’s role in developing awareness for classic cocktail culture can’t be underestimated.

Of course, to the trade Jerry Thomas is a prophet of good mixing and his legacy, through the 1862 How to Mix Drinks/The Bon Vivant’s Companion, is a religious text to bartenders.

Though The Jerry Thomas Project is a classic speakeasy - with an intimate atmosphere, live jazz and bartenders who look like they’ve stepped off the streets of Chicago, about a century ago - there is a definite Italian accent.

Leuci says: "We wanted to open a real speakeasy, a tribute to Jerry Thomas, but also be focused on the rediscovery of forgotten Italian spirits. This is a good mix for us - classic pre-Prohibition drinks with an Italian touch."

The menu changes twice a year and, while they may have their heart in the US, classic mixes have been finessed for the small but growing Roman clientele of discerning cocktails and jazz enthusiasts.

An artisanal bakery provides the snacks, the musicians the music and the drinks the social lubrication. But the people are what makes this place tick and are "more important than drinks and décor," says Leuci.

With plans for a new and different style of bar afoot, this emphasis on customers can only reap rewards.