Every year I visit Melbourne in the fall as there is just something so alluring about this city that always draws me back, hence why it has become an annual tradition of mine now. If I had one word to describe Melbourne it would have to be ‘alive’; this city is filled with so much culture, spirit, abundance of uniqueness and amongst all that, such an air of finesse to capture that true city feel. Probably my favourite thing that I love most about Melbourne is that it is acceptable to start drinking at 9am and not unusual to have dinner at 9pm on a regular Tuesday night; it’s true what they say, that the city never sleeps. If what I have already mentioned isn’t enough to convince you to make the trip to Melbourne, it is almost guaranteed that every time you go there, something new will have emerged whether it be a new bar, cafe, restaurant or even pop up exhibitions!
As an experienced traveller to this favourite city of mine, here are a few of my top picks for cocktail bars to check out:
1. Eau de vie
I knew I had to suss out Eau de vie since it has won so many ‘best bars’ awards and let me tell you, it did not disappoint! Upon arrival, you might get a little lost like I did as this hidden gem is located down a secluded alley way with no signs or indications of a bar, just a large brown rustic wooden door. Inside however, is the most perfect bar straight out of the 1920’s prohibition era. This lightly dim space has large booths, photo frames on the walls and old candles burning to really enhance the speakeasy feel to it. Sitting up on the bar stools is your best option as this is where you get to watch the magic happen. Flames, smoke and nitrogen are constantly being utilised by the bartenders and with an extremely extensive cocktail list categorised by themes, the expert bar stuff are more than willing to help you choose the cocktail best fit for you. I had the:
–‘Espresso Zabaione’: Choice of your liquor base (vodka or rum), espresso, maple syrup, and nitrogen frosted vanilla and saffron mouse.
–Night Owl: Olmeca Altos Blanco, rockmelon and white ale syrup, lemon juice, yuzu soda and egg white.
–Le Pastille: Havana rum, Agricole, Suze, grape must, aloe, fennel seed & bubbly, served with a sour grape sorbet.
–La Nonna: Balvenie whisky, spices, orange zest, Chinato, Oloroso, coffee agave, bitters and flamed cinnamon.
I actually accidentally stumbled upon this new and upcoming bar (which I’m so glad about) on my way out from the Paris Cat Jazz club. As another fellow jazz club just opposite the Paris Cat, I thought I would pop in to see if there was any live music on and boy am I glad I did! The vibe inside was absolutely incredible, everyone was so lively, dancing and absolutely enjoying the live performances of modern jazz. With an outside terrace, I stayed here until 2am, not even realising the time as I was enjoying myself so much and was so swept away by the atmosphere and music. Jaspers have an awesome modern bar set up and the bar staff were oh so friendly. Unfortunately I wasn’t carrying my camera with me to capture the interior, but I did manage to snap my cocktails, which were:
–Lana Groni: Patient Wolf gin, strawberry lillet rose, Aperol, Campari, strawberry sherbet and grapefruit mist.
–Christmas sour: Denwars 12, Becherovka, gingerbread, lemon and port.
I only tried two cocktails here, as after I had the Christmas Sour, I was sold for the night, and ordered about 3 of them. It was honestly such a unique flavour that the only way I could describe it is like drinking Christmas.
3. Berlin Bar
Every time I travel to Melbourne, this is always a place I go back to. Inspired by the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, this bar is divided between East and West. Travelling back in time when the two superpowers were in contest for world supremacy, you must make the decision to sit either with the Communists or Capitalists. Entering via a doorbell, you will be greeted by a staff member and gained entrance. The Capitalist ‘Salon’ is decorated with much opulence and grandeur, however as you cross the border at Checkpoint Charlie to the Communist side, you are greeted by a dark Bunker style room with warlike propoganda and seating (including a portrait of Joseph Stalin). The cocktail of the week is a historical riddle or story in which you either can crack the code, or just read an interesting story behind their new drink. As the cocktail menu changes yearly, I have tried multiple different cocktails including:
–Rosemary Fizz (no longer on the menu)
–Bridge of Spies (no longer on the menu)
–Yoko Ono: Sencha tea-infused Bulldog gin, sake, rose syrup, yuzu and lime.
With a very well renowned cocktail culture, It was only natural that I had to try 1806, also a prohibition themed bar. 1806 is draped amid red velvet curtains, a chandelier and red cushioned chairs adding to the eclectic charm that is a truly unique experience. Winning ‘The World’s Best Cocktail Menu’ in 2008 only 1 year after they opened, their cocktail menu which is themed through the decades, all tell a unique story. From the 1650-1800’s to the 2000’s, drinks range from old vintage ports to modern matcha syrups so there really is something for everyone. My top picks:
–Aviation: Tanqueray, Maraschino, Violet Liqueur and lemon juice.
