Where to drink cocktails in Melbourne
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Expect charm and sophistication from the Japanese infused cocktail and wine bar. The man behind Izakaya Den, Simon Denton, does formal without being fusty. Large orbs of ice dominate the Riedel glassware, anticipating the trickling of Umeshu (plum-infused gin) or a Japanese whiskey.
The menu is a beautiful ode to every shade of rum, from sweet and sticky Zacapa XO to harsh raw rhum agricole, which smells somewhere between tequila and petrol (it’s actually delicious). They do a great Piña Colada too, made with spiced rum that’s been infused with toasted coconut and chargrilled pineapple.