With Melbourne's grid layout, you're never more than a block away from a decent cocktail. You'd be hard-pressed to cover all the ground we've covered below in one night, but take the list below as a starting point for your city drinking adventure.
CBD Lower East bar crawl
They love a niche offering at this sophisticated slip of a joint. It's a modern bar based on a past era that was obsessed with the future and the result feels a bit like drinking on a sci-fi film set. The terrace is consistently packed with smokers having wine-fuelled arguments, while the dark, couch-filled back room accommodates handsy couples. This is the bar for great dates.
Pony used to be the last port of call so the fact that the Cookie/Revolver/Toff in Town crew has resurrected the old girl, replete with 7am weekend bedtime and a nightly DJ and live music agenda is really good news. Plus now they do dinner. The downstairs space now boasts a very-much-meant-to-be-taken-seriously restaurant doing lunch, dinner and take-away.
You’ll find this excellent bar right above Cumulus Inc in Flinders Lane. Co-owner and super-architect Pascal Gomes-McNabb has put together a polished, industrial space with just the right amount of gloss, making it look as easy as doing a two-piece jigsaw puzzle. It's the casual sip and sit situation that you've been pining for.
The Melbourne cousin to Sydney’s Eau de Vie, it is a beautiful Prohibition-style speakeasy where black leather booths, cut glass and rare liquor rule the roost. They pull out all the stops – and the liquid nitrogen – here. At any given time someone at EDV is shaking, freezing or setting drinks on fire, which makes this bar a thrilling and hazardous place of refreshment.
Gin Palace on Russell Place is no hellhole. There are lilies, and an impressive collection of fine liquor. But like the gin joints of yesteryear, their late night license and rocket powered Martinis still spell ruination. The list of gin rolls 60 deep, ranging from your familiar London dry styles that include Bombay and Tanqueray, to the botanical infused drops like Hendricks and oak aged Citadel Reserve.
Go Go Bar isn’t intended simply as a holding pen for the overflow of dining enthusiasts from Chin Chin. This dark, subterranean bar is a drinking destination in its own right. The menu is divided into seasons. Summer has crisp lagers and long cocktails while the winter section pimps dark and cosy drinks.
Kick off your heels, slip on some slippers and claim one of the cushioned platforms up back. Just remember, Hihou is nice, so get your Negro-kan on (a Japanese Negroni!) earlier on in the evening. Hihou’s drinks come in stemless Riedel glassware with large orbs of ice, and Simon Denton works the floor in a suit. You get the picture.
Lily Blacks is the CBD’s favourite free-wheelin’ Art Deco cocktail bar, where it’s all about pickles and bitters. You may have encountered the pickleback – the whisky shot, pickle liquor combo that tastes a bit like a burger only boozy. But how about a nip of beet brine and rum? Or bourbon and preserved carrots? The vinegary possibilities are endless. And delicious.
There's a whole new world of quality, sky high drinking that awaits you this summer, Melbourne. Along with Loch and Key above Captain Melville and Bomba's terrace, Loop has just opened a fully landscaped rooftop garden that will operate Friday through Sunday serving floral and fanciful shared cocktails in watering cans.
The people behind the Meatball and Wine Bar are very keen to show off their ball skills. They come in pork, beef, chicken, fish, and vegetarian with white, red or green sauce and some seriously tasty looking sides. They also do meatball sliders, breakfast meatballs, and mini meatballs if it's only elevenses.
Misty’s star is back on the rise. They're serving a good Negroni in little Campari soda bottles (a smart move for busy nights), and Coronas have been ousted for the likes of 4 Pines Kolsch. There’s no snobbery, though. Soul still rules the speakers and the crowd is a mixed bag of young things, Movida diners and those en route to the MCG.