–Coffee Cocktail: Rémy Martin VSOP, Port, Gomme and a whole Egg.
5. The Waiting Room
Of all the places to have some pre dinner drinks The Waiting Room is my favourite. Located at the Crown, you can sit on the outskirts of this bar and watch people go by, whilst sipping a martini with a piano player right across from you. I usually go here every evening before heading into the CBD (as we stay at the Crown) as this experience truly makes you feel special and really embodies the epitome of elegance. The bar itself is inspired by 1940’s chic with excellent service and opulent cocktails; with the added bonus of complementary snacks, it is definitely worth stopping here.
–Gypsy 22: Johnnie Walker Black, St Germain and Earl Grey.
–Singapore Sling 22: Gin, Cherry Liqueur, Dom Benedictine, lime and pineapple Juice.
If retro and nostalgia is what you’re after, then Bartronica is for you. This basement venue arcade bar has copious amounts of original games from a Donkey Kong consol to NBA and retro pinball machines. I usually don’t order cocktails from here as it is more of a casual bar to just have fun with your vodka lemonade or jacks and coke (which are very generous pouring I may add). However the best new addition to Bartronica is their new gaming booths which let you play 4 people Mario Kart 64, Smash Bro’s or Goldeneye tournaments.
This trendy new bar only recently established itself in Melbourne, so it was top of my list to visit on my most recent trip. I absolutely love their fun and flirty atmosphere and decor; very different from the stereotypical basement dimly lit Melbourne bars, Peaches is decked out with shades of blush and limey green tones from their booths to their white terrazzo tables entwined with luscious plants. This bar will lighten up any mood with their giant disco ball centrepiece in the middle of the bar (I mean how can that alone not get anyone in the party mood?) Their rooftop bar is just as trendy, with a more Hamptons rooftop vibe to it, the all white furniture and the bar itself will make you feel like your sipping on your Aperol Spritz in the heart of the Hamptons.
Rooftop drink- Heart of Glass: Elderflower, Vodka, apple.
Downstairs drink- Crimes of Passion: LA Diablada pisco, Frangelico, Kirks Pastio.
Down the rabbit hole we go as we head to Storyville, a fairtytale themed bar that makes you feel as though you have entered a new magical world. Upon entering, a pathway to an enchanted forest emerges that leads you through to an enormous tangled tree trunk which, yes my friends is the entrance to the bar. This bar is decked out with glowing toadstools on the wall, a golden birdcage with a perch swing for fun, and a giant mushroom canopy that surrounds the bar. With a 5am licence, Storyville is the place to go for quirky and delicious cocktails (and by quirky I mean edible insects that are a garnish on your drinks!). Did I mention they also have a Harry Potter inspired menu? Their twist on Butterbeer was mandatory for me.
9. Madame Brussels
The ultimate garden party, Madame Brussels offers a stunning indoor garden, hedged bar, upper terrace and a hidden parlour. Based on Madame Brussels herself, a respectable brothel owner in the late 1800’s, the bar encapsulates her opulent style and of course elegance darling! But don’t be fooled, just like the Madame herself, this bar holds very ‘naughty’ functions. On another note and on their rather fancy terrace, Madame Brussels is known for their ‘garden parties’ with petite pink cupcakes, jugs of cocktails or if for any reason you’re team sober, they also do pots of tea. With their ‘fancy foods’ and ‘drinkipoos’ menu, there is never a dull moment in Madame Brussels, as even the male waiters come out in tighty whities.
Aloha from Hana, Melbourne’s Hawaiian themed jungle bar in the heart of the CBD. I love Hana’s neon signs, the greenery and most importantly, their tiki cocktails. Arriving in all sorts of Hawaiian cups, my favourite was the ‘Honolua Bay Sharknado’: Dark Rum, Cointreau, Orgeat, passionfruit, lime and orange juice that arrives in a shark head..yes a sharks head cup.. The ‘Hana Colada’ also arrives in a pineapple mug that includes: Jamaican Rum, Aged Rum, coconut, fresh pineapple juice and lime. If you go with friends, you can also upgrade any drink to their fin-famous volcano bowl that suits 2-4 people. For some tropical vibes in amongst the urban jungle of Melbourne, Hana is the perfect paradise.
Some honourable mentions are:
Pizza Pizza Pizza:
Ferdydurke, Melbourne Public Dining Room, Paris Jazz Club and Chuckle park.