Melbourne's bar scene continues to be the envy of the nation, and our late-night credentials only get stronger with every new opening. Here is Melbourne viewed through the bottom of a glass: from its world-beating cocktail lounges to its down-and-divey saloons.
Around 400 people packed into the General Assembly in South Wharf on a Monday evening to toast the best in the hospitality business.
Hosted by the very funny Annie and Bianka (who doesn’t love a free comedy show thrown in with an awards ceremony?), the event was a roaring success, with nine awards given out across a range of categories. Guests were treated to delicious drinks, great food, sweet tunes from guest DJs, with a copy of the new Time Out Bar Awards issue to take home at the end of the night.
The snack game was strong, with mac and cheese balls, mushroom sausage rolls and salmon rillettes tarts making their way around the packed venue alongside a grazing station from Savour and Grace. People were handed shots of Fireball to get the party started before sipping on Buffalo Trace and Fever-Tree dry ginger ale, Adelaide Hills Gin and four different kinds of Fever-Tree tonics, Two Suns Premium Dry, Mountain Goat Steam Ale, Willie Smith’s ciders and wines from Unico Zelo.
So who emerged victorious in the 2020 Time Out Bar Awards?
Melbourne cocktail bar Romeo Lane was named Bar of the Year. It ticks all the expected Melbourne bar boxes – laneway location, obscure signage, civilised opening hours, educated service from tattooed and/or bearded bar folk – but then exceeds those expectations via a near-obsessive attention to detail so the bar sails past cliché and into truly great territory.
As well as the top gong, the Best Cocktail Bar award also went home with Romeo Lane.
Despite a changing of the guard, Bar Liberty is still a world-class bar with a stellar wine list, cocktail and food offering, which is why it received the Best Wine Bar award.
The quiet achiever in Fitzroy operating with sustainability in mind, Ends and Means, also made a splash at the awards, taking out the reader-voted People’s Choice Award. Melbourne is clearly paying attention to the amount of waste the hospitality industry creates, and we choose to drink with a clearer conscience.
The Best Bar Team award went to the Shady Lady, whose team of bartenders is a ceaselessly energetic, tight-knit crew who have fostered a strong community of regulars who appreciate the safe space the bar has created.
Bartender of the Year went to Nick Tesar, the assistant manager in charge of the cocktail program at Bar Liberty while juggling his responsibilities as a co-owner of the award-winning Marionette liqueur.
The Time Out Legend Award was given to the hostess with the most-est, Miss Pearls from Madame Brussels, in recognition of more than 14 years at the helm of one of the most outrageous bars in Melbourne, and for her outstanding mentorship skills in guiding some of Melbourne’s finest hospitality greats in the right direction.
Among the bars to open in Melbourne in the past year, Bar Margaux, which brought the good times to the very late nights of Melbourne, was named Best New Bar.
The fried shallot with cashew cream and pickled jalapeño that went straight to the top of everyone’s hit list in 2019 ensured Old Palm Liquor was named the winner of the award for Best Bar Food.
Guests also took home photos and GIFs from FotoBox in case those memories got hazy.