Say hello to this basement bar in Collingwood, which promises eternal sunshine of the tiki kind
No matter the Melbourne weather, the sun is always shining at Aloha Sailor, a tropical-luxe tiki bar beneath The Noble Experiment on Smith Street. Where owners Kristin and Daniel Lemura have drawn inspiration from pre-prohibition New York for the ground-floor speakeasy, they're all about rum-sloshed punches in the basement boozer.
Bar master Linus Schaxmann has mixed with the best of them, notching up 25 years in Monte Carlo, London and America. Here, he’s barrel-ageing rums and whipping up zesty sodas and syrups, elevating the tiki experience from kitsch to cultured.
That’s not to say this is a kitsch-free zone. Faux vines, clutches of skulls and framed paintings of Polynesian queens line the walls, and as the night wears on staff fire up the projector to screen '60s Hawaiian surf flicks. Tobacco-toned leather booths beckon for group boozing (book ahead for tables of four of more), plus there’s a string of high-tops and stools flanking the bar.
Even the crew takes a leaf out of the tropics with their retro Hawaiian shirts, albeit teamed with the northside staples of skinny black jeans, tatts and jaunty bowler hats. Those staff members slip into holiday mode all too easily, however, with order-taking lagging even in a half-empty room.
The ensuing wait for the cocktails seems permissible once the multilayered creations hit your table. A blush-pink, flower-crowned confection, the Aye Papi is a measured balance of sour (yuzu liqueur and lime), sweet (housemade pink grapefruit, apple and chamomile soda) and bitter (Luxardo maraschino liqueur), with a decent thwack of three-year-old Havana Club that catches you in the back of the throat.
Schaxmann’s Zombie is a punch-packing blend of seven barrel-aged rums, herbaceous Chartreuse, maraschino, passionfruit and charred pineapple soda. Served in a towering tiki mug (hot-pink on our visit), this ballsy little number comes with a glass skull of lemon juice for DIY flavour adjustment – you may find yourself adding it all to balance out the sugar rush.
The more pricey cocktails are made for sharing. There’s the five-litre Treasure Chest loaded with 18 rums, plus black raspberry liqueur, falernum and rock candy syrup (order a pimped up version charged with Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque if you’re feeling flush).
More approachable is the Planters Punch, a salad bowl brimming with dark and light rums, pomegranate liqueur and a truckload of tropical juices. It’s teeth-grittingly sweet, but at least you’ll be knocking back your weekly Vitamin C quota in one handy bucket.
There are snacks, too, such as spiced pork ribs, taro chips, and roast suckling pig. Order up to ensure you don’t say aloha to a stonking great hangover the next day – those juicy rum concoctions can be mighty deceiving.
|Venue name:||Aloha Sailor (Closed)|
284 Smith Street
|Opening hours:||Fri-Sat 5pm-late|