Melburnians are almost as passionate about their cocktails as they are about their coffee. What's the proper way to make a Martini? Gin or Vodka Gimlet? And should an Aperol Spritz ever be on tap?
We have sipped our way around this great city to find the bars with the best atmosphere, the most creative bartenders and of course, the best drinks. Whether you're
Where to drink cocktails in Melbourne
This tiny bar nails a cosy, at-home ambience; it speaks of intimate drinking and secret meetings, with pristine, refined cocktails designed for savouring, rather than smashing. Take the Cardinal as a case in point of Sipsmith Gin, Cocchi Americano and Aperol stirred over ice, resulting in a Martini-meets-Negroni marvel.
You won’t find better shaken or stirred drinks in Melbourne than at this Gertrude Street speakeasy. This joint celebrates the jazzy golden era of bartending, when four ingredient cocktails were king. The short and classic menu has no vodka, just a handful of Daiquiris and Mary Pickfords – a tarty little number of fresh pineapple juice, light rum and Maraschino.
Hayden Lambert is a former Time Out Bartender of the Year for his tenure at Bar Americano. He must have gotten used to close quarters at Presgrave Place, because his current digs are almost as compact. His bar is a command centre at the heart of a tiny room, with only a handful of seats facing Lambert as he dispenses drinks that put the art back into artisanal.
The Black Pearl formula is simple: great cocktails, good chat and a stellar iPod mix of doo-wop, bluegrass and ‘Ride like the Wind’ by Christopher Cross. It houses vintage glassware and a thirst for excellent cocktails. Liquor master Evan Stanley is up for any challenge; dream up an obscure cocktail recipe and his rendition will surely impress.
There should be another word for what Byrdi is doing. Bar doesn’t quite cut it, despite the fact that dispensing booze is at the core of what it does. It seems more like some kind of lab where you get to play guinea pig to their scientist. There’s been nothing quite like it in Melbourne since Der Raum, which makes sense given that co-owner Luke Whearty cut his cocktail teeth at that highly influential bastion of eccentricity. The drinks, made and served by a fleet of staff swaddled in crushed linen, are highly original and highly delicious in equal parts. There’s so much exciting technique here, plus a strong sense of seasonality.
At any given time someone at Eau de Vie is shaking, freezing or setting drinks on fire, which makes this bar both a thrilling and hazardous place of refreshment. They have a whole room dedicated to whisky, and your Martini is snap chilled with liquid nitrogen. This beautiful Prohibition-style speakeasy is washed with jazz music and daring drinks.
It’s a vision of rustic Victorian style: the brick arched booths, the walls cluttered with black and white photos, and the warm light from candles and low-hanging lamps feels comfortable and cosy. The folks behind the bar are all practised professionals; personable, knowledgeable and looking sharp in black chef coats. What they’re mixing up is pretty sharp, too. For a bit of wow factor, custom build your Martini in a delicate wine glass chilled with swirling liquid nitrogen.
What sets this bar apart isn’t just their warm service that’s as happy to guide a novice as it is to talk serious shop with a firewater devotee; it's the fact that they also go so far as to import hard-to-find gems and sell them both by the shot and by the bottle, and then mix them into some kickass cocktails.
This blue-lit bar flaunts an impressive collection of whiskeys, some old world wine, and a list of gin that rolls 60 deep. Ranging from your familiar London dry styles like Bombay, to the botanical drops like Hendricks. A ‘surrealist’ Martini freezes its ingredients for two days, ensuring the ultimate frost factor with minimal dilution.
This American bar is modelled on the Europeans who discovered liqour and jazz in the US and took it home to show their friends. Using recipes from one of the most influential cocktail books in 1917, Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Ensslin, bartenders here are obsessed with creating the perfect cocktail.