Giorgio Santambrogio officina

Giorgio Santambrogio: Officina's big ambitions

02 December, 2021

I’m a perfectionist and I like to surprise people, make them experience something truly memorable,” says Giorgio Santambrogio, owner and bar manager of Officina in Milan.

About six years ago, with no bartending experience, Santambrogio was asked to host a pop-up bar for a fashion event at Officina, then an events space in an old garage. “People kept asking if we were a bar and we were kind of joking when we said yes,” says Santambrogio. 

Today Officina is one of Milan’s top destination bars. The space is filled with rare motorcycles, cars, engines and just about anything to do with internal combustion. Earlier this year, Santambrogio hosted the inaugural Officina Cocktail Week. The event saw some of the industry’s best-known bars – including The Clumsies, Hanky Panky and NoMad London – parachute in to host takeovers and create a festival of international bartending. 

Santambrogio says: “I’ve been very lucky to travel a lot and I started meeting interesting people from the bar world and, while Officina isn’t a city, I wanted to host our own cocktail week. But it was important for me that the focus wasn’t about the drinks and the menus of the different bars, it was all about the people. We didn’t do a lot of promotion because I want it to grow organically because people should be coming for a reason – it should be a destination and not just somewhere you walk past. 

“I really want to take things to the next level with Officina because it’s a brand I believe in and I’m super-excited for the next few years.” 

The cocktail week has very much an international focus and, according to Santambrogio, only 50% of the bar’s customers throughout the year are Italian. “The point is to grow our reputation and the Officina brand around the world because we want to open an Officina in Tokyo, New York and Singapore. 

“Finding the right venue will be the hardest part, because it needs to be real. There’s no point doing it in a hotel bar because it wouldn’t have the same effect or freedom that we have in Milan. For me, authenticity is important and if we were to open bars in every major city then it would be easy to let one slip, which could have a negative effect, and I want them to all be perfect.” 

The Italian also declared that the aim is to host an Officina Cocktail Week twice a year, and with Santambrogio’s steep ambitions, they aren’t being restricted to Milan. “The dream for the next one is to be in Las Vegas because you can do anything you want there. It would be cool to work with a circus and make a huge spectacle with re-breathers and crazy stuff like that.” 

While most in the bar trade continue to count the pennies o the back of the pandemic, Santambrogio is doing the opposite. Plans for three new Officina bars, a biannual cocktail week and a travelling circus are all on the radar for this evolving Milan venue.

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