‘Low-waste’ and ‘sustainable’ aren’t just buzzwords at Ends and Means. This Gertrude Street cocktail bar puts its money where its mouth is, fuelled by combatting the high-waste practices co-owners Marc Frew and Josh Hunt saw throughout their respective careers. Very little in the bar’s fitout is first-use. Timber is recycled, including from the previous tenant’s old bar, and the current L-shaped bartop is made from copper, resin and a storm-damaged elm from Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Menus are printed on recycled paper, there are no single-serving packaged beers or ciders available, and any organic fruit waste left over from creating stocks, jams and cordials is composted at Collingwood Childrens’ Farm.
It’s this dedication to the cause that backs up Ends and Means as a go-to for style and substance – making you feel you’re actually doing something for the planet as you work your way through the well-crafted cocktail list. The bar gets a green flag the moment we walk in the door. A venue as small as this can be daunting for newcomers unsure where to sit or where to go amid a line-up of regulars and locals already on first-name basis with those behind the bar. Not here though. We’re greeted warmly and welcomed to take either of the two-seat tables along a wall that's part exposed brick, part floral wallpaper and part crumbled rendering.
Inside seats are limited: a worn leather chaise up front, bar stools and the aforementioned two-seaters. Outside, there's a twinkle-lit heated courtyard, as well as some tables out front. Importantly, dogs are welcome and bookings are accepted.
Table service is prompt and unfussy, and we take our time perusing the regularly updated menu. (Note that the menu we had is not the one currently on the bar’s website). We immediately clock the offer of still or sparkling water and a bottle being brought to our table. Is it a trivial gesture? Yes. But one also often overlooked when it should be par for the course at any serious watering hole.
The cocktail list is broken up into original concoctions, serious sips and classic orders, with limited-run specials on for a good time, not a long time. During our visit, the latter is a Cornstitution – an ode to American whiskey with small batch Kentucky bourbon, maize shrub, hibiscus and long pepper. It’s strong, punchy and nursable, and an easy introduction to the world of whiskey-based cocktails for the uninitiated.
A Vermillion – 78 Degrees Sunset Gin, Unico Yuzu vermouth, blood orange syrup and stock – comes in a coupe, crowned with a dehydrated blood orange wheel that gives off a heady scent of smoke when going in for each sip. It's a little too sweet but not cloying. On the beer front, expect a regular rotating five-tap roster from a wide spectrum of local and independent breweries. Past pours include Blackman’s Brewery, Fixation Brewing, Jetty Road Brewery and CBCo Brewing.
Designated drivers can also rejoice. Non-alcoholic options are given more than an afterthought and there’s nary a tacked-on ‘virgin’ in sight. Pick of the bunch is Rhubarbarella, a Spritz-ish riff that for our visit subbed blood orange for rhubarb (the bar had run out), along with fresh lemon, mint and soda. Refreshing, bright and one to be especially earmarked for hot summer afternoons.
There's no kitchen so don’t come hungry. Unlimited bowls of popcorn are replenished quickly, although the salty snack arguably does more for prompting extra rounds of drinks than it does for satiating any appetite.
While Ends and Means has the dimly-lit mood down pat, it feels too intimate for a first date – take note, love birds. Anyone planning a third, fourth or fifth rendezvous should drop a pin in Google Maps however, as should those wanting well-made cocktails and cheery, unpretentious service that's as welcoming to first-timers as it is regulars.