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Gin Palace

  • Bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 3 of 4
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. A blurry image of a bartender walking in front of a back lit bar filled with many bottles
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra
  2. A bartender places an orange rind twist on top of a red cocktail sitting on top of a wooden bar
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra
  3. A group of people sit in the back of the dimly lit bar and bottles of water are on a table in the foreground
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra
  4. A red cocktail with an orange rind twists sits on top of a menu with a purple and gold pattern
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra
  5. Couches with mismatched pillows, large leather chairs, dark carpets and grey walls with many frames inside the bar
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

This oldie but a goodie remains a comfortable cocktail bar dedicated to all things juniper

Wrought iron headrests, gilded gold framed paintings and lush curtains aside, there’s an air of resignation at Gin Palace these days. When we visit, there’s one person welcoming patrons, waiting on tables and making cocktails, and when we enquire after the toasted parmesan sables – part of a limited food menu that ranges from nuts and cheeses to a famed chicken, chive and mayonnaise sandwich that’s been on the menu since the bar opened – we’re told they’re not available. The salted cashews we get instead are serviceable, but perfunctory – but the emphasis has never been on the food here.

The juniper focus of Gin Palace is unparalleled, however, and it’s still the best spot in town if you want to sip on gin-forward cocktails past the closing time of most new bars (Gin Palace closes at 3am every day without fail). Why have a standard gin and tonic when you could choose out of nine? Hendricks, Archie Rose, Kangaroo Island Spirits and Hayman’s Sloe Gin, among many other gins, find their complements in tonics ranging from Barker & Quin’s marula one to Fever Tree’s wild raspberry one.

Or you can’t go wrong with a Martini in a gin bar. Gin Palace’s classic dry Martini comes with a level of customisation that belies its name – an olive skewer or a small twist of lemon peel, wet or dry, naked or with vermouth. There’s a clear authority in how gin is served up at Gin Palace – a precursor to the Martini section reads ‘we prefer to serve our Martinis at 90 mls, the way they should be’ – but they also afford you a sense of control, and plentiful choice. So many choices.

In comparison to the extravagance of cocktail bar newcomers like Nick and Nora’s, however, the décor at Gin Palace – though once hailed as luxuriant and opulent – feels a touch staid and rundown. Mismatched, misshapen cushions rest on faded couches. The walls look like they could do with a fresh coat of paint. What may have passed off as an eclectic charm in another place falls short in Gin Palace, precisely because it prides itself on its decadence.

But what it lacks in glitzy newness, it makes up for with comfort and reliability. Rather than perching aloft stools with dangling feet that never quite find a relaxed position, Gin Palace has expansive booths tucked away in unbeknownst corners and plush lounges perfect for whiling away several hours.

If the big hen’s group that traipses through when we visit is proof of anything, it’s that Gin Palace still has it. As Melbourne gently but surely echoes Sydney’s lockout laws with no liquor licences being issued for new venues past 1am, a gin oasis open till the wee hours of the morning – no matter which morning of the week it is – will never lose its currency.

After more tasty tipples? Here are the best cocktail bars in Melbourne.

Written by
Sonia Nair


10 Russell Pl
Nearby stations: Flinders St; Melbourne Central; Parliament
Opening hours:
Daily 4pm-3am
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