Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) is heaving with cocktail venues. Whether you’re into swanky lounges and clubs or blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hideaways, this area has something for you.
Best known for its indie beer and brewpubs, Melbourne’s cocktail scene is among the most celebrated on the planet. Its venues draw in some of the world’s highest-calibre bartenders (don’t try calling them ‘mixologists’, as local consensus deems it a rather pretentious term). These frontrunners are known for their distinct character, impressive menus and ambient appeal. Far from offering cookie-cutter experiences, Melbourne hospitality prides itself on tailored evenings and a personal touch. So, keep an open mind and enjoy the ride – just don’t blame Culture Trip for the headache in the morning.
Eau de Vie
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Australian, $$$
Tucked between the cobblestone streets home to Hosier Lane and The Forum, this cocktail bar was relatively unknown a few years ago but is now among the most popular in Melbourne. Despite its unassuming exterior, Eau de Vie serves its cocktails with dramatic flair. Its extensive menu, complete with bartender biographies, includes dry-ice martinis, blazing sherry concoctions and smokey whisky for those with a peaty preference. A stone’s throw from Flinders Street station, Eau de Vie is easy to access using public transport. The average cocktail will set patrons back about 23 Australian dollars (£12), and is worth every drawn-out sip.
If there are three things Melburnians do well, it’s curate cooler-than-thou playlists, congregate in laneways and enjoy cocktails on a Tuesday night like it ain’t no thing. Lily Blacks is perfect for all of the above, and with a closing time of 3am seven days a week, this venue is open when you need it. “The music has to be on point,” says Lily Black’s resident bartender, Roy Martins Das Neves. “It could be absolutely packed, or just you in there, but we have to be on our game and make sure you’re comfortable and having a great time.” The cute candlelit bar welcomes visitors with friendly staff, Art Deco furnishings and delicious drinks. Tell the bartenders your preferences and they’ll whip up something tasty and inventive. As for the menu items, the Smoking Star, a delicate mixture of pisco, rum, citrus and essence, is a must-try.
Berlin Bar is one of Melbourne’s longest-standing concept venues. As its name suggests, this bar is inspired by the German capital following World War II, with the space split between East and West – and the divide is stark. Ring the doorbell to sit among dangling crystal curtains and fine art, representative of the city’s decadent West, before crashing into the grungy, dim-light depiction of Berlin’s industrial East. The cocktails are layered and complex like the city itself, with a menu that favours gin and experiments with herbs and colours. The bar is concealed among the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, so look for the German coat of arms in the doorway of this date-night nook.
Boilermaker House has more than 900 whiskies and an ever-changing selection of craft beers on tap, but when it comes to cocktails, the bar staff are equally attentive. From the geniuses who brought the world Eau de Vie, it’s no wonder the whisky connoisseurs know their way around a boston shaker. From crisp spritzers to fruity liquors, Boilermaker House has something for everyone. Prep for the boozy night ahead by matching drinks with dinner; the hard work is all done for you, thanks to the curated menu with suggested pairings.
For fun, smashable cocktails with an otherworldly twist, look no further than Storyville. The fairytale-themed cocktail bar and nightclub is open until late seven nights a week. Massive glowing mushrooms sprout from the walls in this venue, also home to an enchanted forest and a library filled with nostalgia. At weekends, expect to let loose alongside partygoers and quirky, energetic staff. On weekdays, Storyville is a little more subdued, mostly frequented by office folk heading out after work. Ask the wizards behind the bar for a trip “down the rabbit hole”, and they’ll reappear with a mystery teapot cocktail smoking with dry ice.
Dedicated to the year cocktail became a recognised term, 1806 is clearly passionate about the art. Red-velvet chairs and dark-wood furnishings with gold accents pay homage to the Prohibition-era theme this venue does so well. Waistcoated staff sashay from table to table, creating an unmistakable mood. There’s a mezzanine floor for even better views of this ostentatious performance. Book ahead before heading over, as immediate seating isn’t always guaranteed.
Located just outside Melbourne’s buzzing city precinct, it’s hard not to mention The Everleigh. This Fitzroy nightspot pays attention to detail like no other. Here, patrons are encouraged to order according to the bartender’s choice, inviting a discussion about a variety of flavours and spirits to decipher their taste. Sit for a moment or two, be lulled by the blues and voila – a carefully concocted cocktail arrives in perfect form.