Since I’m on tour here for professional reasons, I’ve done my best to sample some of the best bars in the cocktail capital of Australia for you.
Before I give the scoop on five of them I’ve experienced, a general observation: the vibe in every bar I’ve been to has been positive, welcoming and they all care about their craft.
Being just a regular joe customer I’m consistently pleased how they look after you and aim to cultivate you as a regular.
They play the long game here in my experience.
The cocktail scene is buzzing with innovation, new local ingredients and even if its a casual vibe they’re aiming for in the fit-out they still know how to mix a cocktail. Its just a question of find the bar that suits your mood, company and style.
I’ve been sampling widely the many bars about, and there are few top shelf ones I’m yet to experience like The Black Pearl, and The Everleigh, but in the meanwhile, so in no particular order, here’s a short list to get you going.
Lily Blacks, 12 Meyers Place, City
They didn’t know it at the time, but it was here I workshopped the recipe for the Centenary Martini a while back since they had all the ingredients I need to work out the mix…. they must I was bit of a lush on the night.
Tucked in an alley way off Bourke Street, I like this bar early in the week when its quieter. Something of a deco vibe decor wise with the staff behind the bar looking the part in cashmere, pearls, and lovely makeup, or stylish beards plus some serious ink. Cool, calm and collected.
They also love their bitters here and have a great collection, so if you want to explore the dark arts of these in your Martini, this is the place. They also place a huge bit of iceberg on the bar and chip away at it over several days for ice. Website here.
Only a few months old and its already making a splash with some bright young things going about the business of making a friendly neighbourhood bar.
From the get-go they decided to only stock only Australian products, so if you want to track down the craft Gins etc I talk about, this is the place.
Its very relaxed, food comes in the way of a jaffles, and they know their cocktail craft and offer some innovative talks using garnishes and bitters to add new dimensions to your Martini.
Bar Americano, 20 Presgrave Place, City
This is a bit special and it gave me one of the best bar experiences of my life.
By day a hipster, sit on milk crate in alley way set-up. By night in transforms to a speakeasy bar of wonders.
Standing room for about 10 people. No Photos. Period. Don’t even think about twitter.
One talented barman works magic with only a single spirit of each type (one Gin, one Vodka, One Bourbon etc) all in vintage decanters, so no labels. Close your eyes and let him do his thing.
You have a chat about how you like your Martini, a glamorous assistant brings you a bowl of nuts and glass of water and in moments you have one of the best darn cocktails of your life. She also takes care of the money side of things, so its very civilised.
With 1920’s jazz in the background you chat to the fellow drinkers from around the world, and life is good. Facebook page here
For me, possibly the bar cocktail bar in the country. It pushes all my buttons.
Impeccable table service, staff that remember you and what you like to drink, a beautiful environment in which to drink, interesting clientele and everything geared towards an excellent cocktail experience.
Martini’s shine here, they use liquid nitrogen to chill the glass, and you get your olives in an individual mini jar on the side. Talk to the staff, and let them take you on a journey. There are lots of details all the way around.
Last night I gave a order for about 8 different Martini’s (its a long story) each with a variation, and the chap listened, walked away, then came back in short while with a tray, and matched them perfectly to the guests, pouring them out in front of them.
There are private booths, buy your own bottle cabinets, great food to match the cocktails, and smartly turned out staff. Its hard to find of course, but look for the light above the door with no signage and be prepared to lose track of time. Website here.
The Gin Palace, 10 Russell Place, City
Something of sacred ground, and a pioneer in both cocktail craft and spirits in Australia.
I’ve always had exceptional Martini’s here, and with well over 200 Gins on stock it feels like going to the Louvre.
With table service, lots of nooks to sit and people watch plus jazz music that is not too loud, its rounded out by a polished and friendly service style, you cannot but love this bar. Its also worth keeping an eye out for their special events.
A must-do experience for Martini lovers, and again, let them steer you towards the new stuff and expand your horizons. Website here